Jefferson, Madison Nixed from Student Camp Name

Source: Postnet News & Commentary, http://www.postnet.com, November 23rd 2000

Jefferson, Madison Nixed from Student Camp Name

By TOM TROY, Scripps Howard News Service (Must credit the Toledo Blade)

Toledo Blade

HILLSDALE, Ohio — The names of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison have been written out of the annual Toledo Public Schools student leadership camp — in part because they were slave owners.

High school students attending the four-day Jefferson-Madison Leadership Camp this week near Hillsdale voted earlier this week to change the name. A new name will be chosen during this school year. The vote must be ratified by the adult planning committee.

Richard Jackson, executive director of community relations for Toledo Public Schools and a member of the committee, said the purpose of the annual leadership camp has changed. “When it started, it was more historical. They even dressed in colonial clothing to portray the war of 1776 and independence,” Jackson said.

Now the emphasis is on leadership and giving students the skills and awareness to advocate good character in their schools, he said. “It should be more about student leadership in the schools and changing things for the better.”

Students are selected based on grades and leadership potential, with 16 from each school. They engaged in discussions and in exercises to promote teamwork. Topics included sessions on responsibility, moral courage, respect, loyalty, caring, honesty and citizenship.

The camp was conceived more than 11 years ago as a way to kindle interest in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Ralph Schade, a school principal who was part of the original planning team and is still involved in the conference, said changing the name was proposed last year by Scott High and picked up by adults on the planning committee meeting in October. It was decided to put the question to the 112 student leaders.

Students voted Tuesday night 77-31, with three undecided and one absent, to change the name, Schade said.

“The focus of the program has changed,” he said. “Plus, the recent enlightenment that both Jefferson and Madison were slave owners puts a negative light on things.”

Dennis Springs, 18, of Scott High wasn’t ready to depose Jefferson. “I think he did great things for the country,” he said. Afterward, he said he agreed with the change. “Jefferson and Madison were great leaders, but some people might not view them as leaders,” he said.

He said there was no general discussion of the name change before the balloting, other than in some small groups. He said he was not aware of the issue until the conference began.

The move comes as the Toledo board of education is trying to become more culturally sensitive. In September the board adopted a policy aimed at making sure that the history and cultures of all ethnic groups are fairly represented in the curriculum.