Once known for its scenic beauty and cultural attractions, San Francisco in recent years has acquired a less picturesque image as a mecca for the homeless and drug addicts, whose used syringes and feces plague city sidewalks. And now the City by the Bay can add another item to its ugly list: the public school system.
First off, there’s the achievement gap. While 70 percent of the city’s white students are proficient in math, just 12 percent of black students are, according to statistics released last year. One would think that public officials in such a bastion of progressive politics would jump at the chance to rectify this dismal disparity, but the city’s education establishment has other priorities. On January 26, the school board decided to rename 44 public schools because their namesakes were presumably more evil than Satan—or perhaps even than Donald Trump. Paul Revere, Thomas Edison, Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, and assorted other historical miscreants were guilty of anti-woke crimes. Malcolm X got a pass, however; the elementary school bearing his name will not undergo a change. Why would a one-time drug dealer, thief, and pimp be exempted? Because the school board said that he should be “judged by the entirety of his life”—a courtesy it declined to extend to Lincoln and the others. Facing a lawsuit, the board has since decided to put a hold on the renaming campaign.
In early February, the art department of the San Francisco School District decided that acronyms are “a symptom of white supremacy.” Around the same time, the city took the unprecedented step of suing its own school board in an effort to get kids out of virtual learning mode and back into classrooms. In March, it came to light that San Francisco school board vice president Allison Collins had made some nasty comments about Asian-Americans on Twitter in 2016, accusing them, among other things, of using “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’” The school board had to do something, of course. But it didn’t fire her or dock any of her six-figure salary; it merely removed her as vice president and stripped her of committee assignments. Collins then sued the school district for $87 million, alleging that the demotion had caused her a significant loss of reputation, severe mental and emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, and “spiritual injury to her soul.”
Want more? On May 9, the San Francisco teachers’ union announced “exciting news”—a deal that it had struck with the school district to open up schools to high school seniors on May 14. The sole reason for the move, which applied to just eight of the city’s 18 high schools, was to qualify the school district for a $12 million state grant that required at least a partial reopening of high schools by May 15. Several local legislators are urging the state to withhold the funds.
Also in May, the school district released its rules for senior proms. Tuxedos and prom dresses are fine, it said, but they must be accompanied by masks. Also, close dancing is verboten, and non-vaccinated students must keep six feet away from everyone else. Treasured memories of this event will be hard to come by.
Last and far from least, the United Educators of San Francisco passed a resolution on May 19, the first of its kind for a teachers’ union: not about improving student outcomes or demanding that teachers get raises, but rather expressing support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel. In its brief statement, the union suggested that Israel practices apartheid and has committed war crimes. The statement made no mention of Hamas rocket attacks (though a subsequent resolution, passed on June 2 after the union came under pressure, did finally denounce Hamas’ actions).
The good news is that even as the city’s education officials sink to new lows, parents are beginning to grasp what they’re up against—and react accordingly. As Jill Tucker reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, city schools currently enroll 50,955 students, “the lowest enrollment in decades and a 3 percent drop compared with the end of the 2020 school year.”
“San Francisco is a mad city,” begins a quote attributed to Rudyard Kipling, “inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people.” His words, more than a century old, aptly describe the city’s educational establishment.
Scott Strazzante/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images