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Crackpot School Board Californicates History

Gabriela Lopez, 28, president of the San Francisco Board of Education (NBC)

By now you will have heard of the San Francisco Board of Education’s decision to rename 44 schools in the city, to scrub them of anything that might offend the woke. They went after people from Abraham Lincoln and Paul Revere down to Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic former mayor of the city and California’s senior senator. The board did not consult historians to verify the claims of racial offense they imputed to various historical figures; indeed, it has emerged that in some cases, the board’s conclusions were factually wrong.

Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker interviewed school board president Gabriela Lopez, 28, about the renaming. I urge you to read the interview, because it reveals how mindless and fanatical these progressives are. Lopez cannot explain why they did what they did. Her answers are filled with empty social justice cant.

You’re talking about the learning of history and its importance. Did the committee want historians to testify? And why or why not?

So, it’s hard for me to answer that question without just pointing to [committee statements that] “they did not want to include historians.” I think that that’s not the process that they created. They included a diverse set of community members, people with a set of experiences that contribute to these discussions, people from different backgrounds who are also educated in their own rights. So I think that was the makeup of the committee.

One member of the committee said, about talking to historians, “What would be the point? History is written and documented pretty well across the board. And so we don’t need to belabor history in that regard. We’re not debating that. There’s no point in debating history in that regard. Either it happened or it didn’t.” What do you think of that?

I think I’m trying to understand your question, then. Are you thinking then there’s no allowing for there to be that process?

You were talking earlier about how, no matter whom we uplift, history needs to be taught. Since you’re highlighting the importance of history, I was curious if historians had testified. And it seems like they hadn’t.

Right. My work is in sharing with students this understanding of our history. I think that for me, it’s important to uplift. This does not cancel history. It’s a moment and an opportunity to uplift things that we normally aren’t uplifting in our public-school system, in our society. And that means other voices, other experiences of diverse community members that would bring pride to our student body, and that would allow for students to learn more about themselves. It’s really moving away from this idea that somehow in the taking away of these names, we’re also taking away the stories, and we’re taking away what happened. We can’t move on without that understanding. We can’t heal as a society without that understanding.

Education as social therapy. Who cares about facts? We need to uplift!

Chotiner presses the point with Lopez, trying to figure out whether she believes that historical truth matters here. He points out that some of the figures whose memory was damned by the board, and whose names will now come off of schools, were actually not guilty of the offenses for which the Board damned them. The exchange goes on with Chotiner trying to pin Lopez down on whether or not truth matters:

But that’s not something you’re concerned about?

No. I mean, I wouldn’t phrase it that way, either. I think it would just require more dialogue. I know the committee is still meeting, and they’re still open to that. So it’s not that it’s not a concern. I think it’s something that’s missing without a dialogue.

But the committee member said, essentially, “things are true or false.” And so it seems like if they’re false, then that doesn’t necessarily call for more dialogue; it calls for more accurate history.

I think anyone can agree with that.

Yeah.

So here’s my piece. The real issue is how we are challenged when we talk about racism. And how then the masses come out in order to combat this, when it’s an idea that harms what we’re used to. My current situation is sharing with people very simply that I don’t think it’s appropriate to have symbols of racism and white-supremacy culture. And we’re trying to have this discussion, and what I’ve seen throughout my time on the board, whenever issues like this come out or arise, people need to combat it and try to find any problems around what we’re discussing, because it’s not something that we should be open to having a discussion about. It’s something that people have a lot of issues with.

Word salad! Poor Chotiner labors on, trying to get a straight answer from Lopez:

I’m not quite sure what that means when we are talking about things that did or didn’t happen.

I think what you’re pointing to and what I keep hearing is you’re trying to undermine the work that has been done through this process. And I’m moving away from the idea that it was haphazard.

Ah! Now the interviewer is a villain because he keeps asking Lopez basic questions that she can’t answer.

Read it all.There’s so much more. In an earlier interview, Lopez said that it’s not such a bad thing that San Francisco public school kids haven’t been in school forever, because of Covid:

“They are learning more about their families and their culture spending more time with each other. They’re just having different learning experiences than the ones we currently measure. And the loss is a comparison to a time when we were in a different space.”

Can you imagine being a parent of a San Francisco public school student, and hearing the president of the school board say such a thing? Chotiner asks Lopez about that too. You’ve really got to read it all.

This is a perfect example of the real and lasting damage that the Woke do when they gain control of institutions. This is anti-intellectual mindlessness, but nobody is stopping them. The San Francisco Chronicle published this column by a San Francisco public school teacher who insists that Bernie Sanders’s mittens are an example of “white privilege.” I kid you not. Excerpt:

And there, across all of our news and social media feeds, was Bernie: Bernie memes, Bernie sweatshirts, endless love for Bernie. I puzzled and fumed as an individual as I strove to be my best possible teacher. What did I see? What did I think my students should see? A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens.

