Scope of the Problem
Ethnic studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the history and experiences of different racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., particularly people of color and other historically marginalized groups. It focuses on on Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American communities.
In 2016, California state legislators passed a bill, AB 2016, mandating that the state’s Department of Education (CDE) develop a model ethnic studies curriculum for use in high school ethnic studies courses. The bill stated that the goal of such courses was to prepare students as global citizens with an understanding for the contributions of multiple cultures.
In June of 2019, the first draft of the model curriculum was released proving it was rooted in ideologies that divide society into oppressed and oppressor groups based primarily on class and race. Various groups claimed the draft to be a far left narrative full of anti-Western and pro-Marxist ideology which established divisiveness and equates capitalism with racism. In addition, it included antisemitic and anti-Israel content alongside one-sided political narratives.
Ethnic Studies Curriculum
Since 2016, the California Board of Education has been in the process of including Ethnic Studies in K-12 school curriculum and establishing the subject as a requirement for all California public high school students.
The first draft, released in 2019, included content opposed by many in the Jewish community, including references to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and promoted offensive antisemitic and anti-Israel biases.
The second draft of the curriculum, released in the summer of 2020, removed the BDS reference but still contained content that Jewish groups found problematic. That included a message that Jews were beneficiaries of white privilege and the absence of a definition of antisemitism and a lesson plan on Mizrahi Jewry.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring all California State University undergraduates to take ethnic studies. The bill signed by Newsom, AB 1460, requires all CSU undergraduates to take at least one three-unit course in ethnic studies, defined as having a focus on African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino/a Americans and Native Americans.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 101, an education bill that will require every student at a public high school or charter school in the state to take an ethnic studies course. It includes a one-semester ethnic studies course in high school diploma requirements, beginning with students graduating in the 2029-30 school year.
Zionism & Ethnic Studies
The 2019 draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum included antisemitic and anti-Israel content, such as:
Portraying Jews as the oppressors;
Including an anti-Semitic trope and an anti-Israel lesson plan advocating the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement;
Promoting materials that denounce Zionism as white supremacy and Israel as a “white,” “western” and “colonialist settler” state;
Stating that attacking the Jewish state is not antisemitic because Judaism and Zionism are entirely ‘distinct.”