San Francisco Unified School District Drops Word “Chief” Out of Respect to Native Americans

We have been following the language guidelines and word bans that have become common in academia. The latest is out of California where the San Francisco Unified School District is reportedly dropping the use of the word “chief” in job titles to show respect for Native Americans. Critics have objected that the word has nothing to do with the reference to the head of a tribe. The District also notified people that “a replacement term has yet to be determined.”

SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe told the San Francisco Chronicle that, “[w]hile there are many opinions on the matter, our leadership team agreed that, given that Native American members of our community have expressed concerns over the use of the title, we are no longer going to use it.”

The change will immediately impact 13 officials who use the word “chief” in their titles, but they will have to wait until a new alternative is found, according to the New York Post.

The word is actually derived from the Old French word “chef,” meaning “the head of a group.”

There have been an array of such controversies over terms being dropped for what some may incorrectly assume to be their meaning or origin.

There was the decision at Harvard to drop the traditional term “House master” despite the lack of any connection to slavery. There was also the school district which dropped a cougar mascot as disrespectful to older women.  There was also the move to drop the term “quantum supremacy” in physics. Many schools have moved to drop the term “alumni,” which is already gender neutral.

We have faced the same type of debate over the campaign to drop the “Colonials” mascot at The George Washington University. SA Sen. Hayley Margolis, CCAS-U, is quoted in the Hatchet as saying “When we talk about the Colonial in history, what does it mean? And is that really what we want our school identity to be?”

The Colonials is not a general reference to colonialism or a celebration of colonization. To the contrary, the Colonials (including George Washington) fought against being a colony. They fought the British Empire and its belief that you could subject a people to such foreign rule. The term “Colonials” is an obvious and direct reference to those who fought in the Revolutionary War. It is an inspiring symbol for any school.

As educators, we have some responsibility to maintain a principled, if not grammatical, position in the use of terminology and language.


93 thoughts on “San Francisco Unified School District Drops Word “Chief” Out of Respect to Native Americans”

  1. The language police inevitably put the worst possible interpretation on a word they do not like, whether or not they understand the word in question.

    And then they attack peope who use or defend the word.

    What a great way to divide people and destroy a great civilization!

  2. Today’s diatribe is just another Fox assignment to help the ReTrumplicans assert control over the rest of us by stirring the culture wars: now, they’re taking away “chief” from our vocabulary. Oh the humanity! Also a diversion, of course, from the massacre at Ross Elementary and the politicization of this outrage by the fat orange hog who told the disciples that “we know they’re coming for your guns”, so “we” have to “take back” Congress in the fall and the White House in 2024. “We” implies that he speaks for most Americans, which he never did and never will. “Take back” implies that ReTrumplicans didn’t lose–their victory was stolen–another lie. More of the “us vs. them” polarization rhetoric that NO American President has ever previously engaged in for the simple reason that it’s not patriotic. Americans find ways to work together on solving problems–not one party ramming through their agenda while in power, which is what Republicans do, and which was done when Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett were shoved onto the SCOTUS. If you had any decency, Turley, you wouldn’t associate with these people, but money can buy almost anything these days. What’s your price for buying into the Big Lie? You’ve already tried to soft-pedal it as “questioning” the election results, which you know is misleading–there wasn’t any “questioning” at all: when polls predicted his loss, even before Election Day, Trump said there was fraud. So, how long will it take and how much will they have to pay to get you to say that Trump’s glorious victory was stolen by fraud? Pardon me, Turley, if I don’t care that SF Schools drop the word “Chief”, which was always used in a condescending manner by whites when addressing Native American men. It’s not enough that whites took their land, their language, their culture and killed so many of them–they even had to insult them in the process. That’s the reason for the change–native Americans remain offended, but that wasn’t the point, was it Turley?


      It’s safe for you to go home now.

      Don’t worry.

      Be happy.

      Take care of yourself.

