Courtesy of Rod Dreher, we get to observe (and lament, depending on your perspective) further evidence that even amongst the educated, literacy is reduced to a combination of functional enough to get by and near-constant wrangling to avoid offenses, real or perceived, at all costs. Before we explore the specific word in question it’s necessary to offer a bit of context from the story Dreher published. From a concerned member of the Oregon Confederation of School Administrators:
Dear COSA members,
A little over a year ago, I received an email from one of our aspiring administrators, Alesia Valdez. She asked a simple question: “Has the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators ever thought about changing the name of the organization?”
Alesia pointed out that the words “confederation” and “confederate” have historically racist associations, and wondered if it was time for COSA to update its name – to move away from a name that many would consider “outdated, offensive or racist,” and instead toward a name that would better represent the values that COSA and our members hold around “equity, diversity, inclusion and culturally-responsive practices.”
I contacted Alesia and let her know two things – first, that I appreciated her request and that I was taking it seriously, and, second, that a name change would require amending our Constitution and Bylaws through a process that would include consultation and engagement with the COSA Board of Directors and all COSA members.
After I received Alesia’s email, I sought out a number of the leaders of color in our organization to get their perspectives. Many told me that the “Confederation” in our organization’s name had been a barrier to their participation in our association and that they agreed the name should be changed.
I took Alesia’s request to the next meetings of the COSA Board of Directors and the COSA Equity Advisory Board, and together we developed a process for considering Constitution and Bylaws amendments to change the name of the organization.
In September, the COSA Board appointed a bylaws review committee and tasked them with bringing any draft amendments to the COSA Board meeting in December. The committee took a holistic view and recommended language that will strengthen and modernize our governing documents while also better reflecting the work that we do as an organization. The Board considered the draft amendments and voted unanimously to move them forward in the process. In addition to changing the “C” in COSA to “Coalition,” these amendments also include technical updates to reflect more current practice, such as updated anti-discrimination language. New additions also include specifically naming the COSA Equity Advisory Board as an official COSA committee with representation on the COSA Board of Directors, and new language acknowledging that students are at the center of our members’ work.
Sigh. This brings us to our word of the week, confederation, which has absolutely nothing to do with the former Confederate States of America, racism, slavery, or the Civil War. In fact, the original 13 U.S. colonies ratified their union using a document known as the Articles of Confederation, long before the civil unrest of the 1860s. Why? Because this is the actual definition of the word confederation:
Confederation, n. : 1. a league or alliance for mutual support, 2. a group of confederates, especially of states more or less permanently united for common purposes.
Clearly, a cursory glance at a contemporary online dictionary supports reality. Namely, that the word confederation is far from offensive, controversial, or racist. However, we’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole since everyone has “woke up” that reason and appreciation for the rich complexity of language has given way to a jittery hair-trigger reaction to just about everything.
I’m halfway tempted to start calling every tightwad and stingy person I know a niggard, just to be controversial.
I won’t, and I’m black anyway, so spare me the outrage.
I just get a little weary with the degradation of language and the politicization of every facet of life. I think we all need a nice long walk on the beach at sunrise; for a modicum of perspective about how small we all are in the grand scheme of things.