State officials released their latest attempt at an ethnic study curriculum for K-12 students on Friday, and it is clear that they hope fewer people will be offended this time.
In order to reassure critics of academic jargon, the new draft uses terms such as "Herstory" for the more traditional "history". In order to better appreciate diversity, teachers are encouraged to let the ethnic composition of the class influence learning issues.
However, the new version continues to focus on the four groups that have long been associated with ethnic studies: African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos / Latinos, and Native American and Indigenous Peoples. This aspect could reassure leaders in the field of ethnic studies who formed the first version but had less impact on the revision.
Overall, the latest design is a compromise attempt between strong, hard-to-solve passions. Ethnic studies are inherently and even intentionally political when it comes to questioning established norms. Still, it embodies widely supported goals, including empowering color students, empowering white students, and developing critical thinking and a historical perspective among all.
The urge for ethnic studies in California has recently gained momentum, due to Black Lives Matter's protests that followed George Floyd's murder in May in Minneapolis police custody. According to advocates, ethnic studies have the potential to reduce systemic and unconscious racism by educating tomorrow's citizens.
"Our schools have not always been a place where students can fully understand the contributions of the colored people and the diverse opportunities in history – and the present – that our country has exploited, marginalized and suppressed," said Supt. Tony Thurmond said in a statement on Friday. "At a time when people across the country are demanding a fairer and fairer society, we need to empower and equip students and educators to have these courageous conversations in the classroom."
Expect the ratings – positive and negative – to arrive for weeks.
The debate is not just for academics. This exemplary curriculum is designed to guide teaching at public K-12 schools across California. The State Board of Education should approve a final version by the end of March. And upcoming laws would make ethnic studies a requirement for graduation.
The latest version tries to weaken references that some view as excessively political or ideologically one-sided. There was particular criticism of elements that were considered anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, although there were Jews on both sides of the debate.
Among those who had reservations about the original curriculum were members of the California legislative Jewish caucus who claimed that the guide intentionally excluded Jews. The legislature accused the first version of failing to explain anti-Semitism while overly positive about the boycott, divestment, and sanction movement against Israel.
"The glossary contained 14 forms of bigotry and racism," said MP Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), who described the exclusion of anti-Semitism as blatant, obvious and offensive.
Anti-Semitism is now more clearly mentioned in the curriculum as a form of bigotry.
Critics are not entirely satisfied.
The draft has improved, but not enough, said Sarah Levin, executive director of Jews living in the Middle East and North Africa.
"These complementary materials ignore the stories of all of our coalition members, who together represent an estimated 60% of Californians from the Middle East and North Africa, while portraying the Arab-American experience as a monolith to represent the region," she said.
Another critic, Williamson Evers, also thought the improvement was insufficient.
"The proposed model curriculum is still full of leftist ideological propaganda and indoctrination," said Evers, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, an Oakland think tank. “It still violently feeds our children according to the socialist dogma that capitalism is oppression. It's almost all Berkeley and Little Bakersfield. "
The new design came almost a year after the California Department of Education deferred the original.
Officials came to the final iteration after reviewing thousands of public commentaries, convening experts, and conducting teacher focus groups.
In essence, the advocates say, ethnic studies teach students how to think critically about the world around them, "tell their own stories," "develop a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and inclusion," and engage "socially and politically." to eradicate the bigotry. Hate and racism based on the earlier model curriculum.
The model curriculum is intended to serve as a guideline rather than a mandate for schools that choose to study ethnic studies. In California, the number of these courses increases nationwide, and the number of primary school students almost doubles from 8,678 in 2013 to 2014 to 17,354 in 2016 to 17, according to the State Department of Education.
There appears to be broad legislative support for making ethnic studies a requirement for graduation. Some school systems have already taken this step.
Supporters of the original curriculum included 25,000 people who signed a petition to defend ethnic studies, an ethnic studies faculty at California State University and the University of California, and many Jewish groups.
R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, a Los Angeles teacher and co-chair of the advisory board who created the original curriculum, said that ethnic studies courses can address all students in a class and integrate other ethnic groups, "without decentering the color communities. ”
Cuauhtin said that the terminology of ethnic studies should remain in the curriculum. "Color students also need to be respected as young intellectuals and have access to academic concepts and disciplinary language," he said. "Each academic area has its own language, and yes, ethnic studies as well. Let us improve that and ensure that it is accessible, not deleted."
For example, "Herstory" is a term used to describe history written from a feminist or women's perspective. The term is also used when referring to counter narratives within history.
MP Jose Medina, the author of the bill, which would prescribe ethnic studies, is optimistic about how the end product will develop.
"The model curriculum is still a draft and is in the early stages of the submission process," said Medina (D-Riverside). "I trust this process and believe that in the end we will have a strong ethnic study framework that provides a solid structure for educators to build when they bring ethnic studies to life in their classrooms."
In a similar development, the Cal State Board of Trustees last month revised its general education curriculum for the first time in 40 years to create a requirement for ethnic studies and social justice for all undergraduate students.
The Faculty of Ethnic Studies and some trustees criticized the requirement as too broad and watered down the mission of ethnic studies and instead advocated a tighter requirement, which was proposed in a bill that is currently on its way to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk.