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The Internet ruins Austin elementary school naming contest

Seriously, stop trying to ask the Internet to name things for you.


Selena Larson

Internet Culture

Published Apr 24, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 9:45 pm CDT

It’s official: asking the Internet to name things for you is a bad idea. The most recent case in point? An Austin, Texas, elementary school, which asked people for suggestions on renaming Robert E. Lee Elementary. 

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It turns out that people have ideas even worse than naming a school after a Confederate general. Suggestions include Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

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When the school board decided to rename the elementary school last month, it opened itself up to online submissions, presumably hoping to hear thoughtful suggestions from the community as to what the school should be called. Instead, the top nomination was “Donald J. Trump Elementary.” 

As KXAN reports, the suggestions get worse: 

Donald J. Trump Elementary: 45 nominations
Robert E. Lee Elementary: 34 nominations
Russell Lee Elementary: 32 nominations
Harper Lee Elementary: 30 nominations
Elisabet Ney Elementary: 15 nominations
Lee Elementary: 13 nominations
Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance: 8 nominations
Waller Creek Elementary: 8 nominations
Dr. Frances J. Nesmith Elementary School: 7 nominations
Guy Bizzell Elementary: 6 nominations

Clearly, the school board learned nothing from the Boaty McBoatface debacle this month, when Internet voters decided to name a $300 million research vessel a ridiculous name only to have it struck down by contest judges. It’s really just another cock-up in a long history of Bad Ideas that happen when people trust individuals on the Internet to come up with Good Ones. 

Despite Trump leading in online votes, the school likely won’t be named after the controversial Republican presidential candidate. The school board will decide the name, despite whatever name was most popular online. 

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Frankly, I think “Forgetting the Past Dooms You to Repeat It” and “John Cena Elementary” got totally shafted. The public made an egregious error not voting them straight to the top. 


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*First Published: Apr 24, 2016, 1:18 pm CDT