The Problem with California's Ethnic Studies
A controversial curriculum for teaching ethnic studies. In california's public schools will face a final vote in march. Since the first draft of the curriculum came out in two thousand nineteen a coalition of jewish organizations including the american jewish committees. California team has worked together to fine tune the content to be more inclusive define anti semitism and avoid perpetuating the stereotypes that put jews endanger here to talk about the debate surrounding the california curriculum. And why it matters to. All of us is rabbi serena. Eisenberg director of ajc northern california serena welcomed people of the pod for having me so exactly. What is california's ethnic studies curriculum. A start back in two thousand sixteen when the california state. Legislators passed a law. Mandating that the state department of education developed a guidance document for the teachers and administrators so they could implement ethnic studies courses and schools and the reason was because in california students of color account for the majority of the population in our public schools. They speak about ninety different languages so the goal was to prepare pupils to be global citizens with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures. Ajc supported that effort. We believe that k. Through twelve students across california should be able to learn the role of ethnicity race and religion in the life of all of the citizens including maybe even especially those groups have been largely left out of other textbooks and so high quality. Ethnic studies courses can help combat bigotry. He'll some of the really difficult. Racial and ethnic divisions we are facing in this country so whereas we support an inclusive and balanced approach to ethnic studies. What some might call multicultural or constructive. Ethnic studies which focuses on the contributions and challenges of a broad array of ethnic cultures. What happened with the california curriculum. Was that state. Department of education appointed a small advisory committee of teachers who are committed to something called critical ethnic studies. The critical studies association was formed in two thousand eleven with a specific goal of radical resistance. It was anti-capitalist anti-imperialist somewhat neo marxist ideology and this group was what guided the development of the very controversial first draft of the curriculum which was released in two thousand and nineteen. What was controversial about that first draft. The first problem was that it lacked balance running through the entire curriculum. The goal was promoting this narrow critical. Ethnic studies ideology the los angeles times. Editorial board wrote that the curriculum talks about critical thinking but usually offers one side and one side. Only it's more about imposing predigested political views on students than about widening their perspectives. That was the los angeles editorial board. So a second problem was that it was an inclusive. We talked about more multicultural approach which looks at the diversity of olive our california population but this curriculum actually left out a lot of groups including sikhs hindus. Korean syrians armenians jewish americans. It had a very small focus on particular groups and because of that. Ajc formed a multi-ethnic coalition with a number of other ethnic groups to ask for a more inclusive curriculum one lack balance to not inclusive. but three. and. I think what was so outrageous. It really contained a lot of offensive material. There are some examples of antisemitic material the material and even more so material that wasn't even included for example a really extensive glossary in a curriculum. That's designed to combat discrimination didn't include a definition of anti-semitism. This was released just after the shooting and powei so the jewish community was particularly eager to see that anti semitism was going to be taught about in an ethics studies curriculum for california. Was there any kind of explanation as to why anti semitism was left out of the first draft. This paradigm of critical ethnic studies sees the world through a lens of people of color and whites oppressed and oppressors and in that paradigm jews are considered to be white and of course we know jews have a complicated identity managers of color. Many jews meese rothley were middle eastern origin huge number of persian jews in california and so unfortunately the curriculum just consider jesus whites and focused only on four groups of people of color that would be african. Americans latinos native americans and asian americans.