Just when I begin to think that maybe we’re making some progress in educating people about heraldry, I run across a news story like this one published on August 27, 2011: “M[illenium] C[harter] A[cademy] students create coats of arms.” The school, in Mount Airy, North Carolina, had their students talk in groups “about their own constitution and how to translate that into a coat of arms.” Sounds like a good thing to do, right? Even the next part, “Students divided into teams to come up with colors and symbols for the coats of arms that would be meaningful to their groups” could be done well. But ...
Then someone apparently had read one of those “meanings in heraldry” pamphlets (or picked up something similar on-line). “They included ch[i]efs to represent being self-sufficiency and creativity, different colors to represent generosity, strength, peace and victory.” Finally, one of the groups “added a brownie at the top to symbolize sweetness and goodness.” (Okay, I can kind of see that.)
Still, though, I would have wished that they’d read the Most Frequently Asked Questions FAQ for the old rec.heraldry newsgroup, which can be found at http://www.heraldica.org/faqs/mfaq and answers the question "My coat of arms contains a widget azure. What is the significance of a widget in heraldry?" (The MFAQ also answers the question, "My name is Smith, what are my arms?") I highly recommend the MFAQ for a short, but clear, discussion of these issues.