Public schools in California are already the most ethnically diverse in the United States, but in 2016, then Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed a law that mandated schools in the Golden State create a new ethnic studies program.
The first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum was released years later and contains language and omissions that have startled some in the education sphere. Elina Kaplan, described by Tablet Magazine as “a former high-tech manager who had just stepped down as senior VP of one of California’s largest affordable housing nonprofits,” originally agreed with the idea to adopt the new curriculum. But when the draft was released, Kaplan was shocked, according to Tablet:
In one sample lesson, she saw that a list of historic U.S. social movements—ones like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Criminal Justice Reform—also included the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (BDS), described as a “global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions.” Kaplan wondered why a foreign movement, whose target was another country, would be mischaracterized as a domestic social movement, and she was shocked that in a curriculum that would be taught to millions of students, BDS’s primary goal—the elimination of Israel—was not mentioned. Kaplan also saw that the 1948 Israel War of Independence was only referred to as the “Nakba”—“catastrophe” in Arabic—and Arabic verses included in the sample lessons were insulting and provocative to Jews.
Kaplan was also surprised to learn that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall were not included in a list of 154 “influential people of color,” but the murderous communist leader Pol Pot was.
The ESMC appeared to be based on critical race theory, a radical ideology that teaches students across the country that whites are inherently racist and that all other skin colors are victims of oppression.
“Ethnic Studies is about people whose cultures, hxrstories, and social positionalities are forever changing and evolving. Thus, Ethnic Studies also examines borders, borderlands, mixtures, hybridities, nepantlas, double consciousness, and reconfigured articulations,” the ESMC states.
As Tablet noted, the new curriculum would teach roughly 6 million children to “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism … and other forms of power and oppression.”
Tablet noted that while “classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and transphobia” were all listed as examples of oppression, anti-Semitism was not part of the list. “Jewish Americans were not even mentioned as a minority group,” the outlet reported.
Kaplan, a refugee from the Soviet Union, has vowed to oppose the ESMC, organizing a group called the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies to fight implementation of the draft.
“The reason I’m doing this—full time and not sleeping” she told Tablet, is because “this curriculum is pervasive and all-inclusive. It creates a means of understanding the world that does not allow questioning. And it’s a view that actively invites anti-Zionism into the classroom. It requires it. This is the greatest threat facing American Jews today.”
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