DOZENS OF ORGS: VETO AB 331 - A BILL MAKING INHERENTLY-ANTI-SEMITIC ‘CRITICAL’ ETHNIC STUDIES COURSES A H.S. REQUIREMENT - OR ESTABLISH SAFEGUARDS TO PREVENT BIGOTRY
Contact: Nicole Rosen
Santa Cruz, CA, September 10, 2020 – Eighty organizations today demanded California Governor Gavin Newsom veto a bill that will require all California high school students take a course in ‘critical’ ethnic studies, a field known to promote political beliefs that breed anti-Semitism. If Newsom insists on signing the bill, the organizations urged him to fix the underlying problem by requesting that lawmakers establish safeguards to prevent teachers from using their classrooms to politically indoctrinate students.
The bill awaiting Newsom’s signature, AB 331, will mandate that high school students take a course based on the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), a curriculum currently being developed in California whose first draft was met with enormous opposition from dozens of California lawmakers, nearly 20,000 California citizens, and almost all of the groups on today’s letter.
“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. 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. 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,” warned the signatories.
The groups pointed out that although commitments were made by the Governor 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. In addition, it was 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 review before the public comment period ends.
The groups 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.”
“Our organizations urge you to veto AB 331, the bill making an ethnic studies course based on the AB 2016-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) a graduation requirement for all CA high school students,” demanded the groups. “If, however, despite the evidence presented below you choose to sign this bill into law, we strongly urge you to include in your signing message a recommendation to state lawmakers to establish legislation in the CA Education Code to ensure that state-approved instructional materials are free from partisan or political biases, and that K-12 teachers are prohibited from using their classrooms for the purpose of one-sided partisan advocacy or activism.”
Throughout their correspondence on this matter and again in their letter today, the organizations have repeatedly noted an important distinction between the broad 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 ESMC is modeled after. This narrow understanding of ethnic studies has a much more limited focus, and, as a central part of its disciplinary mission, promotes “political beliefs and political activism” the organizations note are antithetical to an educational setting and pose a threat to Jewish students.
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.