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Thursday, June 30, 2016 01:02 am

Ask the kids

I read today that the policy committee of School District 186 is considering adopting a formal process for the naming of district facilities after citizens deemed worth of the honor.

You might well wish to forget it, but I addressed that issue in a 2011 column titled, "A school by any other name" in which I came to no useful conclusion at all. It's a tricky business. In that piece I noted that public officials eager to not be caught endorsing anyone who might later be revealed as odious have simply ceased to name public buildings after public citizens. 

The new policy proposal, which is only preliminary, would entertain only nominations made three years after the suggested namee retires, dies or ends her career.

Three lousy years? So much for seeking the judgment of history. On the other hand, history changes its mind too, and Americans change their mind about history. Were it to come up today, I suspect that a substantial fraction of Springfield opinion would reject naming an elementary school to honor Jane Addams, who not only committed her working life to helping immigrants but opposed foreign military adventures even against brown-skinned peoples. 

In a disputatious commonwealth, the safest course is to avoid naming anything larger than a drinking fountain after humans. How about tapping social media to let the kids name the schools, in an ongoing plebiscite?   



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