San Francisco voters boot out three of the seven city school board members for hamhanded performance

February 17, 2022 • 10:00 am

Don’t take this news for a harbinger of The Death of Wokeness. The events summarized in the headlines and described below simply mean this:

1.) If there is an Achilles heel of Wokeism, it is their attempt to control the ideology dispensed in schools.

2.) Among all groups, Asians (both East Asians and those from the Indian subcontinent) are the most resistant to wokeness in schools, for attempts to get rid of meritocracy, and standardized admissions tests, as well as the strengthening of affirmative action—all signs of the Successor Ideology—have differentially hurt Asians more than any other ethnic group.

Click on the screenshot to read the story from The Associated Press:

The details: There was a special city referendum to recall three school board members. It was the first such referendum in decades, and the turnout wasn’t high, But it was high among Asians, many of whom registered to vote just so they could recall three of the seven San Francisco school board members (all Democrats).  Only three were eligible for recall—the school board President Gabriela López, the Vice President Faauuga Moliga and the Commissioner Alison Collins. They all went down by substantial votes. Their replacements will be appointed by city Mayor London Breed (there will be a regular election in the fall), and she’d better be careful:

“The voters of this city have delivered a clear message that the school board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “San Francisco is a city that believes in the value of big ideas, but those ideas must be built on the foundation of a government that does the essentials well.”

Well, at least her first sentence made sense!  And Mayor Breed is reported to have been one of the biggest supporters of the recall! She presumably realized what the Board was doing to the national reputation of her town.

Now, why were the voters upset? Three reasons:

First, the school board wasted a lot of time during the pandemic squabbling about renaming 44 public schools on ideological grounds, including those named after George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, and even Senator and former SF mayor Dianne Feinstein (see my posts here and here, with the full list or proposed renamings at the second link). The Board had approved the denamings, but now that plan appears dead:

One of the first issues to grab national attention was the board’s January 2021 decision to rename 44 schools they said honored public figures linked to racism, sexism and other injustices. On the list were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and trailblazing U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The effort drew swift criticism for historical mistakes. Critics said it made a mockery of the country’s racial reckoning. Angry parents asked why the board would waste time renaming schools when the priority needed to be reopening classrooms.

After an uproar, the school board scrapped the plan.

Second, and in a more minor issue, deposed member Alison Collins, who is black, was accused of (get this) racist tweets:

Collins came under fire again for tweets she wrote in 2016 that were widely criticized as racist. In them Collins, who is Black, said Asian Americans used “white supremacist” thinking to get ahead and were racist toward Black students.

Racism against Asian Americans has come under a renewed focus since reports of attacks and discrimination escalated with the spread of the coronavirus, which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Collins said the tweets were taken out of context and posted before she held her school board position. She refused to take them down or apologize for the wording and ignored calls to resign from parents, Breed and other public officials.

Collins turned around and sued the district and her colleagues for $87 million, fueling yet another pandemic sideshow. The lawsuit was later dismissed.

But Collins’s tweets had angered the already ticked-off Asians, and the final straw was this:

Third, the board decided to get rid of meritocratic admissions to Lowell High School, an elite public “magnet school” that attracts the most talented students from across the city. Most of those turned out to be Asian. Here are the 2015-2016 data given by Wikipedia:

Lowell’s main entrance:

Presumably in a desire to achieve “equity,” the board voted to move admissions to Lowell to a lottery system. That, of course, would completely destroy the school’s reputation. From Wikipedia:

Lowell was formerly one of two public schools in the San Francisco Unified School District (the other being School of the Arts) that was permitted to admit only students who met special admission requirements. The Lowell admission process was competitive and based on a combination of standardized test scores, GPA, a writing sample, and extracurricular activities. As of October, 2020 Lowell admission is based on a lottery system. Run by SFUSD, Lowell is open to all San Francisco residents and charges no tuition.

I’m not sure what will happen now about entrance requirements; presumably they’ll go back to the pre-2020 system.

The three deposed members defended themselves:

Collins, Lopez and Moliga had defended their records, saying they prioritized racial equity because that was what they were elected to do.

