Purity and stupidity

California schools and roads named for Confederate leaders will have to be renamed if Gov. Jerry Brown signs SB 539. Two elementary schools in the state are named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. That seems to be it.

Two California public schools are named for Robert E. Lee.

Two California public schools are named for Robert E. Lee.

“The small coastal city of Fort Bragg, a former military outpost named for an officer who later defected to the Confederacy, was exempted,” reports the Sacramento Bee.

Why stop with Robert E. Lee? asks Darren in Stupidity From Sacramento. If the goal is ideological purity, then a lot more renaming will be necessary.

Berkeley was named after “a slave-holding Anglican priest,” he writes. George Berkeley’s sermons explained to the colonists why Christianity supported slavery,” according to the New World Encyclopedia. Rename it!

And how about all those Catholics — you know, those people who don’t like abortion like good Californians do — we can’t have cities named after them!  Say good-bye to San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Barbara, etc.  And Sacramento–the capital of the state! — is named after a religious activity, a sacrament!  Who were the natives around here, the Maidu?  Let’s find a good Maidu name for Sacramento.

California’s major cities are named after missions founded by Father (soon to be saint) Junipero Serra, who enslaved and tortured the Indians.

Should California honor Junipero Serra?

Should California honor Junipero Serra?

My friend Elias Castillo’s book, Cross of Thorns, describes how even Serra’s contemporaries were shocked by treatment of the Indians, many of whom died of disease and despair.

If Confederate leaders are verboten, so should cities named after Serra’s missions and all the schools, colleges, roads, etc. named after Serra himself. (The Junipero Serra Freeway has a statue of Serria so ugly that it’s more of a disgrace than an honor.)

Is your school’s namesake worthy?

Florida has more schools named for manatees than for George Washington.

Some want to rename the nearly 200 K-12 schools named for Confederate leaders, writes Robert Pondiscio. As a teacher of civics and history, he sees a teachable moment.

So here’s a challenge for every school in this country named after a president, military figure, athlete, civic leader or any prominent person: Commit the coming school year to a close examination of the life and work of your school’s namesake.

. . . Let (students) debate, defend or challenge the merits of their namesake – but from a position of deep, informed conviction.

. . . Agree that the current name must stand until or unless an alternative person – not a street, natural feature or other bland, inoffensive name like Valley View High – is chosen if the current honoree fails to pass muster.

It’s increasingly rare for public schools to be named for people, according to a 2007 paper by Jay Greene and colleagues.  It’s easier and safer to choose a name from nature. That’s why Florida has 11 schools named for manatees and only five for George Washington. Arizona has as many public schools are named for the roadrunner as for Thomas Jefferson.

“Unfortunately, such caution betrays public education’s civic mission,” Greene and his colleagues wrote. “To teach civics effectively, we have to affirm that democracy and liberty are superior to other systems of government and that the history of democratic societies – shaped by the leadership of people whose names we should know – reinforces this point.

Is there anyone we can agree to honor?

Remedial math is ‘burial ground’

Remedial math is a “burial ground for the aspirations” of college students, says a speaker at a Carnegie webinar on redesigning developmental math at community colleges. Only 6 to 8 percent of  remedial algebra students go on to  college-level math.

Also on Community College SpotlightFree speech is under fire at community colleges, charges FIRE (Foundation on Individual Rights in Education).  An Ohio college told a student she can’t hand out anti-abortion pamphlets after class. A Georgia college removed an anti-Confederacy painting from a faculty art show.