The San Francisco School District’s Renaming Debacle Has Been A Historic TravestyBreaking News
tags: memorials, San Francisco, monuments, public history
These are complex times. Even the question “How are you doing?” is complex. But this is not complex: In a 6-1 vote late Tuesday night, the San Francisco Board of Education decided that it’s okay to name a school after Willie Brown or Philip Burton, but not Abraham Lincoln.
One day after that seven-hour discussion and vote to defrock Lincoln and 43 other namesakes — including George Washington, Paul Revere, and even “El Dorado” and “The Mission” — parents of public school children received an email from the district with the anodyne and innocuous subject line “Considerations & Preparing for In-Person Learning.”
Tucked away into the third paragraph of the email’s third section was this casual declaration: “it is unlikely that we’ll be able to offer most middle and high school students the opportunity for in-person learning this school year.”
But hey: How are you doing?
This was a frustrating moment. Not just because the San Francisco student sitting behind you may be sitting in that chair for a year and a half when all is said and done. If not more.
And it was not frustrating because Washington or other slave-owning, expansionist founding fathers will be lost in time like tears in rain without naming rights in cities they never heard of and which may not have even existed during their lifetimes.
No, what’s more frustrating is that the renaming process, which could have been inclusive and illuminating and fostered a discussion about community values and representation — and led to a lot of growth and understanding and consensus — instead became an insular process, beset by ignorance and incompetence.
And yet, our Board of Education chose to ratify each and every finding from the renaming committee — even when historical errors and methodological recklessness was known.
This remarkably flawed process, combined with the relative expediency the district has demonstrated in moving to change some one-third of its school names, stands in stark contrast to the sclerotic nature of nearly every other SFUSD-related matter.
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