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StandWithUs Deeply Concerned About Last Minute Change to Ethnic Studies Curriculum

Updated: Aug 19, 2020


(Sacramento, CA -- August 13th, 2020) -- StandWithUs is deeply concerned about a last minute change to the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). The night before an Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) meeting on August 13th, the California Department of Education (CDE) announced that a sample lesson narrowly focused on Arab Americans would be added. This change occurred with no transparency and disregarded calls by many Middle Eastern communities to be included alongside Arab Americans.

"We unequivocally support JIMENA's call for a broader Middle Eastern American studies unit to be added to the ESMC," said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs. "The curriculum should be inclusive of all Middle Eastern communities in California, including Jews, Iranians, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Coptic Christians, and others. There is no educational or moral justification for favoring one of these communities over others in the curriculum."

The first draft of the ESMC was released in July, 2019. It was widely criticized for promoting hate and one-sided narratives against Jews and Israel, excluding Jews and many other ethnic groups, and "imposing predigested political views on students". In response to a massive wave of critical feedback from concerned Californians - much of it mobilized by StandWithUs and our partners - the CDE committed to making significant revisions to the curriculum. In the months that followed, some groups launched a deeply misleading campaign to preserve the deeply flawed first draft.

The new draft of the ESMC was released on July 31, 2020. StandWithUs and numerous partner organizations expressed appreciation for positive revisions, and called for further changes to be made. While the IQC discussed a number of these concerns during their August 13th meeting, they were left unresolved.

Public comment during the IQC meeting featured many Jewish high school students and community members from diverse backgrounds asking for the curriculum to better represent them. They also called for revisions to ensure ethnic studies courses promote critical thinking rather than hateful or one-sided political agendas. Unfortunately, there were also a number of speakers who made misleading and even slanderous claims about Jews who expressed concerns about the ESMC.

"I was so proud to hear high school students share their stories and call for a more inclusive curriculum," said Kate Chavez, Senior Southwest High School Coordinator at StandWithUs.

"That said, it was disturbing to hear their concerns about antisemitism distorted or dismissed by anti-Israel extremists who are seeking to exploit the ESMC for political gain. Not a single speaker advocated for Arabs or Palestinians to be excluded. What they called for was including Jews, Kurds, Iranians, and others, while ensuring the ESMC is not used to promote hateful agendas like BDS." The IQC will reportedly post the curriculum on September 1st to allow for 30 days of feedback from the public. As such, StandWithUs will continue working with our partners to advocate for crucial revisions to the ESMC.

About StandWithUs

StandWithUs (SWU) is an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism.

Through university fellowships, high school internships, middle school curricula, conferences, materials, social media, educational films and missions to Israel, StandWithUs supports people around the world who want to educate their schools and communities about Israel.

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has chapters and programs on 5 continents, including the U.S., Israel, UK, Canada, South Africa and Brazil.

For the last 7 years, SWU has consistently received the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator (4 stars) and Guidestar (Platinum).


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