- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

Guardians of political correctness are on the warpath again, and the latest battle is shaping up in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, where state chapters of the 4-H have announced plans to excise Native American names, themes and traditions at youth camps. An article by reporter Vaishali Honawar detailing the contretemps appeared in this newspaper over the weekend. "4-H is very inclusive of all groups, and we want to make sure we are not putting off some people," Virginia 4-H leader Bob Meadows explained. No actual complaints had been received, but the 4-H leadership nonetheless wanted to "head off any potential trouble."

The kooky thing here, as in so many other similar cases, is that the Indian themes and traditions in question are uniformly positive and respectful. The heritage of the American Indian is used to convey such worthwhile values as good stewardship of the land and its resources and of respect for nature. At the West Virginia chapter of the 4-H youth camp, for example, students are divided into groups named after various American Indian tribes, such as Delaware, Cherokee and Seneca. (If that is offensive and denigrating, will the state of Delaware also change its name? Is the Susquehanna River offensively named? How about Algonkian Parkway in Northern Virginia's Loudoun County? Will they all have to go?)

But political correctness trumps tradition not to mention facts and intent. "The larger national debate about the use of Native American names with sports teams and mascots has increased our sensitivity. It is important that we take this seriously," said Richard Byrne, leader of the Maryland 4-H chapter. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds the 4-H, has similarly set up a review committee to see whether any of this "constitutes a civil rights violation."

Please. The 4-H and the federal government should reconsider their efforts to appease the Moloch of political correctness and ask whether the immolation of common sense and 80 years of tradition are worth the temporary appeasement of the perpetually aggrieved.

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