While San Francisco parents struggle to help their kids keep up with their education during the coronavirus school closures, San Francisco school district officials are worrying about how to rename 44 schools out of the 125 in the city. The names of these schools are “inappropriate,” according to the San Francisco School Names Advisory Committee.
What’s an inappropriate name? ABC 7 News reported that the standards the advisory committee considered include the following: “anyone directly involved in the colonization of people; slave owners or participants in enslavement; perpetrators of genocide or slavery; those who exploit workers/people; those who directly oppressed or abused women, children, queer or transgender people; those connected to any human rights or environmental abuses; those who are known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs.”
On the cancel list includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Dianne Feinstein, and “El Dorado.” If you’re scratching your heads about how three of America’s greatest presidents made it to the list, the committee reasons that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, and Lincoln allegedly mistreated Native Americans.
If your eyes are bulging (as mine were) when it comes to progressive Senator Dianne Feinstein and El Dorado, here’s what the committee thought. The senator’s sin, according to school officials, was that she reportedly replaced a vandalized Confederate flag flying outside City Hall when she was mayor in 1984. While Right by the Bay disagrees with perhaps 99 percent of Senator Feinstein’s policy proposals, the one thing we can heartily endorse is that she be named after one of the city’s schools. A distinguished long-time public servant of San Francisco and California, it would be a fitting honor for any of the city’s schools to be named after her.
The problem with El Dorado is even stranger. School officials want to nix El Dorado from the name of an elementary school because “The concept of El Dorado, especially in California, had a lot to do with the search of gold, and for the indigenous people that meant the death of them,” said panel member Mary Travis Allen during a September meeting. “I don’t think the concept of greed and lust for gold is a concept we want our children to be given.” Well if that’s case, there’s always Karl Marx.
Thankfully, Mayor London Breed would have none of this and blasted school officials: “I am livid ….The fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our city, not the name of a school,” she said.
I would add that name changes cost lots of money. J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County, Virginia considered a name change in 2016. Named after Confederate general James Ewell Brown Stuart, the school district scrapped its plans when it estimated that a name change would cost $750,000. A facilitator to help school officials brainstorm on a new name alone would cost $100,000.
Well, the least we can do is to help San Francisco save $100K. Here are a few ideas for the committee to consider:
- Sally Pipes High School for students pursuing health care
- Lance Izumi Academy of American Patriotism
- Wayne Winegarden Magnet School for Free Marketeers
- Tim Anaya School of California Politics
- Kerry Jackson Athletic Academy
- Evan Harris School of Young Leaders
- Dana Beigel Graphic Design Institute
- Ben Smithwick School of Finance
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.