AMCHA HAILS NEWSOM’S VETO OF AB 331, A BILL THAT WOULD HAVE MADE INHERENTLY ANTI-SEMITIC ‘CRITICAL’ ETHNIC STUDIES COURSES A H.S. REQUIREMENT
AMCHA Coordinated a Letter from 80 Orgs Demanding Newsom Take This Action
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, October 1, 2020 – AMCHA Initiative Director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, today issued the following statement in response to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto:
“We applaud Governor Newsom for keeping politics and anti-Semitism out of an educational curriculum. There is an important distinction between the broad and worthy field of ethnic studies, with its goal of understanding and celebrating the contributions of California’s and our nation’s diversity, and the narrow field of “Critical Ethnic Studies” that the developing California curriculum is modeled after. The mission of this narrow understanding of ethnic studies is to promote political beliefs and political activism that are antithetical to the educational setting, inherently anti-Semitic and pose a dangerous threat to Jewish students. We commend the Governor for recognizing this important distinction, and we hope that moving forward, the state legislature will take steps to ensure that state approved instructional materials and K-12 classrooms are free from political bias and not used to advance political causes.”
Earlier this month, AMCHA organized a letter from 80 organizations that urged Newsom to veto AB 331, a bill that would have mandated high school students take a course based on the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), a curriculum currently being developed in California. Rossman-Benjamin also recently published an op-ed in the Jewish Journal calling for this veto.
The letter and op-ed pointed out that although commitments were made by the Governor and the Department of Education to address the anti-Semitic nature of the first draft curriculum, new additions in the latest version pose serious threats to Jewish students. For example, as noted in the letter, 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. In addition, an Arab American Studies lesson, the source of much of the blatant anti-Zionism and BDS promotion in the original draft, was recently added back into the curriculum, without the option of review before the public comment period ends.
The groups, in their letter, also 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.”
AMCHA monitors 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 3,500 anti-Semitic incidents since 2015. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.