"What's in a Name?" Investigating Whom to Memorialize

By Girard, Arlene; Henning, Mary Beth | Social Education, September 2007 | Go to article overview

"What's in a Name?" Investigating Whom to Memorialize


Girard, Arlene, Henning, Mary Beth, Social Education


Peter Jennings Way, Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts have a common denominator: each of these places was named after a person whose work was important to society. But what makes a person worthy of having a street, park, building, stadium, or other memorial named after him or her? This inquiry question is relevant for fifth grade students who are assigned to classroom interdisciplinary teams named "Cortes," "De Soto," and "Vespucci." Traditionally, at the beginning of the school year, the fifth grade teachers in my (A.G.'S) school divide the classes into three teams. Teams names are used on a daily basis during various classroom activities, resulting in students' strong identification with the explorers. The accomplishments of these men are summarized in the chapters of our fifth grade textbook. But were these explorers worthy of having teams named for them? My fifth graders were about to grapple with this question for themselves.

Day One: A Current Issue

Scrutiny of a modern dilemma can be an excellent entrance to historical inquiry. Recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, and the most famous son of Graz, Austria, was faced with the decision of whether to grant clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a death row inmate. Williams, a former gang leader in Los Angeles, was convicted of murder in 1981, yet claimed innocence and became a spokesperson against gang culture, even writing a children's book that gleaned him a nomination for the Nobel Prize in literature. (1) Capital punishment is banned in Austria today, and Graz city officials, who held strong opinions against the death penalty, threatened to remove Schwarzenegger's name from the "Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium" in Graz if he did not commute William's death sentence. The fifth graders considered this dilemma as they began their inquiry into the importance of honoring someone by name.

I created a PowerPoint presentation about the Schwarzenegger-Williams controversy to kick off this unit of study on "Whom Do We Memorialize?" My students were familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger because of his film career and were immediately interested in the specifics of this current issue. The controversy itself was not difficult to understand, and it was a new and intriguing problem for them to explore.

Students were eager to share their viewpoints about the controversy. One student pointed out that Schwarzenegger had never been in Williams' situation, growing up on the roughest streets of Los Angeles, so the governor wouldn't understand Williams' actions, why he became a criminal, or whether his per sonal reform was sincere. (Williams was eventually executed on December 13, 2005, and Schwarzenegger's name was indeed removed from the title of the stadium.)

This discussion was instrumental in developing critical thinking skills that would be needed as our inquiry progressed. Students held opinions both for and against dropping Arnold's name, but their reaction to the pressure applied by the Graz City Council was particularly interesting. Many students considered this to be a separate issue--it seemed wrong for the legislators in Graz to try to manipulate Governor Schwarzenegger in this way. One student exclaimed, "It's California ruled by Austria!" We discussed the fact that naming (or removing the name from) something to memorializing a person could have all sorts of interesting implications for individuals, groups, communities, and nations.

As students left the room at the end of the period, I gave each of them an "exit slip" with tomorrow's key question written on it.

"What qualities or achievements should a person have in order for a public place, (street, park, etc.), structure (building, bridge, etc.), or team (sports team or classroom group) to be named after him or her?"

Day 2: Who Is Worthy?

On the second day, students gathered into their three groups (of three students each) to begin working on an answer to the key question. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"What's in a Name?" Investigating Whom to Memorialize
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.