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NEWS & ANALYSIS

San Francisco to strip Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, others from School Names

“I say in relation to the principle that all men are created equal, let it be nearly reached as we can.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents in the history of our great nation.

A hero, to say the least.

Perhaps his greatest legacy is saving the union and abolishing slavery. For Lincoln, the two were linked together; “The Union must be preserved in the purity of its principles as well as the integrity of its territorial parts”

But, his name – along with George Washington and other prominent figures – will be removed from 44 San Francisco public schools in an effort to seemingly erase history.

The San Francisco Board of Education voted 6-1 on the proposal Tuesday night, a move that will affect one third of the city’s schools. The resolution calls for removing names that honored historical figures with direct or broad ties to slavery, oppression, racism or the “subjugation” of human beings, U.S. News reports.

In addition to Lincoln, Washington and Thomas Jefferson – the two latter owned slaves – the list includes American Revolution patriot Paul Revere and Francis Scott Key, composer of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and Diane Feinstein.

Yes, Diane Feinstein. Her name was selected because during her time as mayor in 1984, she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag that was part of a long-standing flag display in front of City Hall.

“I want to ensure people this in no way cancels or erases history,” San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez said. “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.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed blasted the poor timing of the move given the coronavirus pandemic that has kept the city’s schools closed since March.

“Our students are suffering, and we should be talking about getting them in classrooms, getting them mental health support and getting them the resources they need in this challenging time,” Breed said, adding that she does support the decision of renaming schools but that it should include parents, students and others once classrooms reopen for in person learning.

Indeed, it is critical for students to return to in-person learning, and that should be the number one priority of school districts across the country.

Not changing the names.

The committee, created in 2018, was asked to identify schools named after 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, U.S. News reports. They were also asked to select schools that honored anyone connected to human rights or environmental abuses or racist beliefs.

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