Famous game show host Pat Sajak once compared being a conservative in Hollywood to walking into a shooting range with a bullseye attached to your body. “If you want to keep working, you feel like you have to keep quiet.”
The message is clear: Hollywood’s liberal elite can be a big, bad bully.
Parents and taxpayers in Fairfax County, Virginia are becoming very familiar with that sentiment because two Academy Award winners – actress Julianne Moore and producer Bruce Cohen – have declared J.E.B. Stuart High School the latest battleground for their progressive agenda and political correctness crusade. Political correctness is bad enough. But, this time, it could cost Virginia taxpayers a lot of money.
Last year, Moore and Cohen launched an online petition to rename J.E.B. Stuart High School, an institution named for a Confederate General. Both had attended the school for a brief time in the 1970s. The petition – which to date has secured 35,000 signatures nationally – declares, “No one should have to apologize for the name of the public high school you attended and the history of racism it represents, as we and so many alumni of Stuart have felt the need to do our whole lives.”
Like so many efforts of this ilk, Moore and Cohen eschew complexities and assert an insurmountable base of support. It’s an old political trick – declare victory before all the votes are in. Projecting momentum is especially important when you lack a clear majority. That appears to be the case here: WTOP Radio reported that a survey of the community showed that 56 percent of respondents opposed the name change.
A less-Hollywood inspired campaign in Duval County, Florida in December 2013 produced a similar result. The School Board voted 7-0 to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School, despite 94 percent of alumni, 75 percent of nearby residents, and 52 percent of the faculty supporting retaining the name.
Detached activists may not understand the consequences, but residents of these communities do because this is a multi-faceted decision with significant consequences, not the least of which is the cost.
Fairfax County officials estimate that at minimum, the name change will cost the school – and taxpayers – a whopping $700,000. At a time when dollars for education are already stretched thin, Moore and Cohen, who have an estimated combined net worth of $51 million, believe that the $700,000 is best spent on their pet social causes and self-inflicted guilt – not on better resources like pay raises for teachers, better books, and improved facilities. What’s more likely is that Moore and Cohen didn’t think about the practical implications of their campaign at all, certainly not to the students, the parents, and especially not to Virginia taxpayers.
Before any school decides to pursue such a drastic, costly change, it should provide taxpayers with a financial plan to pay for it. Not a single penny of the budget to change the name should be paid for with precious taxpayer funds. Whether it is a hefty donation from Ms. Moore and her Hollywood friends or a fundraising drive by Fairfax County families, the only solution to the J.E.B. Stuart High School dilemma and others like it is private funding. Otherwise, misplaced Hollywood activism becomes an exorbitant public expense.
It is doubtful that there will not be a Hollywood ending here for the silent majority of Fairfax County taxpayers. The reality is that there won’t likely be a last-minute save from Moore or Cohen or any of their Hollywood friends. The parents and residents of Fairfax County will get steamrolled by Big Hollywood, and then get stuck with the tab. Students will have nothing to show for the nearly $1 million spent to allow an estranged Hollywood actress and some school administrators to have a photo op to impress their friends.
Other parts of the country should take heed. The fact remains that America’s schools and small communities are the next fertile ground for the political correctness crusade. Today it’s changing a high school’s name. Tomorrow it could be tearing pages out of history books. And next week, it could be refusing to observe President’s Day because George Washington wasn’t a suffragist.
The question is whether Fairfax County is ready to let Big Hollywood steal its lunch money.