When I awoke last Thursday, rather than my normal check of last night’s Flyers score, I first noticed the results of the San Francisco School Board recall. I was unaware it was happening — but I was pleased to learn that three members of that board were removed for their actions in recent months.
Remember when the job of a school board member was to help provide a quality education while keeping taxes low and property values high? Well, that metric has changed — not only in San Francisco, but all over our nation.
The ousted board members were found guilty of trying to pull the names of historical figures like Washington and Lincoln off of 44 San Francisco schools — this because those historical figures backed policies and lived lives not compatible with the board members’ present values. Current Senator Dianne Feinstein even got scrubbed from a school.
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The three board members also moved to eliminate admissions criteria for the top-ranked academic high school in the city.
Somehow, this agenda became a priority at a time when kids were not even physically in school because of Covid. In a nutshell, this recall was about liberal San Francisco voters pushing back on the hard-left progressives who had taken over the process. The campaign was supported by a black mayor who just wants government to work and be efficient — and to let history be learned and debated, not whitewashed.
There are several lessons here. First, it is refreshing and reassuring to see voters in a political party — in this case, Democrats — self-correcting; knowing an activist branch of a party has gone too far and must be reeled in by thoughtful, rational voters. Even though many think San Francisco is ground zero for politics off the rails, the voters and elected officials proved a movement can get things back on track.
I love history and consider myself well-read and informed. And the beauty of history is constantly discovering that our country has gone through difficult times and always bounces back. I regularly learn new facts. For instance, I was not in favor of removing Confederate statues from public places until I read Ron Chernow’s excellent biography of Ulysses S. Grant.
I had respected Robert E. Lee until I learned how disappointed Grant was that his old adversary was not helpful in uniting the country in the years after the Civil War. Many Confederate generals followed Lee’s example. There is no reason for insurrectionists to be honored in our public places, so I came to agree with those who want to move them to museum-type spaces where their roles can be discussed and debated.
By the way, one name the school board voted to remove was Grant’s. Yes, the man who won the Civil War and, as president, did all he could to promote Reconstruction, a cause for which hundreds of thousands sacrificed their lives. Grant’s sin? His in-laws had slaves at one time.
If any of those board members read Chernow’s book, they would have been able to put those holdings in context as it pertained to Grant.
Obviously, there are multiple versions of history, but too many school boards across our country only want to teach what fits neatly into their political leanings — a mindset that exists on the Right and Left. Our children should get to learn it all and value the debate that is created when censoring and bias are eliminated from their school’s curriculum.
I have never been a fan of recall, but in this case I am glad it occurred. As I look at school boards across our country, I conclude that maybe we need more recalls and resets. Let kids learn, let us all learn from history.
Erasing history will not allow us to learn from mistakes or replicate success — hopefully, government and school boards will concentrate on providing education instead of making political points favored by a vocal minority.
Larry Ceisler is a Founder of Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy. The firm is the largest and oldest communications firm in Pennsylvania. Born and raised in Washington County, Pennsylvania, he is a long-time resident of Philadelphia. He knows what makes a good school board member, as his father was a solicitor to the Trinity Area School Board and his mother a teacher. www.ceislermedia.com