In a recent study by the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas they’ve found that schools in the U.S. are becoming increasingly likely to be named after a natural feature like manatees in Florida or a cactus in Arizona than a current or former U.S. leader. In fact, of recent school names in Florida only five of them were named after George Washington while 11 were named after manatees. In Arizona, public schools built over the last 20 years were 50 times more likely to be named after a natural feature than a U.S. leader, a fact that might leave some of them turning in their graves. I guess the question is this… Is it a sign of growing environmental awareness or a sign of growing public polarization that our school names are taking on an environmental twist to them?
Now while I’d certainly like to think that it’s a result of a growing environmental awareness, I’d bet there’s also a significant argument to be made that naming it after a local feature has far less potential for controversy than any political leader, particularly with the current degree of political polarization in U.S. But regardless of the reasons for doing so, I’m wondering whether this trend is actually sending an interesting but subconsciously positive message to kids when they go to school each day, because it seems to me that by naming schools after local features we’ve actually been giving kids the message that protecting the environment is important. After all, we tend to name things after people, places, or things that we value, and that’s a concept kids definitely pick up on… Maybe a new study on the effects of school names on kids is in order?