School naming is very much on the radar in Madison. There is a new “study” on trends in naming schools. Too bad it is from Jay P. Greene and like most things associated with him (not all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day) , next to useless.
Greene is correct that what we name schools and how we arrive at those names is important. From there, he goes wrong. Greene identifies trends away from naming schools after people and presents them as seemingly both a cause and effect of a decline in civic values. Either way, acording to Greene the villian is the usual suspect: “progressive education.”
Leaving aside the irony of a proponent of charters and vouchers expressing concern about civic values, there are some big problems with Greene’s assertions (conclusions gives him too much credit). First, we all know that some names communicate more in the way of civic values than others, so the proxy metric is pretty lame. Beyond that, the progessive reforms Greene identifies happened about a century before the trends he identifies. Hell of a lag time. It is probably weakness of the study, but I was glad that Greene didn’t touch on another horrid trend: selling the naming rights to schools and facilities. I could go on, but why bother, I think I’ve already put more thought into this “study” than the author did.
Danny Rosenthal (the Quick and the Ed, hat tip to Sherman Dorn who has more to say) put in his a two cents and asked that we consider the educational possibilities of names such as “Roosevelt Amino Acids a2 + b2 i-before-e Hyperbole High School.”
Thomas J. Mertz