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.
©2007 Community News Group
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