We previously discussed the controversial position of Alison Collins, Vice President of the San Francisco school board, in her campaign against meritocracy and effort to shut down the gifted programs at Lowell High School. The Asian community was particularly opposed to Collins’ efforts since Asian students composed 29 percent of the students but 51 percent of the Lowell student body. Now Collins is under fire for prior tweets attacking Asians as promoting “the ‘model minority’ BS” and of using “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’”
These do not appear recent tweets but their content is obviously insulting for any Asian American. The Yahoo News story included such tweets as accusing “many Asian American Ts, Ss, and Ps” — teachers, students, and parents — of promoting “the ‘model minority’ BS” and of using “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’” It also include a demand to know “[w]here are the vocal Asians speaking up against Trump?” and statements on how Asians are deluding themselves by not speaking out against former president Donald Trump: “Don’t Asian Americans know they are on his list as well?” Collins continued. “Do they think they won’t be deported? profiled? beaten? Being a house n****r is still being a n****r. You’re still considered “the help.”
While the use of the censored version of the “n word” has led to calls to terminate academics, I do not believe that such objections are fair in this or the prior cases. Indeed, this controversy should not take away from the campaign against meritocracy and the effort to eliminate programs for advanced or gifted students in the public school system. As I have previously discussed, I long been a supporter of public schools. These advanced programs are needed to maintain broad, diverse, and vibrant school systems for cities like San Francisco.
Race politics seems a focus on every level in the school system, even in the regulation of student elections. Likewise, the controversy in San Francisco follows another controversy in Los Angeles where United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Cecily Myart-Cruz has also criticized “Middle Eastern” parents in joining “white parents” in seeking school re-openings. The UTLA was criticized after Maryam Qudrat, a mother of Middle Eastern descent, was asked by the UTLA to identify her race after criticizing the union’s opposition to reopening schools despite overwhelming science that it is safe. This effort to racially classify critics of the teachers followed Myart-Cruz attacking critics by referring to their race:
“Some voices are being allowed to speak louder than others. We have to call out the privilege behind the largely White wealthy parents driving the push for a rushed return. Their experience of this pandemic is not our students’ families’ experiences.”
The remarks of school board and teacher union officials clearly fuel racial tensions and divisions at at time when the public schools are facing enormous challenges. For Asian families (constituting roughly a third of the families in the San Fran school system), the remarks of Collins are legitimately unsettling as they fight for the educational advancement of their children. It is precisely the opposite of what most of us seek in our public school systems as a synthesis of different cultures and races. While districts like San Francisco prioritized renaming schools in the middle of a pandemic (until recently being forced to suspend the effort), families simply want to maintain an educational system with a focus on academic excellence and advancement.
As I have previously discussed, many of us still believe in a diverse and thriving public school system. Growing up in Chicago during the massive flight of white families from the public school system, I remained in public schools for much of my early education. My parents organized a group to convince affluent families remain in the system. They feared that, once such families left, the public schools would not only lose diversity but political clout and support. They also wanted their kids to benefit from such diversity. My wife and I also believe in that cause and we have kept our four kids in public schools through to college. We believe public education plays a key role in our national identity and civics. They shape our next generation of citizens. My children have benefitted greatly from public schools and the many caring and gifted teachers who have taught them through the years.
I hope that San Francisco parents of all races can prevail in seeking to refocus the school system on educational advancement. We have too much at stake for our kids and our country if parents allow this type of reckless and insulting rhetoric to lead them to abandon our public school systems.