CoverMedia Literacy Activities for Learning Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyChapter 1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemTopic 1: Democracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsTopic 2: The Internet as a Public UtilityTopic 3: 21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsTopic 4: Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal FamiliesTopic 5: Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsChapter 2. The Development of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Declarations of Independence on Social MediaTopic 2: Media Marketing and Government Regulating of Self-Driving Cars and Electric VehiclesTopic 3: Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaTopic 4: Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalTopic 5: Bill of Rights on TwitterChapter 3. Institutions of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentTopic 2: Writing an Impeachment Press ReleaseTopic 3: Members of Congress' Use of Social MediaTopic 4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion PollsTopic 5: Website Design for New Political PartiesChapter 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensTopic 1: Immigration in the NewsTopic 2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmTopic 3: COVID-19 Information EvaluationTopic 4: Women Political Leaders in the MediaTopic 5: Online Messaging by Special Interest GroupsTopic 6: Digital Games for Civic EngagementTopic 7: Social Media and the ElectionsTopic 8: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesTopic 9: Celebrities' Influence on PoliticsTopic 10: Political Activism Through Social MediaTopic 11: Media Recruitment of Public Sector WorkersTopic 12: Images of Teachers and TeachingTopic 13: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be NamedTopic 14: Representing Trans IdentitiesTopic 15: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Topic 16: Music as Protest ArtTopic 17: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the MediaChapter 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court DecisionsTopic 1: Prohibition in the MediaTopic 2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social MediaTopic 3: Civil War News Stories and Recruitment AdvertisementsTopic 4: Representations of Gender and Race on CurrencyTopic 5: The Equality Act on TwitterTopic 6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents AloudTopic 7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsChapter 6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentTopic 1: Native American Mascots and LogosTopic 2: A Constitution for the InternetTopic 3: Military Recruitment and the MediaTopic 4: Your Privacy on Social MediaTopic 5: Pandemic Policy Information in the MediaTopic 6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsTopic 7: Environmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTopic 8: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicTopic 9: Online Campaigning for Political OfficeTopic 10: Advertising the Lottery Online and In PrintTopic 11: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital DemocracyTopic 12: Protecting the CommonsChapter 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyTopic 1: Press Freedom in the United States and the WorldTopic 2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All SidesTopic 3: Investigative Journalism and Social ChangeTopic 4: News Photographs & Newspaper DesignTopic 5: How Reporters Report EventsTopic 6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsTopic 7: Fake News Investigation and EvaluationTopic 8: Paywalls and Access to Online NewsTopic 9: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print MediaTopic 10: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

Topic 13: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be Named

Every one of the nation's 130,930 public schools has a name. While many are named for the town or street where they are located (e.g., Boston Latin School; Pleasant Street School) or a nearby geographic feature (e.g., Monument Mountain School), thousands are named for historically important individuals.

San Diego High School building
San Diego High School is the Oldest Public School in California Still on its Original Site
San Diego High School by Conquerist is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Many schools are named after former Presidents (see list of educational institutions named after presidents). Some schools are named for other prominent historical figures. For example, Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, the first public high school for Black children in the United States, is named for the poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

Dunbar_High_School_DC_new_building
Dunbar High School DC (new building) by DC Public Schools | Public Domain

School names express not only the history of the school but of the country. In 2020, there were approximately 300 schools in 20 states named for men associated with the Confederacy during the Civil War (Mitchell, 2020). Dozens of those schools are in Texas, Georgia, and Alabama. Robert E. Lee is the most frequently named former Confederate figure. Some of these schools have been renamed following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

For whom is your school named and for whom might it be renamed to? The question is both timely and complicated. The online activity When Should a School Be Renamed? from KQED Learn poses the following questions for students and teachers to consider:

In this activities, you will research the name of your school. Then you will design a proposal for changing the name of your school or another school in your state. 

Activity 1: Research and Present the History of the Name of Your School

Activity 2: Propose the Renaming of a School

In New York City, an activist named Jacob Morris led an effort to rename city streets after Black New Yorkers (Boyer-Dry, 2021). Gold Street is now Ida B. Wells Place and there are 40 other roadways renamed for individuals including singer Paul Robeson, civil right activist Ella Baker, lawyer Charles Hamilton, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Not everyone in the African American community appreciates the efforts of Mr. Morris who is White and works alone. They urge a more collaborative approach that involves more community members in renaming streets to more accurately convey the history of the city and its peoples.

In this activity, you will take a collaborative approach to proposing the renaming of a school by collecting and analyzing data from school and community members. 

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Explain the importance of public service and identify career and other opportunities in public service at the local, state and national levels. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T4.9]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits. 
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions. 
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication. 
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations. 
      • 6c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences. 
  • DLCS Standards
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7