Any Russian speaker knows what Gabriela Lopez is: she is a Shvonder, the semi-literate, bullying ideologue from Mihkail Bulgakov’s 1925 novella ‘Heart of a Dog.’
San Franciscans may think they are the smartest people in the world, but look who they put in charge of educating their kids. The city’s Board of Education drew nationwide attention when it decided to rename its 44 schools, including those honoring Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Paul Revere — the world historic figures and beloved personalities whose biographies shaped our understanding of the American experience.
As the scandal was brewing, The New Yorker dispatched Isaac Chotiner to interview the Head of the Board Gabriela Lopez. The conversation, “edited for length and clarity,” went viral as soon as it posted. In that edited version Lopez came across as so incoherent, and dumb, one can only imagine what an unedited version looks like.
Any Russian speaker knows what Lopez is: she is a Shvonder, the semi-literate, bullying ideologue from Mihkail Bulgakov’s 1925 novella Heart of a Dog. As a newly-elected head of the housing committee in the building in which the book’s protagonist Professor Preobrazhensky lives, Shvonder occupies a position of minor importance that allows him to pursue a Marxist vendetta against Preobrazhensky.
Soviet subjects recognized Shvonder in the nasty lowly bureaucrats whose influence was considerable, and zeal — real. Although there was no point in arguing with a Shvonder because he already has a theory that explains everything, he could be persuaded by an exercise of power.
Gabriela Lopez is a foot soldier of the woke revolution in Shvonder’s mode. The Head of the Board of Education is so assured of her own righteousness, — she is, after all, fighting “white-supremacy” — it’s only fair that on occasion she put her constituents in their proper place. For instance, she once proudly flipped off a concerned San Franciscan, a brazen move even in California where elected officials are notoriously indifferent to the plight of voters.
Then there is the monumental shvonderian ignorance revealed in The New Yorker interview. Despite boasting credentials like a Master’s in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, most of her sentences are formed incorrectly, and she seems mistaken about the meaning of certain words. Here is one of the passages that drew a great deal of attention:
“There’s this idea that because we’re removing the names we’re somehow removing the stories in what we’re learning, and that in fact is not the case. It’s really just sharing in our schools what is and isn’t uplifted. And that’s part of my work as a school-board member. That’s been my work as a teacher. What are we highlighting in our classes? And what are we teaching our students? And what isn’t being uplifted in our time and our public-school system that we’ve seen throughout history?”
Not being a native English speaker, I was confused when, following the interviewees’ cue, Chotiner used “uplift” in place of “honor,” so I consulted Merriam-Webster. No surprise, to uplift means to elevate, or “to improve the spiritual, social, or intellectual condition of.” It’s her, not me.
Is the UCLA-credentialed educator tongue-tied, but smart? Well, no. It’s not that she can’t express herself clearly, the real problem is that there isn’t much to express. Her inability to formulate a coherent statement about appropriate approaches to teaching American history is tied to the methodology — if that can be called methodology — adopted by the Board. Its members poked around Wikipedia in lieu of researching historical figures they want to erase, misreading some details of their biographies and taking others out of context.
They seemed to be deeply uninterested in the subject matter. In the case of Roosevelt middle school, the Board wasn’t sure whether it was celebrating Theodore, or Franklin Delano. The namesake could have been Eleanor for all we know; in the name of fighting “white-supremacy culture,” San Francisco apparatchiks would cancel it all the same.
Social justice warriors at San Francisco Unified already know that America is racist, and they are so certain of it that, from their point of view, looking at historic figures in the context of their time is pointless, and no amount of new information would persuade them to change their mind. So why bother with research or consulting experts? This type of person used to be called a “bigot,” and putting them in a position of power was considered unwise.
That said, I almost felt sorry for Lopez, who became a target of ridicule second only to the Gorilla Glue lady. The underlying cause of her shvonderism is easy to infer: America did not live up to its promise.
The future public servant was born thirty years ago in LA to a working-class Spanish-speaking family. She may have heard little English at home and was coddled in ESL programs in grade school — California public schools fail spectacularly in educating the children of immigrants. Nonetheless, she was funneled into the California State University system, from which she went on to UCLA graduate school.
