(September 11, 2020 / JNS) Eighty groups have called on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto a bill that would make ethnic-studies courses a high school graduation requirement.
California’s Department of Education released its recommendations to revise the state’s proposed ethnic-studies model curriculum at the end of July, as the original draft curriculum had come under fire for containing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel content, in addition to not addressing issues of anti-Semitism or including Jewish Americans.
The bill, AB-331, passed the state legislature last month. Newsom, a Democrat, is expected to sign it into law and must decide by Sept. 30 whether or not to do so.
The measure would require a one-semester ethnic-studies course as a California high school graduation requirement, starting with the 2029-30 school year, based on the ethnic-studies model curriculum developed by the state.
The bill was introduced in the spring of 2019 by State Assembly member Jose Medina, a Democrat who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee and is a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.
“Although the ESMC is still under revision by the state-appointed Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) and a final draft will not be approved by the State Board of Education until March 2021, there are numerous indications that the final draft will be no less problematic than the original one, which evoked outrage from tens of thousands of Californians, hundreds of organizations and dozens of state legislators,” wrote the letter’s signatories. “We are deeply concerned that classes taught using this curriculum will become vehicles for highly controversial, one-sided political advocacy and activism that will both subvert the educational mission of our schools and incite bigotry and harm against many students.”
The groups continued, “In addition, we are especially concerned that the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist ideological orientation of Critical Ethnic Studies—the version of ethnic studies explicitly articulated in the previous and current drafts of the ESMC and strongly embraced by a majority of IQC commissioners—will foster a toxic climate for Jewish and pro-Israel students throughout the state, and foment harm against them.”
The groups pointed out that although commitments were made by Newsom and State Board of Education to address the anti-Semitic nature of the original curriculum, new additions in the latest version will incite increased anti-Semitism.
For example, the latest draft “gives school districts the option of offering a UC A-G pre-approved course that includes a unit on ‘Irish and Jewish Americans: Redefining White and American,’ which requires students to write a paper ‘detailing certain events in American history that have led to Jewish and Irish Americans gaining racial privilege’ and asks students to ‘think critically about why and who is allowing this evolution in white identity.’ At a time when anti-Jewish sentiment, hostility and violence has reached truly alarming levels, indoctrinating students to view Jews as ‘white’ and ‘racially privileged’ is tantamount to putting an even larger target on the back of every Jewish student,” warned the groups.
It was also recently announced that an Arab-American studies lesson—the source of much of the blatant anti-Zionism and BDS promotion in the original draft—would be added back into the curriculum without the option of reviewing i before the public comment period ends.
The groups noted that many California citizens do not support the “politically charged, polarizing and divisive ‘critical’ ethnic-studies approach,” instead favoring a “multicultural approach that celebrates and unites,” and that many of California’s Jewish families are concerned that “critical ethnic studies’ overt anti-Jewish bias will serve to increase anti-Semitism.”
Newsom signed a bill into law last month instituting an ethnic-studies course requirement for matriculation from California State University, starting with the 2021-22 school year.
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