Well, we’re not sure what they were elected “to do”, though these members may be woke. But now liberals, Democrats, and others realize what the Woke “do” when they have power, and it isn’t pretty. Here are a couple of beefs from parents:

The city of San Francisco has risen up and said this is not acceptable to put our kids last,” said Siva Raj, a father of two who helped launch the recall effort. “Talk is not going to educate our children, it’s action. It’s not about symbolic action, it’s not about changing the name on a school, it is about helping kids inside the school building read and learn math.”

And from East Asians:

. . . many Asian American residents were motivated to vote for the first time in a municipal election. The grassroots Chinese/API Voter Outreach Task Force group, which formed in mid-December, said it registered 560 new Asian American voters.

Ann Hsu, a mother of two who helped found the task force, said many Chinese voters saw the effort to change the Lowell admissions system as a direct attack.

“It is so blatantly discriminatory against Asians,” she said.

In the city’s Chinese community, Lowell is viewed as a path children can take to success.

Now the readers who sent me the links to this news were ebullient, and I too am happy that Wokesters who pulled such boneheaded moves are gone now.  As in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin won because voters thought his Democratic opponent rejected the idea that parents should have a say in their kids’ educations, people don’t seem to realize that politicians shouldn’t muck around too much with the educational system. Yes, we need to teach more about the fraught history of America, but we shouldn’t make kids feel guilty because of their race, we shouldn’t divide our kids by what we teach them, we shouldn’t ditch admissions standards or regular standardized testing to see how kids are doing, and, above all, stop renaming schools, for that seems to parents like a huge waste of time and energy that should be spend on educating kids.

But before you go celebrating this vote, remember who’s really in charge of education. It’s not the school board, but the teachers. And for sure many teachers in San Francisco are woke, and will go ahead and teach what they want. It’s up to the kids and their parents to keep a keen eye on what’s happening in the classroom.

14 thoughts on “San Francisco voters boot out three of the seven city school board members for hamhanded performance

  1. I wonder if the school board would eliminate audition requirements for a performing arts magnet school in favor of a lottery system. After all, it unfairly privileges kids who can sing and dance.

    An academic magnet school is a magnet because it has excellent teachers and advanced programs. It has advanced programs because it only invites students that have a demonstrated ability to handle the coursework. If you take away that capability in favor of a random lottery, you will have a higher percentage of students that just can’t hack it. I suppose how well the school retains its excellence depends on what happens to students that can’t keep up:

    1) If the school neuters the programs to ensure most students can pass, then the school will just become a regular public school. Perhaps a school with better teachers, but only if they stick around.
    2) If students that can’t keep up are transferred out, then the school could retain it’s reputation. The optics have the potential to be really bad, though. Better not to let less capable students in than kick them out.

    1. On #2, schools that regularly let in large numbers and had large drop out rates were called ‘churn and burn’ back when I was applying to grad schools (the Pleistocene). It is an option…but it’s generally regarded as a sign of an unethical program (or at least, it was).

      1. My UToronto program had casualty rates, the % either repeating the year or dropping into a ‘less demanding’ program or out altogether, were approximately 30%, 30%, 40% for year ends 1, 2, 3 respectively . There is little doubt that the Physics Department at least then had some anti-female component, possibly a factor in those numbers. To begin, the degree was MPC— math, physics, chemistry, then strong specialization. So the resulting proportion for getting through in the minimum time was ~ (.7)x(.7)x(.6) ~ .3, that is only 3 in 10. But many used an extra year, or switched to either a 4-year or 3-year general science degree.

        So “burn” is a bit too severe there. And it was ~ 60 years ago and is irrelevant to UT now I think.

  2. The Lowell admission process was competitive and based on a combination of standardized test scores, GPA, a writing sample, and extracurricular activities. As of October, 2020 Lowell admission is based on a lottery system…

    See, now, this is exactly where a system such as I espouse would work. You develop merit-based criteria linked to correlation with successful completion of the program. You maintain your high standards in those criteria. But rather than picking ‘the best’ from all who make that criteria, you put them in a lottery. Everyone getting in is thus qualified on merit, the kids aren’t forced to spend their entire jr-high school trying to boost their resumes, and parents having more money only gets them into the lottery, it doesn’t help them ‘beat’ other qualified applicants.

    Collins, Lopez and Moliga had defended their records, saying they prioritized racial equity because that was what they were elected to do.