      You don’t really need the crutch of American largesse as generational welfare, food stamps, public housing, affirmative action, quotas, social services, forced busing, Obamacare, WIC, SNAP, TANF, HAMP, HARP, HUD, HHS, SSI, no federal income tax, etc.

      Ya’all can do this!

      You go, girl!

    2. One other point, thanks to the laws that dictate how teachers are required to teach the history of slavery and whites vs. Native Americans, school children would never learn about the “trail of tears” in which Cherokee people were driven off of their land in Georgia and forced to go on foot to the arid American southwest so white European settlers could have their land. Tens of thousands of them died. Turley, who pretends to be an advocate of free speech, apparently has no problem with these unpleasant, but true, aspects of history being withheld from school children under the guise of banning CRT.

      1. LOL Teaching CRT is simply another way to keep the least educated Americans on the plantation. It is a diversion from the fact that 60 years of civil rights and equality plus under the law, and thousands of years of history, still cannot produce a reasonable ratio of productive POCs. So the solution…same as always, blame someone else.

        I understand why you believe the things you do, because to do otherwise would reveal facts you cannot handle.

        1. It’s the ignoramus white people who can’t handle the truth about whites enslaving Africans, murdering, raping and driving Nativa Americans off of their lands so European whites could steal the land their ancestors had lived on for generations. Why not tell children the truth? Because the impressionable junior dumbaxxes might feel bad about the way white people behaved. So, they must be lied to, and their dumbaxx parents will go vote for dumbaxx politicians like DeSantis, Cruz, Trump and other ReTrumplicans. See, it’s far worse for the little white darlings to hear the truth of how whites, not just in America, but elsewhere, abused and enslaved people of color, than it is to lie to them or withhold the facts. Other examples: the Brits establishing colonies in India and South Africa. Despite what Hannity and Tucker tell you, CRT is about telling the truth, not projecting blame. And, the dipsticks in their audience buy it when Hannity and Tucker say that CRT is about projecting blame than to admit that history is being re-written to take away or even lie about the bad actions of whites. And Turley, the champion of free speech, has no criticism of dictating to teachers how history is taught and the contents of what children are told about history.

  3. As far as it goes changing titles and words are part of the language. I was surprised it took as long as it did to change the name of the Washington Football Team (commanders is such a woke non-offending bland name – it will always be the Football Team to me). Are we going memory hole all Native American derived words? Isn’t that racist? I grew up in RI am I going to have to hard shell clams instead of quahogs when I visit? The reasoning for this is what is so disturbing. I will still use Sachem warren, no matter what.

  4. Jonathan: I have no problem with the SF School District dropping the use of “chief” in job titles. I have been making similar changes for years. I no long refer my spouse as “my wife”. I now refer to her as “she who must be obeyed”. She likes the new title. We have a young couple who just moved into a house down the street. They have finally decided to get married after 10 years of cohabitation. The bride-to-be told me she objects to the term “wife” because it has bad connotations. She explained to me the term was popularized at a time in history when the husband had legal ownership over everything about his “wife”. He had the legal right to beat her since she was his property. My new neighbor says the Japanese word for “wife” is “Oku-san”, which translates to “person in the back”. This woman doesn’t intend to stand behind her future husband. She told me: “I am not Oliver’s property. I am his partner, his buddy, and the first person to laugh at him when he walks into a wall”. So the phrase “honor and obey” will not be in this couple’s marriage ceremony. I suggested to the bride-to-be that maybe the phrase “I now pronounce you husband and wife” should be changed to “I now pronounce you husband and she who must be obeyed”. She thought it was a great idea.

    With your preoccupation with language guidelines in SF you missed some other news out of the city by the bay. Last week SF Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling her she could not receive Holy Communion in her home archdiocese in SF because she did not “publicly repudiate your advocacy of abortion ‘rights'”. Failure to strictly follow Catholic teachings can result in serious trouble in SF. And, as it turns out, also in Washington, DC at the Supreme Court. Justice Alito, a conservative Catholic, also believes a women’s rights in the workplace should take a back seat to religious dogma. By the way, any chance “Chief” Justice will soon be replaced? Isn’t it about time?

