Try to imagine the United States without George Washington. Or Thomas Jefferson. Or Abraham Lincoln. It’s tempting to pose counterfactuals and ask yourself “what if” those august dead white guys had never lived? Would there even be a “United States” without Washington? What would the Declaration of Independence have said if Jefferson hadn’t written it? Suppose Lincoln never got elected. Would a president Stephen Douglas have been able to keep the country together?
I would love to ask the San Francisco school board if they had any thoughts about those questions.
The American icons were among a list of historical figures whose names will be removed from San Francisco’s public schools following a 6-1 vote by the school board Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
Washington and Jefferson were both slave owners and Lincoln, who ended slavery, became controversial because critics claim he oppressed indigenous people.
I doubt whether the school board had any coherent thoughts at all. This kind of mindless knee-jerk reaction to historical figures makes them into stick figures — caricatures of human beings rather than living, breathing, thinking — flawed –people.
The presidents were among a long list of men and women whose namesake schools will soon be renamed. Others on the list include Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to the national anthem, former presidents William McKinley, James Garfield, James Monroe, and Herbert Hoover, Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere and author Robert Louis Stevenson, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Why name schools after anyone? The board should consider numbering schools rather than naming them for historical figures. As long as you choose to name them for human beings, you’re going to be able to find flaws in their character.
At least the city’s mayor has her priorities straight.
Mayor London Breed rebuked the plan in October as “offensive,” saying the school board should be focused on reopening schools closed during the pandemic rather than renaming them.
“It’s offensive to parents who are juggling their children’s daily at-home learning schedules with doing their own jobs and maintaining their sanity,” she said at the time, according to Courthouse News. “It’s offensive to me as someone who went to our public schools, who loves our public schools, and who knows how those years in the classroom are what lifted me out of poverty and into college. It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends.”
Renaming the schools will cost more than $400,000. That’s pretty expensive virtue-signaling, don’t you think?
I wonder how many textbooks that would buy. Or computers. Or lab equipment. Or football helmets. None of those are priorities for the school board, which would rather spend the money tearing down signs.