Whatever happened to …

… school naming?

Growing up, it seemed so simple. I went to Clinton Public School and Central Huron Secondary School. Then, it was on to the University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario, University of Windsor… It really was simple; just name the school after the community that it was situated in.

Then, I started thinking about high school sports. In Huron County, we played against Seaforth District High School, Goderich District Collegiate Institute, South Huron District High School. Yeah, it was simple – except for the high school in Wingham – F.E.Madill Secondary School. That was a little different; it was probably named after some guy named Madill. Occasionally, we’d go to Perth County and they had location named schools too. Mitchell District High School, Listowel District Secondary School, Stratford Central Secondary School, Stratford Northwestern, and St. Marys District Collegiate and Vocational Institute. Madill really was the outlier. It wasn’t until going to the Faculty of Education where I learned the difference between a high school, a secondary school, a collegiate and a collegiate and vocational Institute. Whew! There’s a lot going on there.

Catholic schools seemed to be easier; just name it after a saint or a parish. In town, there was a St. Joseph’s Catholic School and now a St. Anne’s Catholic School in my old elementary school’s back yard.

What got me going on this was what’s happening in our town. Our long standing high school is going to merge with another school and move to a brand new building. And, “we’re” having a difficult time coming up with a name. The old schools – General Amherst High School and Western Secondary School will lost their current identity and form something new. Think Phoenix, will you?

It’s certainly hit the news:

The problem lies in the name of General Amherst High School. As with so many incidents of truth and reconciliation, General Amherst and his actions have made naming a new school in his name impossible. The plot thickens because his name is in the name of the town so Amherstburg High School or any permutation isn’t something that the school board will accept. As you note from the articles, this feeling isn’t shared by everyone.

So, for a Sunday, how about proposing solutions to a real world problem.

  • should school districts name schools after local historical figures?
  • should school districts adopt a standard convention about naming a school?
  • what would you recommend for a name for a new school that will be an amalgamation or two former schools? Something that shows a combination or something completely new?
  • before this blog post, did you know about Jeffrey Amherst?
  • are there schools in your district that are named after historical figures without a clean past? Should they be renamed?
  • we’ve seen the decision of Toronto to rename Dundas Street – are there more streets that need to be changed?
  • should a community change its name if it’s named after a historical figure with a less than clean past?
  • could someone name a school after you?

I’d love to read your thoughts and suggestions. Please share them in the comments below.

This is a regular Sunday morning feature around here. You can find them all collected here. I’m always appreciative of suggestions for a post – just reach out to me.

5 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. The town I live in was originally called Hawke after a British Admiral. The name was changed during revolutionary times to be less British. Changing it now would seem a little off but I don’t know if Adm. Hawke had anything like the record of Gen. Amherst. Interestingly enough, we have a town named Amherst in New Hampshire. I don’t know if it is named after the same Amherst as your town though.

    I grew up with elementary schools and middle schools that were just numbered. I attended PS 269 where PS stands for Public School. Locally most public schools around me today are named after the town, neighborhood, or street they are located in/on. Private schools, especially Catholic ones, tend to be named after other things or people.

    I don’t know if anyone would ever name a school after me but that or a library would be about the most awesome thing I can imagine.

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  3. Naming schools by location seems like an obvious choice to me. It helps me know where to find the school! Alas, few in my city are named this way. We had three high schools. One closed and boundaries redrawn. The two remaining schools absorbed all the students from the closed school and no new names were chosen. I thought it the perfect time to rename the school with a problematic name, but apparently not everyone agreed.

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