The names we choose matter. When we name our children, or name a public school, or name a public park or courthouse — we are signaling what is important to us. Once names are given, there is an opportunity for people to learn about the values those names represent and promote those values in the world.
With Brian Kisida and Jonathan Butcher, I have already analyzed patterns and trends in what we name public schools. We found a trend away from naming schools after people, in general, and presidents, in particular. Instead, schools are increasingly receiving names that sounds more like herbal teas or day spas — Whispering Winds, Hawks Bluff, Desert Mesa, etc…
As you observe this Memorial Day remember that there are more public schools in Florida named after manatees than George Washington.
Now I am turning my attention to school mascots. I understand that mascot names aren’t taken very seriously and are often chosen without much deliberation or care. But even something trivial, like what we name our pets or the mascot names we adopt says something about us. Besides, this is a bit of fun.
I found a fairly complete list of mascot names for schools in Texas. The website has 1,363 mascots and there are about 2,000 secondary schools in Texas. If anyone knows of other databases of mascots, please let me know.
A quick analysis of the names reveals a few things. First, 71% of the mascots are animals, 25% are people, and the remainder are something else, like tornadoes or rockets.
Second, Indian mascots have not gone away. Almost 15% of the people mascots are related to Indians, including 36 actually named Indians, 5 Chiefs or Chieftains, 2 Apaches, 2 Braves, 2 Comanches, 2 Redskins, 1 Cherokee, and 1 Kiowas. There are only 14 Cowboys.
Third, a significant number of both people and animal mascots are fierce and bellicose. No pacifism here. There are 35 Pirates, 24 Warriors, 20 Raiders, 12 Rebels, 10 Vikings, 9 Crusaders, etc… Among animals 76 Tigers, 66 Panthers, 34 Hornets, 23 Bears, etc… Although we do have some pretty gentle sounding mascots, like 1 Unicorns, 1 Praying Hands, 1 Daisies, and 1 Doves.
Fourth, devils outnumber angels by 5 to 3. Alert the Praying Hands.
Others have collected funny mascot names from around the country. But I think there is something serious here beyond the funny names. From Texas mascots we see that people continue to find benefit in fierce competition. They believe the qualities of a fierce competitor can be found in animals, but also in Native American names, natural phenomena (such as Tornadoes, Cyclones and Blizzards), and in tools (such as Rockets, Javelins, and Hammers).
Periodically some of these mascot names provoke conflict over whether they promote the proper values. But there seems to be a broad consensus that the martial spirit of fierce mascot names is desirable. Just ask the Daisies when they have to play the Conquistadors.