First they came for Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, and now they come for George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Dianne Feinstein, and an Unknown Roosevelt. Yes, the San Francisco Board of Education, in a 6-1 vote, just decided to strip the names off 44 public schools because those names are ideologically incorrect. You can read about this decision in the two articles below from U.S. News and World Report (via the AP) as well as the San Francisco Chronicle (probably paywalled, but you can inquire judiciously). Click on the screenshots to see the carnage:
I wrote about this proposal on October 25 of last year, noting that a committee of 12 “community members” was appointed to vet all the school names, and that their “research” consisted of using their own methods, including looking at newspaper articles and Wikipedia. Professional historians or “diverse ethnic communities” were not consulted. But research appears to have been a bit lax. For instance, as you’ll see in the list below, the committee didn’t even know if the “Roosevelt” who gave his name to Roosevelt Middle School was F.D.R. or Teddy. You could just barely confect a reason to discard Teddy, but what if it was Franklin? Doesn’t matter—they shared some genes, so best to strip the name off!
And who is the Noriega who’s also being erased? Not Manuel for sure, but the committee didn’t even know. About 1/3 of all the public schools in the city are being renamed.
According to the AP, the criteria for deep-sixing a name were these:
The committee was asked to identify schools named for people who were slave owners or had connections to slavery, colonization, exploitation of workers or others, and anyone who oppressed women, children, queer or transgender people. They also sought to change names of schools that honored anyone connected to human rights or environmental abuses or espoused racist or white supremacist beliefs.
. . . . “I want to ensure people this in no way cancels or erases history,”** San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez said, commenting specifically about Feinstein and the wider group as well. “But it does shift from upholding them and honoring them, and these opportunities are a great way to have that conversation about our past and have an opportunity to uplift new voices.”
**Coyne Twitter-like correction: This is a lie.
There’s a list of names below that will be changed. Presumably Washington and Jefferson will go because they had slaves, while others were bigots (many just reflecting the views of their era). “El Dorado” goes because it presumably conjures up the conquistadores, but I’m not sure about many of the rest—people like Paul Revere and Daniel Webster. Presumably they did at least one bad thing, something that outweighs the rest of their contributions.
Abe Lincoln, who freed the slaves, should surely stay, right? But no, Abe’s down the drain because of his “treatment of Native Americans during his administration.” If you want to read about that, go here.
And what about poor Dianne Feinstein, now 87, who’s so much for California? She was mayor of San Francisco for ten years and has served the state in the Senate for 28. As far as I know, she didn’t have slaves, but she did something almost as bad:
The committee that selected the names included Feinstein on the list because as mayor in 1984 she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag that was part of a long-standing flag display in front of City Hall. When the flag was pulled down a second time, she did not replace it.
She did not replace it! Doesn’t matter: erase her.
Now I suppose some of these names deserve replacement, but surely not all of them. You be the judge:
School Names to be Changed (the miscreants getting erased were put in bold by the Chronicle)
Balboa High School, Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa
Abraham Lincoln High School, U.S. president
Mission High School, Mission Dolores
George Washington High School, first U.S. president
Lowell High School, poet/critic James R. Lowell
James Denman Middle School, founder of first S.F. school
Everett Middle School, Edward Everett, American statesman
Herbert Hoover Middle School, U.S. president
James Lick Middle School, land baron
Presidio Middle School, S.F. military post
Roosevelt Middle School, Theodore or F.D., both U.S. presidents
Lawton K-8, U.S. Army officer Henry Ware Lawton
Claire Lilienthal (two sites), S.F. school board member
Paul Revere K-8, American Revolution patriot
Alamo Elementary, a poplar tree or the site of Texas Revolution battle
Alvarado Elementary, Pedro de Alvarado, conquistador
Bryant Elementary, author Edwin Bryant
Clarendon Elementary Second Community and Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, English politician
El Dorado Elementary, mythical City of Gold
Dianne Feinstein Elementary, U.S. senator and former S.F. mayor
Garfield Elementary, James Garfield, U.S. president
Grattan Elementary, William Henry Grattan, Irish author
Jefferson Elementary, Thomas Jefferson, U.S. president
Francis Scott Key Elementary, composer of “Star Spangled Banner”
Frank McCoppin Elementary, S.F. mayor
McKinley Elementary, William McKinley, U.S. president
Marshall Elementary, James Wilson Marshall, sawmill worker at Sutter’s Mill
Monroe Elementary, James Monroe, U.S. president
John Muir Elementary, naturalist
Jose Ortega Elementary, Spanish colonizer
Sanchez Elementary, Jose Bernardo Sanchez, Spanish missionary
Junipero Serra Elementary, Spanish priest
Sheridan Elementary, Gen. Philip Sheridan
Sherman Elementary, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
Commodore Sloat Elementary, John Sloat, Navy officer
Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary, author
Sutro Elementary, Adolph Sutro, S.F. mayor
Ulloa Elementary, Don Antonio de Ulloa, Spanish general
Daniel Webster Elementary, U.S. statesman
Noriega Early Education School, unclear
Presidio EES, S.F. military post
Stockton EES, Robert F. Stockton, Navy commodore
The schools have until April to come up with new names, and you can guess what kind of names they will be. The cost of this whole process, which of course involves changes in signage, stationery, websites, and so on, is estimated at around $1 million—in a district where there’s already a deficit of $75 million.
According to Coyne’s criteria for renaming, to retain a name, a statue, or an honor, the person originally depicted or honored has to meet two criteria:
a.) The name or honor was bestowed for something good that the person did
b.) On balance, the person’s life made a positive difference to the planet.
I would guess that many of these people, like John Muir or The Unknown Roosevelt, would meet those criteria, and I’m sure that Dianne Feinstein and Thomas Jefferson would as well.
This frenzy of renaming in San Francisco, with citizens having no strict criteria except some vague guidelines, and left to do their research on Wikipedia or in newspapers, is simply insane. But it’s going to continue, and, mark my words, will get worse under Biden, who’s clearly following the advice of some woke aides. (Remember, though that this process started in 2018, under Trump.)
Take a last look at George Washington High: