Well here we go again with yet another California recall election and the national media contorting themselves into pretzel logic trying to figure out just what the hell is going on with the heart left in the City By The Bay.
By now you may have heard that San Francisco voted to recall three members of the Board of Education over, well, it’s actually a lot more intricate than the media would have you believe. Sorry national media, but this was NOT liberals versus the ultra left. This wasn’t about San Francisco becoming more conservative. Put away all those now tired catch phrases like “woke” or “cancel culture”. This was a lot more parochial than that.
126,000 people voted in this election out of a population of 824,000 people, 500,000 of whom are registered voters. 374,000 people couldn’t be bothered to even drop their ballot in the mailbox, possibly because San Francisco only has about 53,000 school age kids within the city limits. That’s about 6% of the total population. To put that in perspective, there are 120,000 dogs in San Francisco.
That’s right, dogs outnumber school age kids almost 3-1 in old Baghdad By The Bay.
Ostensibly this election was about three issues: not getting kids back in school during the pandemic, wanting to change school names to honor less allegedly abhorrent role models, and wanting to eliminate the so called merit system for admission to Lowell High School (more about that below).
Pretend this is the SAT and we’ll break the above paragraph into three parts to inspect and dissect. Got your number two pencils at the ready? OK, begin.
Eyes on your own paper young man.
So, getting kids back into school during the pandemic. Parents were mad that the school board decided unvaccinated youngsters were at risk to not only themselves but to all the adults they could be giving their potential cooties to in a classroom and thus exacerbating the pandemic. Parents were saying their kids were falling behind because distance learning was not as good as in person instruction. They have a point as it’s pretty much a given that kids learn better in an actual classroom and not in front of a laptop with mom or dad trying to conduct business in the next room and the dog growling and the doorbell ringing to announce the Door Dash guy is here. But then again everyone was in the same boat so to speak. It wasn’t one group or another that was singled out to have to do distance learning, ALL students had to do it. If little Billy, excuse me, little Saffron fell behind in his/her studies maybe there were other factors to take into consideration.
Like a worldwide once in a lifetime (hopefully) pandemic.
Issue number two was the so called infatuation with changing names of schools to not honor those who had been retroactively declared persons of bad faith because of some stain in their permanent record. Yes, the stains were in the mold of holding other humans in bondage or having besmirched the reputation of minority groups over a hundred years ago.
Look, despite what Fox News would have you think, in San Francisco there is no Pol Pot High playing Joseph Stalin High for the city football championship. We’re talking about names like Washington and Lincoln and other 18th and 19th century historical figures. Were they important figures in American history? Yes of course. Were some of their views abhorrent to modern sensibilities? Yes of course. Here’s a history lesson we should all learn: no one is perfect, especially when you compare the way they lived their lives in their own time to the way we aspire to live ours in our own time. Be careful when you set anyone up as a model of perfection. That statue will always be mounted on a very shaky pedestal. MLK was an adulterer. Gandhi slept naked with his grandniece “in order to test his celibacy”. Mother Teresa encouraged her followers to secretly baptize dying patients Catholic without their permission. Dig far enough back in anyone’s closet and you’ll find some skeleton rattling around in there.
But the renaming issue was also an issue of bad optics and politics. It was perceived as the school board prioritizing the renaming of schools over getting kids back into schools. What they should have done is table that entire discussion until after the pandemic was over. Oh, actually they did that to a large extent. Except certain conservative media outlets (ahem, again Fox News) kept insisting they hadn’t and that it was the only issue these liberal crazies were interested in.
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Which brings us to the third part of our tripartite essay question, merit admission to Lowell High School. This will demand a bit of explanation.
San Francisco has 14 high schools. Students can go to any school in the district so long as there is space for them with the exception of Ruth Asawa School For the Performing Arts for which they must audition. Formerly Lowell High School required applying students to have a high GPA, write an essay, and pass a rigorous academic test. Because of the pandemic and because report card grades were eliminated with the onset of distance learning the school board voted to make Lowell like the other 12 schools in the district for the duration of the pandemic. They then made that permanent, turning Lowell into just another of the high schools in the district.
Or maybe they were just using the pandemic as an excuse to do that, according to those who voted to throw out those three board members.
Now why would you want to dismantle a high school for academically advanced students? Mostly because it wasn’t a terribly diverse school ethnically. It is dominated by Asian-American students who make up 57% of the student population. The next largest ethnic group is white at 15%, followed by Hispanic at 10%, Black at 2% and all others (Pacific Islander, mixed race, Native American, Filipino, etc.) combining for the remaining 16%. It’s pretty much the direct opposite of the ethnic makeup of The City as a whole.
Why is that? Yes, Tiger Moms are part of the reason, respect for education and it’s importance is another. But the board also felt that there was an unfair advantage for students, no matter the ethnicity, whose families had the economic power to hire tutors, get test prep, and in general not have to worry about spending money to get their kids into the school that has the largest percentage of students being accepted into the University of California system anywhere in the state.
There was also the “brain drain” notion, the idea that by putting all the academically gifted students into one school, the other schools were deprived of those students examples to inspire so called “lesser” students. Call it the “rising tide lifts all boats” notion of education.
Ultimately the pro recall campaign won the day. Three highly qualified education specialists are forever stained. No doubt it has also put into the mind of anyone who would want to serve the community in that function that maybe they should just keep their mouths shut and go along with whichever way the mob is rampaging.
One other thing. Californians, we need to change the laws regarding recall elections. As I have said before, the threshold for instigating a recall election is absurdly low. We saw it with the gubernatorial recall, we have seen it here and, yes I am not making this up, we get to see it again in June when the District Attorney of San Francisco faces HIS recall election. This is a waste of time and resources. Great for you all you pro-recall voters, you got the bastards out. Now Mayor London Breed gets to name three new members to the school board. That’s London Breed, about the only major African American politician to openly endorse Mike Bloomberg in the 2020 primaries. You remember Mike Bloomberg, he’s the guy who wanted to privatize public schools and run them like a business, the guy who as mayor of New York closed over 100 schools in low-income communities and entrenched New York City’s education system as the most racially segregated in the country.
I believe the adage you are fumbling for is “Beware of what you wish for, you just might get it”.
Let’s end with an interesting take on the Crosby, Stills, and Nash classic that gives us today’s title.