[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]
Quick quiz for you attorneys and other legal eagles (or even legal beagles) out there: Which (hint: no longer living) U.S. Supreme Court justice gave us this quote:
“The Constitution is not a panacea for every blot upon the public welfare nor should this court, ordained as a judicial body, be thought of as a general haven of reform movements.”
Another hint: It was the same justice who offered this: “This Court, limited in function in accordance with that premise, does not serve its high purpose when it exceeds its authority, even to satisfy justified impatience with the slow workings of the political process.”
We pondered these quotes while reading through news coverage that the Hanover County branch of the NAACP is filing suit against that county’s school board, contending that the names of two schools (Lee-Davis High and Stonewall Jackson Middle) violate the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments and should be changed by the courts because they are offensive.
Opponents of the names earlier took their complaint to the county school board, which voted to keep the names in place. So, using the mantra of original “People’s Court” reporter Doug Llewellen, critics aren’t taking the law into their own hands, they are taking the case to court.
Lordy, lordy. Like so many things, this lawsuit seems to miss the point: The real problem with our educational system is not the names of the schools, but the uneven nature of the outcomes they provide. Everything else is just a shiny object designed to distract the masses from that seminal reality. It’s like encouraging passengers to use teaspoons to bail water as the Titanic was going down.
School name-changing is all the rage: Fairfax replaced Civil War general J.E.B. Stuart with the namby-pamby “Justice” on one high school, and Arlington dumped Robert E. Lee for the equally blah “Washington-Liberty.” Both changes seemed designed to assuage the misplaced guilt of far-left School Board members rather than do anything that would improve overall quality of education.
Will name-change mania continue, and will judges decide they have a role? No doubt lawyers will be happy to fight this out in court, billable hour by billable hour, as such cases wend their way, Jarndyce v. Jarndyce style (do they still teach Dickens in schools?), through the system.
One final aside: In case you thought we forgot to give you the source of the earlier quotes, we certainly did not. Just wanted to prolong the suspense. They are from Justice John Marshall Harlan, on the court from 1955-71 and, we think, someone who understood the job of a jurist.