California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum: March, 2021 Analysis and Recommendations

1280px-Sacramento,-California---State-Ca

The California Department of Education (CDE) has posted the 4th draft of the state's Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), in preparation for a final vote by the State Board of Education (SBE) on March 18th. StandWithUs appreciates the CDE’s recommended edits which remove harmful material and further improve multiple aspects of the curriculum. That said, we remain concerned about multiple new and old problems, as well as the lack of transparency regarding the recently added Arab American Studies lesson. As such, StandWithUs has submitted the detailed analysis and recommendations, which follow the broad points below.

 

Broadly speaking, we are urging the SBE to:

 

  1. Fix numerous problems with the new Arab American Studies lesson and ensure full transparency before the ESMC is finalized.

  2. Move JIMENA’s lesson plan about antisemitism to the AAPI Studies section and approve all changes requested by JIMENA, including a more complete definition of antisemitism.

  3. Throughout the ESMC, reinforce the guidelines for critical thinking at the end of the “Outcomes” section of Chapter 1 and ensure the entire curriculum aligns with them. This includes acknowledging relevant criticisms of the Third World Liberation Front.

 

We are also urging the SBE to reject:

 

  1. Recommendations to exclude or edit down any definition of antisemitism to the point where it no longer reflects the experiences of Jewish students (i.e. by removing references to the fact that anti-Israel rhetoric can and does descend into hate speech against Jews far too often).

  2. Favoritism towards any single community above others in the Asian American Studies section or any other part of the curriculum.

  3. Demands that you remove language that encourages critical thinking instead of one sided political agendas in the curriculum. It is crucial to include guidelines that will help prevent hatred and bias in our schools, and repeat them multiple times throughout the ESMC.

 

Our detailed recommendations are below.

Crucial Edits Not Included in “Attachment 2: CDE-Recommended Edits

Preface, Page 7, Lines 112-115:

Current text: “Include information on the ethnic studies movement, specifically the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), and its significance in the establishment of ethnic studies as a discipline and work in promoting diversity and inclusion within higher education;”

 

Suggested change: “Include information on the ethnic studies movement, specifically the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF). Cover its significance in the establishment of ethnic studies as a discipline and its work in promoting diversity and inclusion within higher education, alongside criticisms of the movement for promoting antisemitism and celebrating oppressive dictators whose actions led many people from various ethnic groups to flee and establish communities in California;

 

  • The Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) rightly fought for the just cause of including communities of color in higher education, and at the same time espoused harmful ideas and ideologies in other areas. For example, one of the most prominent leaders of TWLF gave a speech in 1968 in which he, “attacked Jewish people as exploiters of the Negroes in America and South Africa and called for ‘victory to the Arab people’ over Israel,” according to a news report from that period. In another speech about TWLF, this same leader said, “it is up to us to make the revolution, to break the system, to smash it, shatter it, and destroy it, as brother Lenin said”. Vladimir Lenin was the founder of the Soviet Union, one of the most antisemitic and otherwise oppressive empires in history. TWLF also drew significant inspiration from Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and the Viet Cong, whose violence and oppression killed tens of millions of people and led many to flee and establish communities in California. The State Board of Education’s General Principles should be revised to ensure the ESMC educates about the TWLF accurately and in a way that aligns with the guidelines in Chapter 1 of the curriculum. Students should come away understanding that TWLF and other movements can promote good ideas about some issues and bad ideas about others.

Chapter 1, Page 9, Line 194 (end of the “History of Ethnic Studies” section):

 

Suggested change: insert new sentences:

 

“It is important to acknowledge that like all movements and institutions, TWLF and the academic field that grew out of its activism have flaws and are subject to criticism. TWLF has been criticized because its leadership at times promoted antisemitism and celebrated oppressive dictators like Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh, whose actions led many people from various ethnic groups to flee and establish communities in California. There have also been recent cases where ethnic studies scholars were criticized for promoting antisemitism or glorifying violence against civilians. Acknowledging this reality helps ensure accountability and progress in the field, and by no means erases the positive impact that many ethnic studies activists and scholars have made on academic institutions and society as a whole.”

  • Same reasons as the previous edit - students should come away understanding that TWLF and other movements can promote good ideas about some issues and bad ideas about others, in order to align with the guidelines in Chapter 1 of the ESMC.

 

Chapter 1, Page 13-14, Lines 273-281 (and everywhere else this language appears throughout the ESMC):

 

Current text:

 

“4. critique empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression;

5. challenge racist, bigoted, discriminatory, imperialist/colonial beliefs and practices on multiple levels; and”

6. connect ourselves to past and contemporary social movements that struggle for social justice and an equitable and democratic society; and conceptualize, imagine, and build new possibilities for a post-racist, post-systemic racism society that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance, critical hope, and radical healing.”

