Letter: Further considerations for renaming Woodrow Wilson HS

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This evening’s news included a reference to the renaming of the former Woodrow Wilson school in Fargo. I then went online and read Jim Shaw’s letter “ Things to consider when renaming Woodrow Wilson HS .” Shaw’s opening statement contains much wisdom. I repeat it here: “If there’s one lesson we have learned from this controversy, it’s that no school should be named after a sitting president. For that matter, a school shouldn’t be named after any politician while in office.”

I would go one step further in cautioning against using the name of any person, even after they have left office, and especially where there is a reasonable expectation of political divisiveness. What especially prompted this letter was the inclusion of the name Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the list of names proposed for renaming the school. If the name of Woodrow Wilson caused concern, I can guarantee that Ginsburg’s name would evoke many, many times more concern and divisiveness. Just ask the approximately 50% of our entire nation who voted for President Trump, most, if not all of whom supported the hope that there would one day be a another vote on the Supreme Court that would protect the right of continued life for our pre-born brothers and sisters of the human race.


Shaw made another wise recommendation by stating that sufficient time should pass even after one’s retirement before any person should be considered. The same should be said about waiting after someone’s passing. We all know how strong people’s emotions of sympathy can be about a person who has recently died. Even when a person’s views have been extremely divisive, those on the other side of that person’s view will be hesitant to verbalize their objection, out of respect for the loved ones of the recently deceased. And depending on the make-up of a school board at any given point in time, such sympathies can have a strong enough influence that the school board members could well over-look the very lessons now being learned about school name selections.
Rather than swapping one divisive name for another, there are plenty of other great name choices that everyone, or at least nearly everyone can agree on. These would include names that reflect the principles that most, if not all citizens agree on, such as “Freedom,” “Liberty” and “Independence,” names already given to some of our Fargo area schools. Other names that do not cause divisiveness are those identifying a location or major landmark such as “Dakota,” “Cass,” “Red River,” etc. While most of the ones named are already in use locally, there are certainly many others that could work well.

Let’s learn our lesson.


Koehler lives in West Fargo.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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