Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Studies Show That Fewer and Fewer Schools Are Being Named After Famous People--or People at All

Either we’ve lost confidence that particular men and women can be models of excellence, or the endless controversy any name engenders today is just not worth the trouble. This is surely equality run amok: Honoring is privileging or instrinsically inegalitarian. And even privileging members of our species over the indigenous birds, trees, and rivers is questionable. If Tocqueville is right, we’ll soon be stuck with thinking up various pantheistic ways of distinguishing one place from another, and that’ll be pretty darn hard.

Discussions - 16 Comments

Definitely a sign of a declining civilization.

It's not all bad, however. Politically, the realistic choice in most cases is probably between naming schools after inappropriate people (Democratic activists, left-wing busybodies and the like), and naming them after no people.

This goes along with my cutting edge pantheistic faculty objecting to my course on the GREATNESS of Churchill. This is really great stuff, and it's hard to think of a better way to see in a nutshell the contrast between the old world and the post-new. Let's take up Peter's challenge and think up some names that transcend or neutralize all particularity, something even the Hindus and the Buddhists haven't achieved...... Math anyone?

I'd be interested to see how many educational institutions and/or buildings are named after rich donors these days. It probably doesn't happen much at all in terms of public schools (since they are funded by the state). But on my private university campus, we've even named our university chapel after a rich guy. Back in the day (or so it seems from the old and worn down monuments around my college) buildings were named after long-serving professors or College Presidents . . . now it's all about the cash . . . Maybe that's worse than just not naming the buildings at all.

I think Lawler's right. It's probably just too hard to try to suggest names that won't piss people off (which is a real shame). I wouldn't mind my kids going to a George W. Bush school (he is, no matter how much people hate him, the 43rd President, after all). It would give me plenty of opportunities to tell them my take on his presidency.

Naming everything after big donors is another sign of a collapsing civilization.

Yet public colleges waste no time slapping the name of any half-wit politician on the side of a new building. Politicians love using public funds to build monuments to themselves.

I'd be interested to see how many educational institutions and/or buildings are named after rich donors these days.

Don't know about anywhere else, but the name "Eccles" (of First Security Bank) appears no less than 10 times on the University of Utah campus. (There is such a thing as overdoing it.)

Naming everything after big donors is another sign of a collapsing civilization.

Indeed. Where are the just plain great men? We used to celibrate men like Alvin York, Charles Linbergh, etc. No more.

While I share your objections to naming public building after the politicians who appropriated the funds, I see absolutely nothing wrong with naming buildings after donors. True, I prefer the medieval approach, which was to name a structure after a saint, and then to enroll the rich benefactor and his family into that institution's Liber Vitae. Unfortunately, we live in a secular society without that sort of religious consensus - I cannot imagine OSU will promise to pray for the souls of the men who donate physics labs. That being the case, the honor of naming a building is a fair reward for the man of business who, since he did not have the opportunity to live the contemplative or scholarly life, ought to at least be honored for his generosity. An open-handed man of affairs is entitled to commemoration.

I like wm's argument for being okay with naming buildings after donors, and after all donors are real people with real names. A mixture of donors, saints, and heroes would probably be best.

NO DONORS. Here's an example why. Villanova named their new Athletic Pavilion after the main donor, who was John Dupont. Well, not long thereafter, Dupont went out and killed some guy. Which left Villanova with a Pavilion named after a convicted murderer. Donors should get plaques, they should get hallways named after them. But not buildings. Buildings should be reserved for famous grads, famous people, famous events.

Not to mention, the ceiling leaked.

Other than absolutely extraordinary donors (in terms of either accomplishment or importance to the university), they should get plaques, not buildings named after them.

Peter - a mix of those three would be nice, but once my university found out donors could be found by offering "naming gifts" for different buildings, they never went back . . . I'm not sure the three are really compatible in today's world . . .

I'm not sure that in a world where private universities have to face rising expenses (and are super-stretched for cash), it would be a good "business move" to stop naming buildings after donors. I hate it when educational institutions turn into businesses . . .

I hate to offer the typical "girl" comment here . . . but here goes: have you noticed the trend in recent years for every conceivable celebrity and quasi-celebrity to have a "fragrance" named for them? There are even some stores where anyone can go in and create her own personal fragrance, bottle it, and label it. Is that what it has come down to in America? We can't all have a building--so naming those after people is bad. But we can all have our own particular smell . . . no matter how much we stink.

Whenever you nominate a building after anyone who's not yet dead, you take the risk that he or she will turn into a serial killer or child molester or whatever. Or just completely fall out of fashion in some new wave of political correctness. Buildings should be named after people, but fragrances shouldn't, unless they actually claim to be that person's odor. The trend of personalizing fragrances and depersonalizing institutions is surely worth some deep commentary. I'm distinguished by smell but not by speech, by anything I think or say. Or maybe I suggests my opinions through my odor. Some designer world...!

Anything named after a politician should be restricted to dead politicans - buildings, aircraft carriers, whatever.

Ann Coulter once did a great column on the number of projects in West Virginia named after Robert Byrd. It was an eye opener.

As for donors: well, they gave a lot of money. What are you gunna do?

Personally I wish more things would be named after great heroes of Western Civilization - like Charles Martel or John Sobieski. Not that I have any particular reason for suggesting those names. (I'd also like to see a university in Los Angeles named for James K. Polk. No particular reason for that one, either.)

One thing's for certain: we have a hell of a lot of heroes we could be naming things for, ancient or modern. It would be a terrific educational experience for young students, too. So why are we naming everything after Senator Porkbarrel?

Montgomery County, MD has the policy of requiring schools to be named after non-whites or females. Hence there is a Spark Matsunaga Middle School--despite the fact that the Hawaiian WWII vet and congressman had no connection to the immedite area.

Ken M, I rather doubt that Montgomery County, Maryland has such a policy. If so, they made a serious lapse when they built a new high school in 1998-1999 and called it Montgomery Blair High School, whose namesake - who worked for Abraham Lincoln; you know, of "The Party of Lincoln" - doesn't strike me as non-white or female.

Ah...pantheism. It would be strange to go to Imagine High School (from you-know-who) or Hypnotic Splatteredness Elementary (from some Byrd's song, maybe of Dylan provenance) or (especially) Love Is All and Love Is All You Need Junior High School (from "Tomorrow Never Knows" on Revolver).

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