Abilene professor, historian weigh in on petition to remove Confederate names from elementary schools

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — After an online petition to change the names of four elementary schools named after Confederate leaders began circulating in Abilene, a professor and a historian are weighing in with their opinions on the matter.

“As a whole I think you have to consider, ‘What is the legacy that these men left behind as Confederate generals?'” says Dr. Myles Werntz, ethics professor.

“You don’t take away history. You leave it there and then you deal with it and get through,” says local historian Reverend Andrew Penns.

“I think there is a lot of romanticization surrounding the Confederacy, but the facts on the ground are that Texas seceded because of slavery. That’s the third sentence in the Texas succession document, that we were trying to defend slavery,” says Dr. Werntz.

The consternation is centered around a dark part of our nation’s history that Penns says we can’t hide from.

“Yes, there are some sad points in there. There is some tears to be shed from that, but if it’s not told and if it’s not displayed then you miss out on a whole lot,” says Rev. Penns.

Penns has lived in Abilene most of his life and questions the motivation behind the desired change.

“Why now? The schools have been in place for a long time. I don’t feel, unless you do the history or bring it out to the public, but especially in Abilene, I don’t feel that it has an impact on civil injustice,” says Rev. Penns.

Werntz says this is a good start, but wants to know what comes next.

“Changing the name of a school is an important first step, but it’s only the beginning step. It’s not as important as asking, ‘What are my children being taught in school? How are they they learning history? Who are they learning history with,'” says Dr. Werntz.

Moving forward, Penns says we should take a closer look at the names of future schools.

“As schools are being built, look at naming them after different people,” says Penns.


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