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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tweakers for Reagan

A mishap stops them just short of a meltdown.

Comments (7)

It's been a long time since Reagan leaned left. That was the first sign that something odd had happened there.

Compared to the current crop of Republicans, the Twin R was both a liberal and a genius.

Re: "Compared to the current crop of Republicans, the Twin R was both a liberal and a genius."

Worse, Elizabeth Warren was until recently a Nixon GOPer. Given that the EPA and other government innovations originated during that broken era, it is difficult to view the current Democratic president as having moved much beyond Nancy's Ron, who, at least, eschewed Mr Kissinger.

Is the political spectrum circular? Have far left and distant right backed into each other, meeting keister to keister?

Tell your children it was not supposed to be like this.

It's almost a shame that the statue didn't come completely free and bury itself in the pavement. I'm reminded of the aftermath of an earthquake at Harvard, where a statue of noted ichthyologist Louis Agassiz was found stuck head-first in the pavement around it, and one wag professor commented "I always preferred Agassiz in the concrete rather than the abstract."

I thought it was reminiscent (at least visually) of Saddam Hussein's statue as it was being toppled. At least the Republicans had the courtesy of waiting till Reagans demise before they started naming buildings and erecting statues.

"...Republicans had the courtesy of waiting till Reagans demise before they started naming buildings and erecting statues."

Other than the former Washington National Airport and the enormous Ronald Reagan Building, to name a couple...


I don't recall an earthquake at Harvard or a statue of Agassiz toppled. When did that happen?

Agassiz is remembered less for his work as an ichthyologist than for his contributions to glaciology and paleontology; yet he was a creationist:

"Agassiz refuted monogenism and evolution, he claimed that the theory of evolution reduced the wisdom of God to an impersonal materialism. Species in their natures and geographical distribution, are direct expressions of the intelligence and will of God not the results of blind chance. Agassiz believed evolution was an insult to the wisdom and will of God. Agassiz’s polygenesis theory was accepted by a number of Protestants and scientists."

Were you ever present when the late Agassiz Professor Stephen Jay Gould described the racism of Louis Agassiz? The Agassiz School, on Sacramento St, not far from Mr Gould's home and Harvard University, was eventually renamed -- a small tremor:

"On May 21st, 2002 the Cambridge School Committee unanimously voted to rename the Agassiz School to the Maria L. Baldwin School."

But the School Committee's action came after years of discussion, especially during the construction of the replacement structure during the early '90s. Perhaps this history can serve as inspiration here in Portland:

8th-grader sees shame in school's namesake
By Rachel Osterman, Globe Correspondent, 3/19/2001

CAMBRIDGE - Harvard professors are used to commanding a certain amount of sway, but it's rare when an eighth-grader shares the same influence.
But in an unusual confluence, the student is using the writings of renowned Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould as part of a campaign to change the name of his elementary school.
After happening upon a book by Gould that detailed the racist evolutionary theories of 19th-century naturalist Louis Agassiz, Nathaniel Vogel said he was stunned that his school would bear Agassiz's name.
Although Agassiz is considered to be an important contributor to the study of the ice age, his rejection of Darwinian evolutionary theory and his belief that blacks were a separate, inferior race have discredited him among many scientists.
''Reading about Agassiz was so painful I had to step back for a while,'' said Vogel. ''What he believed in was disturbing and hideous.''
So, backed by Gould's research, Vogel approached his principal with the idea to rename the school after former principal Maria Baldwin, who in 1889 became the first black woman to preside over an all-white school faculty in the Northeast.
In so doing, Vogel and his allies are forcing the 126-year-old institution to choose between those who support holding on to tradition and those who believe it's time to recognize the school's current multicultural identity.
Ironically, the man whose writing inspired the proposed name change said he opposes such a move. ''Agassiz was an honorable man who had this one terrible flaw,'' said Gould, whose two children attended the Agassiz. ''I don't like the precedent of wholesale removal of names.''
The Cambridge Chronicle also has editorialized against the proposal, calling it a ''name game.'' Another opponent, in a letter to the Chronicle, said Louis Agassiz was part of current principal Sybil Knight's ''politically correct hit list.''
But school officials say many students and most parents support changing the Agassiz's name, a move that ultimately would have to be approved by the Cambridge School Committee.
''Agassiz wasn't your run-of-the-mill, 19th-century white male scientist,'' said Carol Lynn Alpert, an Agassiz parent who initially opposed the move before finding out more about Agassiz's beliefs.
''At that time, all I knew about Louis Agassiz was that he was a very famous naturalist, and I thought why go through a complicated process if there wasn't a compelling reason?'' she said. But ''the one thing I have with it now is that the words are so painful I don't want them passed around.''
Katy Loutzenhiser, one of Vogel's classmates, said, ''Agassiz has had lots of things named after him so that he could be remembered, but Maria Baldwin, she never had that opportunity.''
Proponents of the name change say the controversy is not simply about race, it also is about the merits of change and whether renaming the school is more than mere symbolism.
''For Maria Baldwin to be the kind of educator she was at that time in history, we need to honor what she did and say it's really important,'' Knight said.
But while Knight supports changing the school's name, she says she has made sure to solicit the input of the entire faculty as well as all the parent groups.
''We want to make sure all of the constituents have as much information as possible and allow people to have the chance to say whatever it is they want to say,'' said Knight. ''If this was something I was doing by myself, I think it would be very difficult. But it's being endorsed by the school community.''
School Committee member Alice Turkel said she believes the seven-member panel would likely favor changing the Agassiz's name. ''I think if it came to a vote, there are more members who support name changes,'' she said. ''We could use a few more schools in Cambridge that aren't named after dead white males.''
Born in Switzerland in 1807, Agassiz spent most of his career as a professor at Harvard, where he founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
By the end of his career, Agassiz was held in low esteem by most in his field for his opposition to Charles Darwin's blueprint of evolution and his belief that the races are separate species with whites ranking above other races.
But because of his prominence at Harvard, a Cambridge street, neighborhood, and school were soon named after him.
Many of Agassiz's racist views were unknown because his family expurgated many offensive passages from his correspondence. But Gould's 1996 book ''The Mismeasure of Man: The Definitive Refutation to the Argument of the Bell Curve,'' brought Agassiz's legacy into new focus. Gould discovered several unexpurgated letters written by Agassiz.
Among residents in the neighborhood, there has long been a vague knowledge of Agassiz's views, they say, but few have tried to rid the area of its namesake.
In 1992, when the old Agassiz school was torn down and rebuilt, a neighborhood group asked that it be named after Baldwin. But that effort fizzled, and instead a plaque honoring Baldwin was placed outside the school.
This time the call to rename Agassiz has more support. A parent approached Knight at about the same time as Vogel with the same idea, and soon a small movement was born.
Vogel and two of his classmates are busy producing a documentary film about Baldwin and Agassiz that they say will present an unbiased portrait of the two historical figures.
The students plan on presenting the documentary to classes and parents in about a month.
Vogel said he is not surprised that the campaign to change the school's name is being opposed.
''I don't think the city of Cambridge likes this,'' he said. ''But I think the controversy needs to be there. If you can start a debate like this, I think you've done something good.''

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 3/19/2001.

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