• Phil Latham

Strike a blow for better education

Surely history classes are a big part of the curriculum in the Tyler ISD, as they are in all other public schools. If the instruction doesn’t start in first grade it couldn’t be much later that students begin learning about the history of our state and nation.

If Tyler ISD board trustees can harken back to those lessons it might begin to dawn on them that if they can calm the masses by changing the name of Robert E. Lee High School to Any Other Person At All High School, it is a deal they should take, posthaste.

(If trustees didn’t take Latin in school, “posthaste” in English means “with great speed or immediacy,” which is Texan for, “New York minute.”

The name is symbolic to those who want to see it changed but don’t think that means it isn’t important. This is Symbolism with a capital “S,” partly because the school district most often ignores their requests and it means something to see them bend a little – almost infinitesimal amount – on this issue.

If the name-changers can succeed it means that just maybe they can make some progress on other issues that are so much more important but are also orders of magnitude more difficult to conquer.

Such as: Why are the educational outcomes so much different between each of the races/ethnicities and what are you doing about it?

Reading reports from the Texas Education Agency shows that Black and Hispanic students regularly scored between 20 and 40 percent lower in the different testing areas at Robert E. Lee High School.

Not all of this is the way these students have been educated in the last few years, of course. By the time a student is a senior in high school, he has gone through 12 years of learning. That means if the education was seriously deficient a decade ago the final grades are coming in now.

It takes that long to change the paradigm.

And maybe it has changed in those earlier grades. I’m surely not the one to say otherwise but if I were the parent of a minority student, I would be seeking proof of those changes and the questions would be much more pointed.

Parents – and the community for that matter – won’t be mollified by changing the name of the high school for long. Switching one name for another and changing a mascot will be cause for celebration but that will not be the end of it.

Nor should it be.

That could be why so many people seem to rail against a name change that, in just about any other context, would mean nothing to them. It’s the old “slippery slope” argument: “If we let this happen, who knows what might be next?”

What might be next is a better school for everyone, no matter the shade of their skin or where they originally came from. These things do happen but not without a great deal of effort and not without enough open-mindedness in the community.

They do not happen under the banner of Robert E. Lee who, after all, was about resisting change, keeping things exactly as they were.

Viewed politically, you cannot force the issue to make sense, no matter which side you argue. So, look at it another way.

See it as a high school student might. A student who is navigating that no-man’s-land that leads from being a teenager to being an adult. Remember the pressures you felt, how you were impacted by events you could not control

Were there things that worried you then that you wouldn’t give a second thought about now? I’m guessing so.

We shouldn’t do anything that would add angst to the life of a teenager. You would not have wanted that as a young person and, believe me, being a teenager is more difficult today than ever.

Want to strike a blow to improve education in Tyler? Change the name and don’t worry about the people railing who don’t attend the school. The school should be for the students.

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