The Washington Post is delighted someone is naming an elementary school after a former Post reporter turned "celebrity." In Monday's paper, education columnist Jay Mathews reports that liberal Mountain View, California is naming a new school for a gay illegal alien journalist/activist:
This is a forward-looking Silicon Valley community. Google, Symantec and Intuit have headquarters here. So perhaps it is not surprising that the school will be named after Jose Antonio Vargas, 38, a former Washington Post colleague who grew up near here and is, at the moment, an undocumented immigrant....
Notice that I didn’t call Vargas an American. He feels he is one. So do many people who know him, including me. The federal government doesn’t agree. That dispute, plus his talents as a writer, filmmaker and activist, have made him a celebrity among the nation’s 11 million immigrants without legal status.
It is stunning that a school district would name a school for him when the national trend is to remove controversial monikers from educational institutions, not add them. Glorifying Vargas also seems to contradict President Trump’s harsh statements about immigrants.
It should not be surprising that a bunch of California liberals would honor an illegal alien under 40, when they can stick it to President Trump. Vargas attended schools in Mountain View after he arrived from the Philippines without papers at 12, so he's a local liberal hero in that sense:
Tamara Wilson, a research scientist and member of the Mountain View Whisman School District board, suggested the move. She told the board that Vargas “was taught in our schools and has gone on to accomplish extraordinary things. He represents the many faces of our students, their struggles and their accomplishments and represents a path to achievement....
Naming the school after Vargas, Wilson said, would send “a strong message to any parent or child in our district who is afraid, who wonders what the future holds, who questions their opportunities to succeed.” The vote was 4 to 0 in favor, with one abstention. Wilson has since become the board’s president.
When he reached The Post in 2004, he seemed to me a whirlwind, going deep into the complexities of his generation. By connecting social media to the aftermath of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, he was recognized as part of The Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize.
In 2011, he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. That same year, he co-founded Define American, a nonprofit project to facilitate dialogue about immigration.
He was also on the cover of Time magazine in 2012, as long as we're defining his celebrity appeal to liberals. Mathews skipped over the fact that Vargas didn't tell the Post he was undocumented when he was hired in 2003, and when he told his editor at the time, the editor kept it a secret for seven years. The idea that he's "in peril" seems a little quaint now, considering his "celebrity" status.
He remains in peril because he is four months too old to qualify for Dream Act protections offered to people brought in illegally as children....
Naming a school after him, he said, still seems “surreal.” He doesn’t know what he will say at the Aug. 15 opening before a crowd of family and friends. I expect he will come up with something educational about the many surprises of his American life.