Drapes of Wrath, Name Droppings, Bead Needs

Drapes of Wrath: Attorney General John Ashcroft had had enough. No, not of backlash from his homeland security directives and opinions. But of the backdrop he frequently fronted in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice.

There was something incompatible and offensive, apparently, in Ashcroft keeping America abreast of terrorist threats and countermeasures in front of the female statue that represents the Spirit of Justice. Some, however, seemed to see Jugstice instead.

One large, actually voluptuous, breast is exposed — and often shared cropped photos with Ashcroft’s dour visage. The AG thought the jugstaposition inappropriate, but the photo-op venue too endowed with history to change. So the offending breast has been covered by some blue, $8,000 taxpayer drapes.

War or no war, isn’t it time for Ashcroft to lighten up? After all, Janet Reno had no problem with it.

Name Droppings: Let’s cut right to the chase on the issue of school names. Except for that special American pantheon of heroes and high achievers, we’re much better off going geographical. It avoids needless controversy and helps instill some sense of community in schools too often lacking in identity.

Unlike a rose, a school by any other name wouldn’t be the same. Marcus Garvey or Steve Garvey Jr. High? Harry or Truman Capote Middle School? Stonewall or Jackson Pollock High School? It’s like denying there’s no difference between MLK Boulevard and Buffalo Avenue.

In our heart of hearts we all know that it shouldn’t matter — but it does. We know how, well, shallow it sounds to traffick in names when we all know that what’s most important about schools are its teachers and the quality of instruction. Reality, however, dictates that image and connotation count, along with politics and even raw snob appeal. Would it matter if your diploma and resume read: “Sharpton,” “Schwarzkopf,” “Shabazz” or “Shakespeare” High School?

The fundamental problem is two fold when we name schools after people. For openers, we have many more schools than we have dead American icons. And the disparity only widens. No problem with the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Franklins, Lincolns, Edisons, Wilsons, Carvers and Roosevelts. But all too quickly do we run out of first tier names. How else to explain Buckhorn Elementary?

No offense intended, but it’s like wandering through the Baseball Hall of Fame and noting the plaques of Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, Young, DiMaggio, Aaron, Mays, Koufax and Yan.

Worse yet, however, are scenarios for naming schools after the living, typically local politicians and prominent members of the business community. Not only are they not likely of icon quality, but the unwritten chapters of their lives can prove dicey for posterity. Joe Kotvas Alternative School would have been awkward. Two years ago Steve LaBrake Vo Tech might have made the cut. Ronda Storms Magnet School could still happen.

Here in Hillsborough, this county is notorious for taking care of its own, as in school board members and school district employees. Dead or alive.

For example, last year Tampa Palms’ parents voiced enough opposition to the Hillsborough County School Board that it changed the new J. Crockett Farnell High School to Freedom High. Seems the opposing parents took umbrage at having their kids’ school named after the late school superintendent who was forced to resign in the 1960s after being convicted of stealing school district property.

Before long, Farnell’s backers had re-petitioned the board to name a middle school in Nine Eagles after him. The district agreed after noting that Farnell’s conviction was eventually overturned on appeal. The name stayed — and standards prevailed.

Bead Needs: Marketing kudos to South Tampa dentist Nancy C. Aft. Leading up to Gasparilla, she has been running a newspaper ad with the practical reminder: “It’s your SMILE that will get you the beads!!!”

Well, it probably improves your chances. But as we all know all too well, a smile will get you just so far when beads, especially the primo, non-generic variety, hang in the balance.

Will we next see an enterprising plastic surgeon take a similar approach — pitching women to augment their chances of landing killer beads?

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