Wednesday, September 16, 2015

* What's in a name?

Yale Alumni Magazine
Dear Editor:
Regarding your article  "Renewed debate over renaming Calhoun"  and also the concomitant debate on campus about abolishing the title "master" for residential college staff : If we are going to turn Yale into a giant Skinner Box for political correctness, where everyone gets zapped whenever they stray from the desired political effect, we may lose the mission of the Academy itself: the unfettered pursuit of truth.
Consider the following:
'Mister' is "a weakened form of master" to quote one etymological source.
"Woman" is etymologically derived from from "wif" plus "mon" or wife of man, making the term "women's liberation" an interesting and perhaps self cancelling proposition indeed

Jonathan Edwards, for whom another residential college is named, turned hell into a sadistic theme park for Protestants, unleashing untold suffering and pain into the dim consciousness of 17th and 18th century Christian parishioners.

Benjamin Silliman was the first to "fractionate petroleum" ( create gasoline, etc.) and as such is the unacknowledged Father of Global Warming.

Calhoun College is but the beginning. 

And what about Whitney Avenue which is contiguous to Yale ? Peabody Museum and several other Yale properties sit on it, including what was once a nuclear something-or-other at Whitney and Edwards, I believe. 

Whitney Avenue  leads to Eli Whitney's workshop at the base of Whitney Dam in Hamden. As you  recall, Whitney invented the cotton gin, production of which  acted like a massive injection of steroids into the evil economic practice of slavery, and has been called one of the causes of the Civil War. 

What are we to do with that little problem if we are going to play the purify the old blue campus name game? Cotton Gin Avenue anyone?

Maybe we need a theory not  just of separation of church and state in America, but  of politics and scholarship as well.

Paul D. Keane
M. Div. '80

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