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California halts ethnic studies curriculum: ‘not a single mention of anti-Semitism’

It also encourages teachers to promote BDS

Did you know Jewish people can face discrimination because of their Jewishness?

California schoolchildren wouldn’t know that from the state’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum, whose bias and baffling omissions were too much for Board of Education leaders.

“A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor [Gavin] Newsom’s vision of a California for all,” according to a statement signed by President Linda Darling-Hammond, Vice President Ilene Straus and Board Member Feliza Ortiz-Licon.

“The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned,” they wrote, promising a new draft after review by the Instructional Quality Commission and response to public comments. The deadline to file comments is Thursday. Ortiz-Licon is also liaison to the commission.

The three officials did not elaborate on their concerns to the Los Angeles Times, but The Washington Post paraphrased Darling-Hammond as saying the changes would be “major.” The Post said the board itself has not “officially” received the draft.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is holding a press conference at 5 p.m. Pacific or later today “to address issues raised by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus” about the proposed curriculum, according to an email advisory from the board.

He’ll be joined by state Sen. Ben Allen, caucus chair and member of the commission:

State Superintendent Thurmond will discuss the letter, the ethnic studies curriculum draft, and possible amendments to the draft that will better reflect the contributions of Jewish Americans and address anti-Semitism.

The advisory emphasizes that the commission did not approve the curriculum, but rather “made minor edits” and made it available for public comment through Thursday.

According to Allen, the caucus chair, the draft not only excludes “anti-Semitism” from its glossary but omits discussion of “other ethnic communities, such as Armenians, Italians and Irish, who also suffered bigotry,” the Times reports.

It focuses largely on Islamophobia and discrimination against Arab Americans:

“I continue to be amazed that in a curriculum that has so much about bigotry and hatred of all sorts of different forms that there was not a single mention of anti-Semitism in the glossary,” Allen said in an interview. “It’s an extraordinary omission.”

MORE: Profs slam ‘ethnic studies’ report: ‘Not a serious study’

That’s not the only questionable decision in the draft. According to the Post, Jewish lawmakers and groups complained that it includes “language encouraging teachers to promote a campaign to boycott, divest from and place sanctions on Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.”

A letter from the Legislative Jewish Caucus says the draft “effectively erases the American Jewish experience” and refers to Jews “in a denigrating and discriminatory manner” in the few places where they are mentioned. One of those: a reference to song lyrics that assert Jews control the media.

The draft goes beyond offending Jewish groups. It would remake California K-12 classrooms in the image of intersectionality-obsessed college courses.

According to the Times, the draft glossary includes “cisheteropatriarchy” and replaces “history” with “herstory” and “hxrstory.” The Post says it critiques “empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.”

The pro-Israel AMCHA Initiative helped spur the about-face by the state board by organizing a letter last week signed by 83 pro-Israel organizations.

It demanded the board establish “safeguards for ensuring that all state-sponsored curricula and other instructional materials may never be created or used as tools of political indoctrination that promote hatred and incite harm against any race, religion, group or individual.”

AMCHA said in an email blast that a quarter of the advisory committee that developed the draft has “publicly aired their anti-Israel views and bias.” That’s why “merely revamping the curriculum” is not enough: It would be “like going after the symptoms while ignoring the underlying illness.”

If the board doesn’t comply with its demands, lawmakers should overrule it, AMCHA said. The letter said anything that resembles the draft – with its “promulgation of … political, ethnic or religious hatred” – will encourage “anti-Zionist-motivated acts of aggression” against students as they head to college.

Read the Post and Times coverage and AMCHA statement.

MORE: Calif. slides deeper into abyss with ethnic studies curriculum

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.