 

Suggested Change:

 

“4. critique empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism and other forms of power and oppression in the United States;

5. challenge racist, bigoted, discriminatory, hegemonic beliefs and practices on multiple levels; and”

6. connect ourselves to past and contemporary social movements that struggle for social justice and an equitable and democratic society; and conceptualize, imagine, and build new possibilities for a post-racist, post-systemic racism society that promotes collective narratives of critical hope and radical healing.”

 

  • Advocates of BDS have explicitly stated they will use “anti-colonialism” to bring their agenda into ethnic studies courses, despite the removal of such denigrating content from the ESMC. They will do this by falsely framing Israel’s existence as colonialism – a deeply bigoted approach that erases 3,000 years of Jewish history, identity, and rights in their ancestral home. By ensuring the ESMC focuses on the United States and removing language that is vague and open to misinterpretation, the edits above will help ensure the Guiding Values and Principles are not used to justify the promotion of hate and bias in the classroom.

 

  • Removing, or at the very least clearly defining, the term “transformative resistance” is critical. The term “resistance” can be interpreted in dramatically different ways, meaning anything from nonviolent protests against injustice to terrorist attacks against civilians. We have unfortunately seen this play out recently within the field of Ethnic Studies. At San Francisco State University, a program within the College of Ethnic Studies planned an event called, "Gender, Justice, & Resistance: A conversation with Leila Khaled." The purpose of the event was to glorify Khaled, who is a member of the PFLP, a U.S. designated terrorist group. She was personally responsible for a plane hijacking that nearly ended in the mass murder of 148 civilians, and frequently uses rhetoric about Israel that promotes violence and crosses the line into antisemitism. The organizer of the event, Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, is cited in Line 1906 of Chapter 6 of the ESMC.

 

Chapter 1, Page 19, Line 426:

Suggested change: insert new footnote #28 after “guidelines”:

 

“Source: 2017 the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Multidisciplinary Ethnic Studies Advisory Team, “Elements of a Balanced Curriculum,” https://achieve.lausd.net/cms/lib/CA01000043/Centricity/Domain/226/Balance%202017.pdf

 

  • The original source of the guidelines should be included as a resource for educators.

 

Chapter 3, Page 11, Line 238 (end of the “Democratizing the Classroom and Citizenship” section):

Suggested change: insert new sentences:

 

“At the same time, it is crucial that ethnic studies courses provide students with a depth of understanding in relation to ethnic and social issues, rather than promoting specific political activism, demonstration, protest or the like. Students who are considering volunteering, social justice activities, community engagement, etc., should consult with their school teacher/advisor and parents/guardians to evaluate that the activities are lawful, peaceful, and nonviolent.”

 

 

Chapter 3, Page 23, Lines 569-572:

Current text: “Additionally, various subfields have emerged out of Asian American Studies as a means of including groups that have been historically marginalized and understudied within the field. Arab American Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, Filipina/o/x Studies, and Pacific Islander Studies are just a few.”

 

Suggested change: “Additionally, various subfields have emerged out of Asian American Studies as a means of including groups that have been historically marginalized and understudied within the field. Arab American Studies, Jewish American Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, Filipina/o/x Studies, and Pacific Islander Studies are just a few.”

 

  • This language should be updated to match item #100 in the CDE-Recommended Edits, which includes Jewish American Studies in an almost identical context later in Chapter 3.

 

Chapter 3, Page 33, Line 844:

Suggested change: insert new sentences:

 

“Finally, they should align with the following guidelines:

 

  • In K–12 education it is imperative that students are exposed to multiple perspectives, taught to think critically, and form their own opinions.

  • Curriculum, resources, and materials should include a balance of topics, authors, and concepts, including primary and secondary sources that represent multiple, and sometimes opposing, points of view or perspectives.

  • Students should actively seek to understand, analyze and articulate multiple points of view, perspectives and cultures.

  • The instruction, material, or discussion must be appropriate to the age and maturity level of the students, and be a fair, balanced, and humanizing academic presentation of various points of view consistent with accepted standards of professional responsibility, rather than advocacy, personal opinion, bias or partisanship.”

 

  • It is essential that the guidelines at the end of the “Eight Outcomes of K-12 Ethnic Studies Teaching” section of Chapter 1 be reinforced consistently throughout the ESMC.

