Delay in California Ethnic Studies Plan Fueled by Debate Among Political Identity Groups

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The author of a bill that would require California high school students to be taught an ethnic studies curriculum has decided to delay the measure amid intense debate over which political identity groups should be included in the program.

“It is not a question of whether the subject [of ethnic studies] itself is necessary but rather, how do we ensure the curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous, and inclusive enough,” Assemblyman Jose Medina (D) said, reported the Sacramento Bee. “This underscores the importance of taking the time necessary to ensure we get the curriculum right.”

Medina delayed the legislation by turning it into a “two-year bill,” allowing it to have more time without being killed.

Discussions over which ethnic groups should be included in the high school draft curriculum have grown intense.

In July, California Jewish legislators called for revisions to the proposed program. In a letter to the state Department of Education, the lawmakers wrote:

[W]e cannot support a curriculum that erases the American Jewish experience, fails to discuss antisemitism, reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews, singles out Israel for criticism, and would institutionalize the teaching of antisemitic stereotypes in our public schools.

Among the signers of the letter was the bill’s author Medina, an honorary member of the Jewish legislative caucus, who, according to the news report, raised his children in the Jewish faith.

State schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond responded to the criticism by stating a revised curriculum draft should ensure antisemitism and the contributions of the Jewish people are discussed.

“There’s no intentional omission of the experiences of Jewish Americans, but, in fact, we think that there should be mention of the contributions of Jewish Americans,” he said.

According to the Bee, representatives of various other ethnic communities, including Armenian, Hellenic, Hindu, and Korean groups, have also expressed criticism of the lack of coverage in the draft curriculum of their peoples’ struggles during their immigration to the United States.

Robyn Rodriguez, chair of the Asian American studies department at UC Davis, said these critics have misunderstood in assuming “ethnic studies as being about ethnicity.”

“Ethnic studies as a name is kind of a misnomer. What we’re really contending with is race,” she said, adding that ethnic studies at its core is about “the various kinds of inequality and exploitation for non-white people of color.”

In keeping with the focus on racism, the proposed ethnic studies curriculum also plans to teach children capitalism is a “system of power” and “oppression,” equal to “white supremacy,” “patriarchy,” and “racism.”

The writers of the model curriculum say their goal is to:

… equip all students with the skills and knowledge to think critically about the world around them and to tell their own stories, empower students to be engaged socially and politically, enable students to develop a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and inclusion, and aids in the eradication of bigotry, hate, and racism.

The draft curriculum is also steeped in gender ideology. The introduction of the document uses the term “hxrstory,” instead of “history,” in keeping with gender ideology that states “womxn” must not be defined in terms of their relation to men.

According to the model curriculum, “Ethnic studies is xdisciplinary,” and its writers add:

Ethnic Studies is about people whose cultures, hxrstories, and social positionalities are forever changing and evolving. Thus, Ethnic Studies also examines borders, borderlands, mixtures, hybridities, nepantlas, double consciousness, and reconfigured articulations, even within and beyond the various names and categories associated with our identities. People do not fit neatly into boxes, and identity is complex.

“It is difficult to comprehend the depth and breadth of the ideological bias and misrepresentations without reading the whole curriculum—something few will want to do,” Williamson Evers, a former George W. Bush administration education department official, wrote in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal about the California draft.

He added the model curriculum has no intention of teaching “objective history.”

“Rather, it’s training students to become ideological activists and proponents of identity politics,” he said.

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