Letters to the Editor: April 22 – 28, 2021
Even Mattie Gundry Can’t Withstand Modern Scrutiny
I am concerned that at least one of the recommended names submitted by the School Renaming Committees would require our town to go through the renaming process yet again: Mattie Gundry Elementary School. Miss Gundry laudably opened a school to serve special needs students during a period where such individuals were often overlooked.
However, with little effort, I quickly discovered that Miss Gundry, as a member of the “Committee on Colonies for Segregation of Defectives,” helped author a report calling for the “permanent segregation of those who have inherited their defective condition from their ancestors and who, therefore, should they become parents, would bequeath a similar condition to their children.” Specifically, the report suggested that the government should operate colonies that would “separate all true degenerates from society and keep them in carefully classified groups, under circumstances which shall insure that they shall do as little harm to themselves and their fellows as possible and that they shall not entail upon the next generation the burden which the present one has borne.” And by “degenerates,” the report meant not just the “chronic insane,” but also “the epileptic, the paralytic, the imbecile and idiotic of various grades, the moral imbecile, the sexual pervert, the kleptomaniac; many, if not most, of the chronic inebriates; many of the prostitutes, tramps and minor criminals; many habitual paupers, especially the ignorant and irresponsible mothers of illegitimate children, so common in our poor houses; many of the shiftless poor, ever on the verge of pauperism and often stepping over into it; some of the blind, some deaf-mutes, some consumptives.” (You can find the report here)
It would be reasonable, of course, to take the position that we can celebrate Miss Gundrie’s accomplishments notwithstanding her flaws. But the School Board has already rejected this approach with respect to Thomas Jefferson and George Mason. I stand by my position, expressed in a letter to the editor last December, that renaming a school after a human being in this day and age is simply too risky.
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