The San Francisco Board of Education’s announcement that dozens of schools, including those paying homage to Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), must be renamed hasn’t been well-received. Writer Gary Kamiya argues in The Atlantic that not only does the “renaming spree” provide fodder to right-wing critics, but that the vote was carried without a “robust and open public debate,” draws attention and resources from more pressing issues like reopening schools, and is subject to historical inaccuracies.
The criticism expanded this week when the school district’s arts department said it would change its name from the acronym “VAPA” because “acronyms are a symptom of white supremacy culture.” Slate‘s Jordan Weissmann believes there’s actually a strong case to be made for limiting the use of acronyms, since they may be challenging for people who speak English as a second language, but he thinks framing it as “a strike against the great specter of ‘white supremacy culture'” is an alienating (and possibly hypocritical) example of “grad school humanities-style writing — which prioritizes references to abstract terms of art that show you’ve done the reading — invading our everyday conversations online.”
Weissmann said it reminded him of a similar story from last year when New York City’s teachers union passed a resolution calling for the disruption of the “Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement,” when, in Weissmann’s view, they simply wanted to “offer extra support to students with single parents who needed flexibility with their schedules.”
The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson concurred with Weissmann’s assessment, suggesting that “arcane PhD-speak” is preventing what would otherwise be considered “common-sense polices” from getting off the ground.
Every word of this thread on the SF board of education’s really bad week (Lincoln, acronyms); clarity and inclusivity in language; and doing things that actually help ppl in politics and not drenching your common-sense policies in arcane PhD-speak https://t.co/ayHHbOTTCx
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) February 2, 2021