A circle with a diagonal line through it has become something of a universal symbol for being against whatever the circle is around and the line runs through.

This had become a standard visual notation by the time the movie "Ghostbusters" hit theaters three decades ago.

Strangely enough, the symbol that has denoted Harford County Public Schools since before that era unintentionally is a circle with a line through it over, of all things, an open book. Viewed from the perspective of a post-"Ghostbusters" generation, it does make a jarring first impression.

On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the circle simply contains the words "Harford County Public Schools" and the line through the book is actually a ruler. The book symbolizes the written word and the importance of literacy, the ruler the practical application of arithmetic. The words "Serving Youth" are also prominent in this school system logo.


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In its day, the logo was probably fairly visionary, but as pop culture turned the circle with a line through it into something of a cultural shorthand for being against particular activities, giving the Harford County Public Schools logo something of an unintentional "stamp out literacy" look about it. A logo change was probably in order.

That said, the way Harford County Public Schools came to change the logo, as happened earlier this week by split decision of the board of education, was an exercise in poor planning. The new logo features growing and greening leaves in a circle and the name, "Harford County Public Schools." Without the wording, it could be the logo for a green energy company, an environmentally-friendly automobile or a brand of artificial sweetener. It's not particularly visionary, but it's not terrible.

The new logo came into being as a result of the school board deciding in 2007 to spend $16,000 on a project that resulted in the creation of the newly adopted logo. The vote to adopt the logo was split because there were those on the board who raised the good point that the $16,000 wasn't well-spent, a point that would have been better made before the decision to spend the money was made by a previous board.

What was presented was OK, and will probably serve as the Harford school system's logo for a few years to come. It is not, however, ideal.

Possibly a better way to approach the need for a new logo in the future would be for the school board to unleash the vast talent on tap in the county's own schools by having a logo contest for students. Such contests have proven successful in the past (the Cecil County seal was the result of such a contest) and have the added bonus of not costing $16,000.

The new logo for the school system wasn't necessarily a waste of money, but neither was it an exemplary exercise in bringing out community pride. In short, it could have been worse, but it also could have been a whole lot better.