July 2, 2007

"Roosevelt Amino Acids a2 + b2 i-before-e Hyperbole High School"

Danny Roosevelt has the concise and witty response to the latest silly study co-authored by Jay Greene, purportedly about how Florida schools are named horribly, after things such as "Lake Magdalene" and "Orange Grove" instead of famous people such as Thomas Jefferson or even local heroes such as Richard Pride (who fought for civil Rights in Tampa). Oh, wait: schools in the Tampa area use all of those names. My children have gone to Lake Magdalene (neighborhood name) Elementary School and Orange Grove (what Florida is famous for, in part) Middle School, and there is both a Richard Pride Elementary School and a Thomas Jefferson High School.

The money (or silly) quote is as follows:

To some extent, the change in school names is a reflection of broader cultural changes, including increased skepticism of inherited wisdom, revisionist history, and increased interest in the environment. But attributing the change to culture is an insufficient explanation. Culture partially shapes the decisions of political leaders, but culture can also be a product of the decisions of political leaders. The question is, why are the political leaders who are in control of school names--school board members--increasingly reluctant to fight for names that honor individual people?

There is no evidence anywhere in the report about the motives of school board members, just speculation. The vast majority of any drop in naming schools after people in Florida is a drop in naming new schools after presidents. There's been a slight increase in the last 2 decades in naming schools after other people, probably disproportionately weighted in favor of civil-rights figures (either nationally or locally). And I wonder about the ability to categorize a name as either nature or place. Someone who didn't live in Tampa might think that Lake Magdalene Elementary School was named after a body of water, but only indirectly; it is named after the neighborhood commonly called Lake Magdalene (that after the lake). So, too, if schools are commonly named after subdivisions, and developers use real or fictive "nature"-sounding names, then school names will follow, not because school boards have some environmentalist bent but because developers are marketing their neighborhoods and school boards are paying attention to local geography.

Will Rick Hess ridicule this Greene et al. "study" in his next review of educational research?  Hmmn...

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Posted in Education policy on July 2, 2007 8:04 PM |