    It happens. I’m reminded of Kansas back in the 80s, which went through at least two cycles of:
    1. Low public turnout means activist creationists get their people on the school board.
    2. Those members pass pro-creationism school policies.
    3. That ticks off the public.
    4. Who turn out in larger numbers at the next election and vote them out.
    5. Everything is normal for a year or two.
    6. So at the next school board election, there is low public turnout, which allows…

    The seesaw between ‘special interest which regularly votes’ and ‘public which regularly doesn’t’ can thus swing back and forth with election cycles.

    The moral of the story, I guess, is not that woke representatives who represent woke constituents are doing anything undemocratic. It’s that the rest of us should get up off our butts and vote in local elections every damn time. Because when we don’t, weird special interest groups who DO vote can take over our local government.

  3. I guess we don’t need teachers to go to college, then, do we?

    Board members and parents know better than teachers in every/any case, now.

    (Sorry; having a bad day and think of seriously become apathetic to everything.)

  4. Although not a resident of San Francisco, I live in Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, and have followed the recall fairly closely. In addition to the three issues identified by Jerry, there were two other issues that contributed to the high level of dissatisfaction with the board in general:

    Several years ago the board decided to remove a well-regarded history of California mural from a school wall because it accurately depicted the harsh treatment of native Americans at the hands of white men. The board later decided to board over the mural. I’m not certain if it has been “unboarded.”

    Also, while spending inordinate amounts of time on renaming schools, the board failed to meaningfully address a $125 million budget deficit.

    A classic case of “fiddling while Rome burns.”

    1. Half of the board voted to place removable panels over the mural, at a cost of $800k. The other half – including Collins and Lopez – voted to literally destroy it, expressly so that no one ever be able to see it again. I have no kids and had never really followed the school board elections, but I wrote down how they all voted on this issue to remember next Election Day.

      The biggest reason for the recall was that the board did not deal with the pandemic and fiscal emergencies. They chose to spend their time on renaming schools and changing admissions policies at Lowell while failing to develop covid reopening plans.

    2. We’re 20 years past Bill Clinton’s presidency, and yet you still get politicians ignoring ‘it’s the economy, stupid’.

  5. “Presumably in a desire to achieve “equity,” the board voted to move admissions to Lowell to a lottery system. That, of course, would completely destroy the school’s reputation. ”

    This highlights a powerful weapon that would electrify an alternative take on merit.

    End bans on affirmative action. Let any school recruit and enroll for any reason. Radical discrimination. A citizen’s action committee could petition to charter a public school based on any criteria, including system of pedagogy, race, sex, religion, curriculum, height, weight, eye color (subtext), sexual identity, etc.

    Let all public schools succeed — or not — based on reputation.

    We already allow this in the private sector. It should be even more so in the ‘public.’

  6. > Among all groups, Asians (both East Asians and those from the Indian subcontinent) are the most resistant to wokeness in schools,

    Every time I hear about ‘Asians’, it generally seems to me that West Asians are being excluded. There are over 300 million people in Western Asia, from the Sinai peninsula to Iran to Yemen to the Caucus Mountains.

    I have personally experienced a lot of what I believe people on this site are calling ‘wokeness’ there: irrational internal solidarity, anti-Western xenophobia framed as anti-colonialism, anti-semitism, religious defensiveness, and magical thinking.

    I have no experience with North Asians, which has roughly a tenth of the population.

  7. School issues are one area in which wokery is on the wrong foot. The other is the legal system and
    the definition of criminal behavior. I believe Mayor London Breed of SF has made some strongish
    statements on this subject too, which may be taken as a weather-vane. SF pioneered, remember, in the woke legal theory that petty crimes (e.g., vandalism, shop-lifting, public drug-dealing) should not warrant prosecution—see Michael Shellenberger’s book “San Fransicko” and his youtube talks. A shift of weather in this area is becoming evident in Seattle and possibly Portland as well.

  8. As happens so often, as a former Christian words from the KJV bible come to mind:

    “Woe unto you, (woke educators)! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves (ain’t that the truth!), and them that were entering in ye hindered.”

    When I think of the leakage of critical theory into early elementary school, I am also reminded of another verse: “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”

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