Thursday, September 10, 2009

News You Can Use

The Perils of Naming

Several of our Learning Centers have been named to recognize a generous patron of the program or a person of Masonic significance. Naming opportunities are generally a tried and true method of encouraging and acknowledging extraordinary commitment to the an effort or charitable program.

What happens however when the dark side of the person recognized is exposed? This is what happened in Auburn, CA recently. The town of 13,000 was left a 28 acre parcel of land in the estate of William B. Shockley for use as a park, provided it was named for him and his late wife.

On the face of this, it was a no-brainer. Shockley was a Nobel Laureate in physics and is credited as one of the inventors of the transistor. Who better to name a park after?

Unfortunately, it also came out that Shockley was a vocal supporter of the idea of eugenics, the discredited belief that intelligence in racially determined and which advocated sterilization of people deemed socially and intellectually unfit.

Well, you can imagine the uproar. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Similar issues spring up from time to time - schools named for the founder of the Klu Klux Klan. Buildings dedicated to businessmen indicted for fraud or other crimes. It is impossible to entirely avoid the problem, but worth scratching below the surface to sidestep a possible problem.

You can access the August 31, 2009 Wall Street Journal article on the Shockley affair here (a subscription may be required).


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