Be true to your school (or at least its namesake).

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader noticed in yesterday’s Washington Post that many school systems in his beloved Virginia are eschewing naming schools after people, instead choosing “safe” place names.

Here is the beginning of the piece:

The Washington area suburbs of Virginia, befitting a state that supplied four of the first five U.S. presidents, has public high schools named after all of them, plus a nice sprinkling of famous Virginia generals.

Washington-Lee High School is in Arlington County. Jefferson, Madison, Lee, Marshall and J.E.B. Stuart high schools are in Fairfax County. Fredericksburg’s only high school is named after James Monroe, and Prince William County has Stonewall Jackson High.

But over the past decade, even though 12 Northern Virginia high schools have opened to handle one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, not one of them has been named after a person, much less a president or a general. Instead, the various school-naming committees have embraced scenic, geographic or patriotic titles: Battlefield, Colonial Forge, Dominion, Forest Park, Heritage, Mountain View, Riverbend, South County, Stone Bridge, Westfield and two schools named Freedom.

Part of the problem, according to a recent study and some Northern Virginia school officials, is that presidents, particularly the more recent ones, and other well-known people tend to be controversial, whereas few Americans have bad things to say about rivers, lakes, forests or freedom.

Has it gotten so bad that we can’t name high schools after people any more? Is George Washington not deserving of a school named in his honor because he owned slaves, or put down the Whisky Rebellion? Is Thomas Jefferson not deserving because he carried on with a slave? Is Franklin Roosevelt not worthy because he carried on with women who were not Eleanor and laid the foundation of today’s welfare state?

And what about other famous personages. While it might be out of character for a high school in Georgia to be named after William T. Sherman, it would be a fitting honor for him in his home state of Ohio… And there must be other people of stature to name schools after.

Here where your Maximum Leader lives, the elementary school that the Villainettes attend is named after a well-known clergyman who lived in the 19th Century (1832 to 1907 actually). The reason for the school being named after him was that he was born locally and was a prominent abolitionist. Unfortunately, he shares his name with earlier relatives who were definately not abolitionists - or even particularly nice men. While your Maximum Leader has no objection to the name of the school… If you know anything about the family (and frankly the vast majority of people don’t) you might get a little confused.

Your Maximum Leader is greatly disappointed that schools aren’t being named after people any more. Even if the person is controversial, that controversy is an opportunity to teach a lesson - perhaps a moral lesson. Gawd help us that we should attempt to teach a moral lesson in schools. (Smallholder’s teaching of American History in high school not withstanding.) We have just become a society ashamed of its past and much more willing to ignore it than to learn what can be learned and (we hope) improve ourselves as a result.

Carry on.

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