The Corner

And Will a Jesse James or Billy the Kid Elementary School Follow?

California public schools for some time in many surveys of national testing have ranked 48th or 49th in the nation in math and science, and, inter alia, are part of the various impediments to robust economic growth in California. No matter — California school boards have better things to worry about. Here is an item on the recent efforts in Salinas to name a new elementary school after an obscure 19th-century convicted bandit who was hanged for murder:

SALINAS, CA – Tiburcio Vasquez, a 19th century outlaw, is remembered in historical accounts as a notorious criminal who terrorized southern California.

But one school district in California wants to remember him another way: as a hero to the Hispanic community who fought back against injustice.

The Alisal Union School District set off a controversy last month when it announced that an elementary school in Salinas to be opened this year will be named after Vasquez.

The move has led some local leaders, including the Salinas mayor, to criticize the controversial choice.

“We had a young man killed in Afghanistan who was from the Alisal area. He would have been a nice person to name the school after,” Mayor Joe Gunter said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of good people we could name a school after, in my opinion.”

According to a biography culled together by the University of Southern California, Vasquez was “probably the most notorious bandit California ever saw.”

Vasquez turned to life of crime as a teenager and served time in San Quentin State Prison for stealing horses in the late 1850s, the biography states.

He and his gang went into hiding in the canyons of Southern California after a “string of infamous robberies and murders” in 1873, the biography says.

Vasquez eventually was captured, convicted of murder and hanged.

Given that most outlaws of the Wild West—from John Wesley Hardin to Butch Cassidy were “misunderstood” or posed as romantic Robin Hood contrarians—this could be a precedent-setting move: The Cole Younger Preschool or the Killer Miller Kindergarten?


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