 

Chapter 3, Page 37, Lines 956-959:

Current text: “Historical examples include the population of Armenian Americans that settled in California in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide, the effect that World War II and the Holocaust had upon the American Jewish population, and the Southeast Asian Refugee Crisis.”

 

Suggested Change: “Historical examples include the population of Armenian Americans that settled in California in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide, the effect that the Holocaust, persecution in the Soviet Union, and oppression by Middle Eastern governments had on the American Jewish population, and the Southeast Asian Refugee Crisis.”

 

  • These lines should be broadened to be more representative of California’s diverse Jewish immigrant communities.

 

Chapter 3, Page 47, Line 1188:

Suggested change: insert new sentences:

 

“Each lesson should also align with the guidelines at the end of the “Eight Outcomes of K-12 Ethnic Studies Teaching” section in Chapter 1.”

 

  • It is essential that the guidelines at the end of the “Eight Outcomes of K-12 Ethnic Studies Teaching” section of Chapter 1 be framed as mandatory to follow, rather than optional.

 

Chapter 4, Page 9, Line 217:

Suggested change: insert new sentences:

 

“Finally, the following sample lessons should be implemented according to these critical guidelines:

 

  • In K–12 education it is imperative that students are exposed to multiple perspectives, taught to think critically, and form their own opinions.

  • Curriculum, resources, and materials should include a balance of topics, authors, and concepts, including primary and secondary sources that represent multiple, and sometimes opposing, points of view or perspectives.

  • Students should actively seek to understand, analyze and articulate multiple points of view, perspectives and cultures.

  • The instruction, material, or discussion must be appropriate to the age and maturity level of the students, and be a fair, balanced, and humanizing academic presentation of various points of view consistent with accepted standards of professional responsibility, rather than advocacy, personal opinion, bias or partisanship.”

 

  • It is essential that the guidelines at the end of the “Eight Outcomes of K-12 Ethnic Studies Teaching” section of Chapter 1 be reinforced consistently throughout the ESMC.

 

Chapter 4 Page 361, Lines 7708-7710:

Current text: “Contrary to popular representation, not all Muslims are Arabs, and not all Arabs––or Arab Americans––are Muslim. Many Arab countries include Christian communities, and some have also had Jewish communities.”

Suggested Change: “Contrary to popular representation, not all Muslims are Arabs, and not all Arabs––or Arab Americans––are Muslim (many are Christian, for example). Furthermore, numerous minority communities have come to the United States from Arab countries and may not identify as Arab (i.e. Coptic Christians, Mizrahi Jews, Kurds, and many more).

 

  • Many Jews, Christians, and others who live or have lived in Arab countries do not identify as Arab. For example, many Jews who fled or were expelled from these nations identify as Mizrahi and/or Sephardic Jews, rather than Arabs or Arab Jews. Similarly, many Coptic Christians have an identity that is distinct from the Arab majority in Egypt. Many non-Arab minority groups have faced systemic discrimination and efforts to erase their cultures and identities by Arab governments, so this is an especially important change to make in the context of an ethnic studies curriculum. 

 

Chapter 4, Page 363, Lines 7765-7767:

Current text: “It has also been interwoven at times with white nationalism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination.”

 

Suggested Change: “It has also been interwoven at times with white nationalism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination across the political spectrum.”

 

  • The ESMC should clearly acknowledge that antisemitism comes from across the political spectrum.

 

Chapter 4, Page 377, Lines 8097-8108:

Current text: “According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the world’s leading organization committed to stopping the defamation of the Jewish people antisemitism is, “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.”

 

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the only intergovernmental organization mandated to focus solely on Holocaust-related issues, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.””

 

Suggested Change: “According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the world’s leading organization committed to stopping the defamation of the Jewish people antisemitism is, “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.” https://www.adl.org/anti-semitism

 

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the only intergovernmental organization mandated to focus solely on Holocaust-related issues, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/working-definition-antisemitism

 

  • Links to the two definitions of antisemitism should be added to ensure educators have easy access to additional information and context.

 

Chapter 4, Page 402, Lines 8621-8622:

Current text: “Hatred, discrimination, fear, and prejudice against Jews based on stereotypes and myths.”

 

Suggested Change: “Hatred, discrimination, fear, and prejudice against Jews based on stereotypes and myths that target their ethnicity, culture, religion, traditions, right to self-determination, or connection to the State of Israel.

 

  • The definition of antisemitism that was originally submitted should be included in full as part of this lesson plan. The current version omits crucial context that is essential for students to fully understand antisemitism.