What’s in a name?
September 28, 2011
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has decided the Berlin School District’s athletic teams, the Indians, can no longer keep that name.
The purpose of DPI meddling in such matters is clear enough. Bent on political correctness in defiance of common sense, the DPI assumes people name their athletic teams—the children of their communities—after things they despise.
People who don’t have excessive difficulty coping with the challenges of the day hardly need to be told that team names are chosen to suggest characteristics broadly regarded as virtues: courage, tenacity, strength, the fierce pursuit of honorable objectives.
But not all virtues are ideally applied in all settings. We’ve never heard of a football team called The Philanthropists or The Humanitarians or The Organ Donors. DPI’s premise—that a team name may signify contempt—will cease being laughable the moment we hear of a team called The Attorneys or The Politicians.
Because they lead inevitably to speech restrictions and financial costs, team-naming controversies automatically give the communities that stand accused a legitimate interest in the skin of their accusers—relating not to its color but rather to its thickness or lack thereof. Whatever dubious role government may have in appeasing individual gripes and sensitivities belongs in the civil courts, not the bureaucracy.
The DPI’s mission is to “advance[s] the cause of public education and public libraries, and supervise[s] the public schools so that all school age children have access to high quality educational programs that meet high standards of excellence and all citizens have access to comprehensive public library resources and services.”
Naming teams isn’t on the list.