Here is someone who would benefit from reading the English language canon but was instead spoonfed racially-charged gibberish which she dutifully absorbed. She was never introduced to diverse ideas or works of literature from which multiple generations derived meaning, or even trained to use the instrument, language, that would put her in the position to understand ideas and read books.
The saddest part about Lopez’s education is that she likely didn’t learn proper Spanish either. I know how it works because I’m familiar with language woes of the Russian American families. Children of immigrants, including those born to most sophisticated parents, learn what we call “kitchen Russian.” They can watch TV, ask grandmother to make kholodets, and maybe sound out words written in Cyrillic. Home life gave them a foundation on which a good teacher can build literacy, but in and of itself this type of casual command of language is insufficient for proper thinking and effective communication.
Unfortunately, institutional failures of the United States prepared her for shvonderism only. And in shvonderism she excelled, showing great ambition, becoming at the age of thirty, the Head of the School Board in California’s most politically significant city. In her new position of authority she promptly moved to lay her mark on most of the schools in the District. The fact that Lopez is a girl-Shvonder adds a proper American flavor to her persona. Whereas the original character was a man, the Bay Area version is the daughter of immigrants shattering that glass ceiling on behalf of low level, power-mad dogmatists of female “gender identity.”
Bulgakov’s character is important, among other reasons, because he raises out of chaos, and decay of the Bolshevik Revolution. Preobrazhensky captured the origin of Shvonder’s native environment in the book’s most memorable quip: “Hence the rack and ruin are not in the bathrooms, but in the heads,” meaning that mentality creates living conditions and that Bolsheviks complained about depravity which Shvonder aims to eradicate, but they themselves created it by fostering certain doggish attitudes.
For San Francisco, the city notorious for being an open air bathroom-slash-shooting gallery, Professor’s observation is doubly relevant. Lopez is the product of the culture responsible for the sprawling homeless encampments and anti-Asian hate crimes, including murder. People in Red America might think that fentanyl addiction is the most pressing issue here, but over the last four years, the voters were laser-focused on an “Orange Man Racist” narrative. This is the electorate California public servants are catering to.
If the ruling class was at all concerned with mundane issues of governing, including, in the School District’s case, resuming in-person instruction, we would live in a completely different region. As it happens, Bay Area politicians are uninterested in finding solutions to pressing practical problems. Even with the City of San Francisco suing its own School Board to reopen schools, classes will continue to be held remotely for the rest of the school year. Scanning Wikipedia is easier, and more fun, than governing, so the city’s residents, unwilling to demand accountability from people they elect, find themselves in a toilet.
If competence is a concept wholly alien to Shvonder, excellence is what he despises most. An idea that a human being might distinguish himself or live better than his neighbors drives him nuts. Bulgakov’s grotesque villain didn’t think anyone, “not even Isadora Duncan,” should have a dining room when eating in the bedroom is an option. Why should some people have it so good? Having absorbed this kind of mentality, many ordinary Soviet people regularly turned on each other: “What are you, better than everyone else?”
San Francisco educrats are made out of the same cloth. Citing a sudden mysterious outbreak of racism at the elite Lowell High, they voted to switch from test-based admissions to the preparatory public academy to lottery, a move certain to erode educational excellence. From the point of view of a woman who is unable to form a complete sentence and who sees society through the prism of racial grievances, achievement itself is problematic. To wit, the Board Commissioner Alison Collins is on record saying that merit is racist and the “antithesis of fair.” Everyone should be equally miserable, and equally dumb.
The Board of Education can take care of the latter. Shvonder’s most notable accomplishment was bringing the worst out of Sharikov, the man Professor Preobrazhensky desperately tried to uplift. Judging from some of the news stories coming out of the San Francisco Unified, there is no shortage of newly-minted Sharikovs sitting in its Zoom classes, spewing racism, and hoarding the power afforded to them by wokeness.
With this new generation coming of age, there will be more homelessness in the future, more power outages, forest fires, as well as other of man-made calamities that are guaranteed to befall our perpetually mismanaged state.
As Bulgakov knows, the rack and ruin is in the head.DONATE
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