There’s a new middle school being built in Tacoma, Washington, and the school board is trying to come up with a name for it. Among the possiblities are Eastside Academy Middle School, First Creek Middle School, Cesar Chavez Middle School, and Barack Obama Middle School.
That last one was suggested Monday afternoon at a school board meeting by board member Kurt Miller, who says Obama’s election is a historic moment worth memorializing: “When kids at this new school enter the door of Barack Obama Middle School, that tells them they can be anything they want.”
This wouldn’t even be the first named after the incoming president, as there’s a school in Hempstead, New York, that’s already announced its intention to change its name to honor him.
Unfortunately, the Tacoma school district has a policy against naming a building after anyone who hasn’t been dead two years, or a president who hasn’t served at least one full term. Some members of the board want to change that policy.
It’s a bad idea.
I have nothing against Obama, and hope that he’ll do a terrific job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — except that he hasn’t even been sworn in as President yet, and winning an election with the best campaign in history isn’t enough of an accomplishment to name a school in his honor. He may turn out to be America’s greatest president, or he may fall flat on his face, but until we have some historical perspective, this move is entirely premature.
Besides, I’m sick of seeing public buildings named after politicians. There’s Ronald Reagan this and John Kennedy that, and you can’t throw a stick in West Virginia without hitting something named after Robert Byrd. Local politicos are even worse, using their patronage and power to carve themselves into marble and concrete at every opportunity.
Where are the schools named after teachers? I’m a little biased on this, as the son of two educators, but I’d like to see them name the new school after the best teacher in Tacoma — the teacher that all the kids wanted to have in their classroom, the teacher all the other teachers wanted to be. Every town has someone that good; someone who has spent a couple of decades helping to mold a couple of thousand young minds.
This isn’t a red America or a blue America — this is a brick building full of people committed to giving your child an education.
Think of the message it would send to all of the people on the front lines of America’s educational system to honor one of them in the name of a school. The students may only attend for a few years, but for the adults who work there day in and day out, the recognition of one of their own would make them proud, and say something about a community’s commitment to the best and the brightest in the field of teaching.