School’s memory short on Longfellow

for The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the greatest American poets, is about to crash on the rocks of political correctness at a Sunset Park school.

This month, school district officials announced that they want PS 94 — the Henry Longfellow School on Sixth Avenue at 50th Street — renamed “the School of Diverse Languages and Cultures.”

Supporters of the jargony name change say removing the Longfellow surname will better reflect the plethora of languages being taught at a school that has students from more than 100 countries (never mind that Longfellow was well versed in Italian, French and Spanish, as well as English).

“We have a large immigrant population … that speak[s] many different languages,” says Mary-Powel Thomas, who runs the school district in which PS 94 is located. “We want the name to reflect that.”

She said there was no outcry by anyone at a June 14 meeting at a Park Slope school where the name change was discussed. It could be because history has not been kind to Longfellow, who translated Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and was a member the Fireside Poets group with Oliver Wendell Holmes.

While once revered in his own country — his 70th birthday in 1877 was celebrated with numerous parades and poetry readings — the poet who created the legend of Paul Revere in his famous 1860 epic is now a victim of that all-too-American practice of forgetting the past.

Some current and former residents feel the change is arbitrary.

“It just seems like they are needlessly dressing up the name,” says longtime Brooklyn resident and American history buff Perry Lee. “Longfellow should continue to be honored.”

The name change proposal needs only an approval by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to take effect.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

skj says:
I don't recall PS 94 having a name when I went there in the 1940s and we were mostly Scandinavians and Irish and a sprinkling of Germans and Italians. The school song went "Dear old ninety-four, dear old ninety-four, with joy we greet thee, we run to meet thee, dear old ninety-four" which is not bad. So I do not feel sentimental about Henry Longfellow. On the other hand, School of Diverse Languages and Cultures is perfectly hateful, and impossible to imagine in any sort of song.
Oct. 15, 2007, 5:16 pm
RJ says:
I too attended PS 94 in the 40's, and as I recall we simply called the school '94'. I would wager that is still the case and will continue to be the case regardless of official name. For a child, two digits trumps any label, serious or silly. No teacher ever mentioned Longfellow, but there was a sign somewhere saying the school was 'a Longfellow School' not 'the L....', so I believed that Longfellow must have been a designation for a group or type of school (a dark secret?).
Oct. 16, 2007, 6:03 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Don’t miss out!

Stay in touch with the stories people are talking about in your neighborhood:

Optional: Help us tailor our newsletters to you!