Eaton High School is one of a few dozen Colorado high schools that features either a Native American nickname or mascot. The school has weathered protests and been in legislators’ cross hairs, including a failed bill this past year that would have cut state funding from schools with nicknames or mascots deemed offensive by a special task force.
That failed bill led to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s commission to discuss Native American mascots in Colorado’s schools. One of the commission’s 15 appointed members is Eaton High School teacher Deirdre Jones. Jones teachers literature and journalism at Eaton, and has taught at Eaton for 14 years.
As part of the commission, Jones has volunteered to travel to various cities this spring for a series of open forums. The next forum is Jan. 14 at Loveland High School.
The commission, unlike the failed bill this past year, features no strings or punishments.
Question — How did you end up on the governor’s commission?
Answer — I was appointed by the governor upon recommendation of the commission leaders. I was exploring the commission after some of my students asked if there was a possibility it might come (to) Eaton, and I filled out an application online. I never considered I would actually be chosen.
Q — Does it feel as though there is room for compromise?
A — This is a question that comes from a wrong premise because it implies there is a position or agenda that the commission is proposing. The entire purpose of the commission is to listen to feedback from the community concerning the mascot issue as well as their own mascot, to collect those comments, views, opinions, suggestions and to represent those voices and ideas back to the governor at the end of April.
Q — What do you hope to get out of this?
A — I get to hear that discussion. I will be doing something I always lecture my students to do: actually taking part in something they care about. I don’t want to be the teacher that retires saying, “I wish I had…” I decided that if I am going to be the type of teacher who asks my students to “walk the walk” regarding issues they see in society, then I have to do the same thing. I can’t ask them to get involved in their communities and world, to invest themselves in something they believe in, to be willing to “sail against the current of their times,” and then just sit behind my desk and expect them to do it. It is hypocritical, and American literature is filled with authors who take hypocrites to task.
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