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Pro-con on Obama Middle School idea

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Nov. 27, 2008 at 8:01 pm with No Comments »
November 27, 2008 8:01 pm

This pro-con, by editorial writers Cheryl Tucker and Kim Bradford, will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Should Tacoma school be named for Obama?

YES: The Tacoma School District could mark a historic first and inspire students

to reach for the stars.

Tacoma School Board member Kurt Miller has a great idea: Put President-elect Barack Obama’s name on a middle school under construction on the city’s East Side.

The district’s naming policy would have to be modified. Current rules require a person to be dead at least two years or to have a served a presidential term before a school is named after him or her. There’s a good reason for that policy: A living person or untried president could do something in the future to cast a shadow on the school.

But the historic nature of Obama’s election warrants rethinking the policy – or at least making an exception. There is precedent: Henry Foss was still living when Foss High School was named for him. And the district could always rename the school in the unlikely event that Obama messes up royally.

Having Obama’s name on a school in a part of the city that has a high minority population could be inspiring. Every time students of color walk through the door, they would be reminded that truly, anything is possible.

If Pierce County can be named after an unremarkable president (Franklin Pierce), why not name a middle school after a remarkable one – the nation’s first black man to hold the office? – Cheryl Tucker

NO: Obama’s election will certainly be worth memorializing someday, but he hasn’t even taken office yet.

An Obama Middle School in Tacoma? Hold that thought.

Kurt Miller is definitely on to something, but the Tacoma school board member’s suggestion that the district consider naming a school after Barack Obama is premature by at least four years.

The president-elect claimed victory just 24 short days ago. He might be acting quite presidential these days, but he is not yet commander in chief.

Naming a school for perpetuity should be a considered affair. The country’s mad dash to name all manner of landmarks after Obama is anything but.

Obama’s place in history is worth celebrating, especially in a diverse district like Tacoma’s. But what’s the rush? It won’t be this generation’s students who need a reminder of the 2008 election’s significance; it will be the next generation, and the one after that.

The district should stick by its policy and wait until the 44th president has at least a term under his belt. If no new schools are on the drawing board in four years (or eight), Tacoma will still have a few ones worthy of renaming.

There is little tribute in jumping on a bandwagon. Waiting until the nation has taken the full measure of President Obama before putting his name on a building would bestow a true honor. – Kim Bradford

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