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.