Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Editorial: Dixie board should lead name-change decision

Can we listen to each other?

Editorial: Dixie board should lead name-change decision

October 24, 2018 at 10:00 am

Over the years the names of Marin public schools and their districts have changed a lot. Most of the changes were the result of changing times, most often the consolidation of smaller districts.

For many years, the Clark School District served children in West Marin, until it merged with the Tomales School District is 1943. Today, the area it drew children from is served by the Shoreline Unified School District.

Same for the Garcia, Shafter, Pierce and Halleck (named for Union general Henry Halleck) school districts that governed public schools in West Marin. All were named for Marin pioneers, some of whom are remembered by other landmarks such as a bridge, ranch or prominent spot on the map.

The Eastland School District was formed in Mill Valley in 1892 and was merged with the Mill Valley School District.

In 1913, the Ross Landing School District changed its name to the Kentfield School District.

Today, most of the names of Marin school districts reflect their geographic location.

A long-standing anomaly is the Dixie School District, started in 1864 in the schoolhouse built by pioneer rancher James Miller.

Although Marin was a Union hotbed during the Civil War, according to the Old Dixie Schoolhouse web page, the district got its name on a dare from Southern sympathizers who had helped build the schoolhouse that Miller came to name “Dixie.” See the full article HERE

Editor's Note:

Why not commit to a year of community discussion with the goal of understanding both sides of the debate? 

I doubt we will have any more "proof" than we have today.
There are essentially two versions of how Dixie got its name. 1.) It was named on a dare in 1863 during the Civil War as an act of mischief because Miller, the person who built Dixie School house had friends from the South who helped it build it. Miller was a prosperous Irish immigrant who lived for a short time in Missouri, a confederate state but had emigrated to Marin County in 1849 before the Civil War. 2.) Miller named his school for Mary Dixie, a Miwok woman from Vallecito, who he had met during his travels. There was never intent to immortalize the Confederacy.
Whatever his intent, Miller created a vital social institution that helped educate thousands of children in the subsequent years which became the Dixie School district which the community is justifiably proud. No one that I know in the "We are Dixie" makes the link today with the Confederacy any more than they think of "Las Gallinas" is about "the chickens". It is just a word and the suggestion that it represents intolerance, racism or white supremacy is a smear on our community. The "Change the Name" people believe that ignoring the issue demonstrates that the community is petty and intolerant today. Changing the name will signal that we have grown more tolerant and inclusive. It is more than an exercise in political correctness. It is a statement of community.
Can both positions be true? I don't think it is worth trying to "prove" that which cannot be proven. Both stories are based on second hand accounts. No corroborative evidence exists. Nevertheless, the insults volleyed from both sides ARE a problem. Let's listen to each other and decide how we embrace our future.
For me, the issue is naming the school "Dixie" in 1863 during the worst moments in our nations history when thousands died over the war of slavery. I don't need to know the "reason" or the "true story". It doesn't make a difference to me. The name of our school district should reflect the future we want to embrace.
Can we listen to each other with compassion? I think it is possible.

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