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Opinion: Bill Walton, Renaming

Our education dollars at work.

Editor's note: See related story Got an idea to rename Chippewa school?


Perusing the guidelines for renaming the Secondary School over there by the Barracks and former OPP police station, was more of a challenge than I first thought. However, I felt I had a civic obligation to meet the challenge since my wife and my son both attended that edifice on the street which cannot be named. 

Using the location as a criterion, did the Naming Committee not realize that the street name was the same as the old school’s name, as was the nearby creek, and therefore not eligible for suggestions? The other street, High, would infer mischief, calling the school ‘High High School’. Jokes would abound. The area which the school serves, with bussing from far and wide, seems to narrow that down to North Bay, which in a subtitle, would acknowledge the original landholders. 

Using an adjective for the geographical feature of the area might be interesting if the site was anything but a flat, featureless, acreage without a view of mountains, lakes, or even a forest. In the wider concept of the area served by the Board, Northeastern Ontario really doesn’t have much of a ring to it as this part of the province is considered by many politicians, Provincial and Federal, as a Hinterland. Although, that does have a nice alliteration: Hinterland High. 

In days of yore, schools were named by geographical section. I attended SS#1 in Nipissing township. Our now nameless school could be called School Section No.1 North Bay. This would of course require the renaming of other local schools according to their section in the geographical area of the city or district. Numbering of the schools would solve the problem of other schools in the area being named after religious, political, or ethnic beings or words of suspicious origin. Who knows which school is next on the list for the Renaming Committee? This numbering might also blend very well with the proposed ward system for municipal elections. 

Naming a school after the Mission and Vision statement is a lofty ideal. I mean, what will the school mascot, representing a Vision, look like? It cannot look humanoid since none are untarnished. It will have to be an animal: Wiarton has the groundhog, Nipissing has the owl, Toronto has unofficially taken the raccoon which they call a trash panda – a no-no with the current cold relations with China. I can envision a robotic creation representing artificial intelligence – something from Star Wars - that way it can name itself.

Which come to think of it, is probably what the Naming Committee should do: let an artificial intelligence Vision generator pick a name based on their guidelines. This suggestion may be too futuristic for the Committee, so I tried it. The suggested name, and it took about 4 nanoseconds, was “School”. This suggestion was based on the successful history, the AI program said, of Brewer’s Retail naming their beer stores “The Beer Store”. 

Using a generic term would be safe from criticisms and perfectly politically correct. How could this offend? The school with no name could be called ‘School Section Number 1’. Imagine the pride of students putting their school name on their sports jackets: “We are #1”. This may cause a little friendly competition with the students of the former West Ferris school who would have to claim: “We are #2”. 

Which poses a question for the Renaming Committee: who was this person “Ferris” and why would they name a sports team after the losers (Trojans) in an epic war? Something is amiss here. 

Ah well, as I said, our education dollars at work.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

retired from City of North Bay in 2000writer, poet, columnist
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