    1. Few thoughts come to mind reading your comment: Beta male. He who must be emasculated by women.

    2. Dennis says:

      “My new neighbor says the Japanese word for “wife” is “Oku-san”, which translates to “person in the back”.

      As Groucho Marx says:

      “Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife.”

  5. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

    ~ George Orwell, 1984

    1. Illegal deportation is as legal and moral as illegal immigration.

      “Abudyipabudyipabudyip (Prestissimo), That’s All, Folks!”

      It’s time to go home now.

  6. Why would any institution of learning stoop to actually research a point of view or word? They might find illumination instead of proclaiming their ignorance. Just make the former “chief” the Chairman of the Central Committee.
    Generally these decisions seem to occur in certain geographic areas of the country. The greatest concentration seems to in that particular Bay Area and northeast of Washington DC (inclusive of course).

  7. This is the kind of insanity that needs to be rejected.
    The cougar one was new to me.
    While mildly amusing, still highlights the insanity.
    Or is it stupidity?

    If I actually met one of these people who insist on a calling them . . . whatever, I am going to tell them to ignore me, I will ignore them, and we will get along just fine.

  8. The Left (and the Democrat party in which they are housed) are racist, sexist, xenophobes.

    Regardless of where the word comes from, it was used to indicate a strong, powerful, and high level individual – all of which indicate respect. To get rid of the word shows how much they despise anyone of color (like Native Americans) being in a position of power. And of course it verifies they are a most ignorant and nasty group of people.

    They are Orwell’s pigs – let’s ignore them into the infamy in which they belong.

  9. This language idiocy is a big, red flag. When they’re this nutty, it always starts with words and ends with the guillotine.

    Better vote them out before they come getcha. They’re already coming for your kids.

  10. What does this decision and similar ones across the country mean?

    1. Leadership in our education systems aren’t concerned about the very real problem that the systems are failing students, parents, taxpayers and the country.
    2. Leadership has way too much time on their hands.
    3. Leadership is unable to do any research to find out the source of words they want to ban. Ironic since they have a great deal of time to think this horse hockey up.
    4. You cannot fix stupid.

  11. RE: “As educators, we have some responsibility to maintain a principled, if not grammatical, position in the use of terminology and language.” As long as Dracula remains in charge of the blood banks, all bets are off.

  12. “There was also the school district which dropped a cougar mascot as disrespectful to older women.” 🤣 At least we can laugh about that one.

  13. Sinking deeper into ignorance. Of the hundreds or thousands of Native languages, not one of them used the word “chief.” Whatever their native word was for the head of their kin/political units, it certainly wasn’t “chief.” But we couldn’t expect virtue-signaling Democrats to actually know the facts. They run on fantasy fumes.

    1. It’s hard to believe that these are the people in charge of educating our children. If the Republicans gain control of the executive branch again, they need to condition education funding on ending everything “woke”. It’s a target rich environment.

  14. As we all know, facts mean nothing to those people.They (facts) may be stubborn, but in this day, they are easily ignored if they don’t fit a particular agenda

  15. History and Etymology for chief
    Noun and Adjective
    Middle English, from Anglo-French chief, chef head, chief, from Latin caput head — more at HEAD

    These people have mental issues and should not be allowed to hold any position of trust in government, from the Chief on down.

  16. With all the people with Doctorates in the Administration, you would think one of them would have looked up the etymology of the word.

    How is the graduation rate at the District? Of those graduates, do more than ? 70%, ? read and cypher at grade level? How about 3 graders and 7th graders? Maybe half are performing at grade level?

    The Government is working hard to created population of dullards. We already have 2 generations of citizens that have no clue about our founding documents. For the Democrats, that’s a feature, not a bug.

    Beggars are much easier to control.

  17. “Chief” was my Dad’s most endearing term for me, the oldest child of 8. Nothing, whatsoever, to do with anti-Indian sentiment. Luckily he died in 1982 so I won’t have to banish him from my life now.

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