Santa Cruz, CA, August 7 – Appalled and gravely concerned that a proposed curriculum, intended to be used in all California public high schools, is blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, 83 organizations demand that, before even fixing the curriculum, the California Department of Education establish safeguards that prevent any and all future attempts to use educational curricula to indoctrinate students with a biased, inaccurate and hateful agenda.
"Our 83 civil rights, human rights, religious and education organizations are deeply troubled by the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC)," wrote the groups in the letter organized by AMCHA Initiative, for its "omission of information about American Jews and anti-Semitism, its use of classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, and its blatant anti-Israel bias." The groups go further, however, and point out that the proposed curriculum "highlight[s] a much deeper and more grave problem – the fact that an educational curriculum can be hijacked by those pushing a political and hateful agenda."
While "the ESMC must be drastically revised or completely re-written," state the groups, that is not enough. "[U]nless and until safeguards are put in place for ensuring that its drafters will not be permitted to use the model curriculum to promote political, ethnic or religious enmity towards any groups, or to weaponize high school students to take action based on such enmity, we fear that whatever model curriculum is adopted by the Instructional Quality Commission [of the California Department of Education] will have an enormously negative impact on the state's high schools, colleges and universities for years to come." The groups urged the California Board of Education to "immediately address this consequential problem by establishing safeguards for ensuring that all state-sponsored curricula and other instructional materials may never be created or used as tools of political indoctrination that promote hatred and incite harm against any race, religion, group or individual."
Last week, the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) broke the story exposing the proposed ethnic-studies curriculum. The article noted in detail how the curriculum is being widely condemned as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel by Jewish and pro-Israel groups and California lawmakers. As AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS, "The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum is deeply troubling – not only for its shocking omission of any mention of Jewish Americans or anti-Semitism or its blatant anti-Israel bias and praise of BDS, but for its clear attempt to politically indoctrinate students to adopt the view that Israel and its Jewish supporters are part of 'interlocking systems of oppression and privilege' that must be fought with 'direct action' and 'resistance.'" Sixteen members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and dozens of organizations, including AMCHA, JCRC, ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, AJC, AEN, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and Club Z, have raised alarms over the proposed curriculum.
As noted in the JNS article, 25% of the Model Curriculum Advisory Committee tasked with developing the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum is made up of academics who have publicly aired their anti-Israel views and bias. "There is no doubt that these committee members have unconscionably used the state-mandated curriculum as a tool for politically indoctrinating California's high school students with anti-Israel propaganda and encouraging them to engage in political activism against the Jewish state," highlighted the groups in their letter.
The proposed curriculum is the result of a 2016 law calling for the creation of a model ethnic-studies curriculum by the state's board of education. It is currently going through public comment period. As part of a resolution currently moving through the California legislature, AB-331, all California high school students will be required to take at least one course in ethnic studies to graduate.
From JNS' reporting, here is what is being said about the curriculum:
CA Legislative Jewish Caucus in a letter to the Department of Education: We "cannot support a curriculum that erases the American Jewish experience, fails to discuss anti-Semitism, reinforces negative stereotypes about Jews, singles out Israel for criticism and would institutionalize the teaching of anti-Semitic stereotypes in our public schools."
JCRC's Jeremy Russell: "We have concerns that include the curriculum's omission both of Jews as an ethnic group and of anti-Semitism as a concept. We are also concerned by the curriculum's inclusion of the divisive BDS movement, which is inconsistent with the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Guidelines to 'create space for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality or citizenship, to learn different perspectives.'"
ADL's Seth Brysk: "This is nothing more than an attempt by fringe activists to highjack the model ethnic-studies curriculum for California high schools in the service of radical political goals."
Simon Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Abraham Cooper: If this curriculum is approved it would "be a disaster for all Jews in California."
StandWithUs' Roz Rothstein: "It is outrageous that an effort to teach students about marginalized communities is being used to promote a campaign of hate against Israel."
AJC's Dganit Abramoff: "The proposed mandatory ethnic-studies curriculum inexplicably snubs Jews and other ethnic groups as it falls woefully short on inclusiveness of California's diverse population."
Considerable evidence indicates that college campuses with anti-Zionist expression and activity, including the promotion of BDS, are three times more likely to host incidents targeting Jewish students for harm, including acts of harassment, vandalism and assault. "Implementation of a model curriculum that includes the promulgation of such political, ethnic or religious hatred can't help but threaten the safety and wellbeing of Jewish and pro-Israel high school students in the state," and result in a spike in the already "alarming number of anti-Zionist-motivated acts of aggression" on college campuses "with the influx of the state's high school graduates," noted the groups in their letter today.
AMCHA monitors 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 2,500 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.