I mean in no way to overstate the parallels. Sen. Sanders is no white supremacist insurrectionist. But he manifests privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel.

“When you see privilege, you know it,” I’d told them weeks before. Yet, when they saw Sen. Bernie Sanders manifesting privilege, when seemingly no one else did, I struggled to explain that disparity. I am beyond puzzled as to why so many are loving the images of Bernie and his gloves. Sweet, yes, the gloves, knit by an educator. So “Bernie.”

Not so sweet? The blindness I see, of so many (Bernie included), to the privileges Bernie represents. I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie. Unless those same folk had privilege. Which they don’t.

This person, Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, actually teaches high school students in San Francisco. Can you imagine the poison she puts into their minds, teaching them to be offended by elderly socialist Bernie Sanders’s racist mittens?

Seriously, this is deranged cultishness. The White Man’s Mittens Menace. Here’s the thing, though: this is not funny when you consider what it means for the future when the woke cult seizes institutions. Joe Biden has named Cindy Marten, superintendent of San Diego’s public school system, as his choice for Deputy Secretary of Education. Last year, Marten welcomed with gushing compliments to a training meeting Bettina Love, a critical race theorist whose program included the claim that public schools “spirit murder” black and brown children.

Christopher Rufo reported further on things that Cindy Marten has overseen in San Diego schools. Excerpts:

According to new whistleblower documents, San Diego Unified held an even more radical training program featuring a speaker who believes American schools are guilty of the “spirit murdering of Black children.” The school district hired Bettina Love, a critical race theorist who believes that children learn better from teachers of the same race, for the keynote address at the August Principal Institute and for an additional district-wide training on how to “challenge the oppressive practices that live within the systems and structures of school organizations.”

Though the school district explicitly forbade attendees from recording the session, one whistleblower took detailed notes of the speech and captured screenshots of the presentation. According to these notes, Love began her presentation by claiming that “racism runs deep” in the United States and that blacks alone “know who America really is.” She argued that public schools in particular “don’t see [blacks] as human,” are guilty of systemic “anti-Blackness,” and “spirit murder babies” in the education system.

The concept of “spirit murder” is at the heart of Love’s teachings. In a recent article in Education Week, Love writes that public schools are guilty of “the spirit murdering of Black and Brown children,” which she defines as “a death that is built on racism and intended to reduce, humiliate, and destroy people of color.” During the presentation in San Diego, Love added that supporting Black Lives Matter is a “cheap symbolic” gesture that will not stop the spirit murder of minority children in schools.

At the end of her presentation, Love told the teachers that whites are directly responsible for the plight of “dark children.” In a slide labeled “Teacher Education Gap,” Love argued that “Whiteness reproduces poverty, failing schools, high unemployment, school closings, and trauma for people of color.” She insisted that “white educators must take responsibility” because they created and derive privileges from “white supremacy culture.”

Declaring that “reform will not work,” Love argues for “abolitionist teaching,” a pedagogy designed to “remove oppression from its roots.” Whites, according to Love, must make a special effort. During the presentation in San Diego, as part of a list of “abolitionist teacher’s demands,” Love told white attendees that they must undergo “antiracist therapy for White educators” in order to overcome their racism, ignorance, and history of harm. Once they have proven themselves, they can become “co-conspirators” in the campaign for “abolition.”

Under Cindy Marten’s exquisitely woke leadership, San Diego schools have abolished requirements to turn in homework on time, because that’s racist:

In the first semester of the 2019-20 school year, the San Diego Unified school district board discovered that 20% of black students had received a D or F grade. In comparison, 7% of white students earned the same failing marks. School officials decided that the 13% racial disparity was a function of systemic racism, requiring an “honest reckoning as a school district.”

In October, that “reckoning” led the San Diego board to vote unanimously to “interrupt these discriminatory grading practices.” Rather than attempt to replicate the factors empowering the 80% of black students who achieved passing grades, the board’s first action to “be an anti-racist school district” was to dumb down the grading system for all. Under the new protocols, all 106,000 San Diego students are no longer required to hand in their homework on time. Moreover, teachers are now prohibited from factoring a student’s classroom behavior when formulating an academic grade.

Now the woke wisdom of San Diego public schools will inform federal education policy at the senior level. This is what it means to have a Democratic president. When creating “antiracist” school systems, and renaming all the schools in California after woke heroes, fails to produce better grades for minorities, there will be even more radical measures tried. Wokeness cannot fail; it can only be failed. The woke live by ideological lies, and demand that the rest of us do too — or else. The Board responsible for overseeing San Francisco public schools has shown that truth does not matter to them, only woke uplift. We must all live by lies, or be denounced as racists.

We can point at the San Francisco school board and laugh at its crackpot antics while pitying what the students and families there are having to endure, but never forget: what happens in California rarely stays in California.

UPDATE: Last October, this member of the San Francisco Board of Education said that merit is — surprise! — “racist”:

The Left is going to destroy San Francisco schools, and probably the city too. Run!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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