A proposed ethnic-studies curriculum developed for California public high schools has ignited outrage over its shabby treatment of Jewish Americans and Israel, leading to fears that students could soon receive a crash course in anti-Semitism.
The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum contains sample course outlines on a broad array of minority groups, including Arab Americans — but not Jewish Americans — while promoting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and its supporters, including Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour.
The California Board of Education is accepting comments on the draft curriculum until Aug. 15, and already the California Legislative Jewish Caucus has condemned the proposal's "anti-Jewish bias," saying it would "institutionalize the teaching of antisemitic stereotypes in our public schools."
"There is something about every bigotry under the sun, like racism and sexism and ableism and Islamophobia, but nary a word about anti-Semitism," said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the Amcha Initiative. "And this at a time when anti-Semitism makes up more than half of the hate crimes in America directed against religious groups."
Her organization, which fights anti-Semitism, spearheaded an Aug. 7 letter from 83 groups to the board denouncing the "shocking omission of information about American Jews and anti-Semitism, its use of classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, and its blatant anti-Israel bias."
The objections to the curriculum don't end there. The 300-page "sample course models" feature jabs at President Trump, capitalism, "US imperialism," police, "cis-heteropatriarchy," and suggest studying such "significant figures" as convicted cop killers Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
"Teaching high school students that capitalism is oppression, without examining the outcomes of some of history's other paths, is not education. It is leftist propaganda," said the Orange County Register in an Aug. 8 editorial urging the board to scrap the draft. "The entire curriculum is seething with propaganda."
Assignments include writing a song about how "you have experienced hegemony in your own life," which "allows students to explore how Hip-hop can be used to resist oppression and counter hegemonic beliefs perpetuated through the media."
Said one commenter on CalMatters: "After reading this latest school curriculum twist to the left, it makes the decision much easier to go with charter schools and private education."
The proposed curriculum was designed as a model for schools that opt to offer courses in ethnic studies, but such classes may soon become mandatory.
In the process of clearing the final legislative hurdles is Assembly Bill 331, introduced by Assemblymember Jose Medina, which would require students to take at least one course in ethnic studies before graduation.
"AB 331 is extremely dangerous at this point because it says not only is this the curriculum that should be used, but that every high school student would be required to take a course in ethnic studies based on this model curriculum," said Ms. Rossman-Benjamin. "This is not voluntary."
Ironically, Mr. Medina, a Democrat, is one of the 16 members of the Jewish Caucus who signed the June 29 letter condemning the model curriculum, leading to speculation that lawmakers were unaware of its political slant until recently.
"This is not some big push from California," Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel told the Jewish News Syndicate. "This is about a small group of people who drafted this curriculum, and we're going to get it fixed."
A former ethnic-studies teacher, Mr. Medina also co-sponsored a 2018 bill to require the subject for high schoolers as part of a pilot program, but the measure was vetoed in October by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said he worried about imposing another requirement for graduation.
"Ethnic Studies provide students an opportunity to learn about histories outside of the Euro-centric teachings most prominent in our schools," said Mr. Medina in a Jan. 31 statement. "At a time when the national climate drives divisiveness and fear of otherness, Ethnic Studies can play a critical role in increasing awareness and understanding."
As far as Jewish advocates are concerned, however, this isn't the way to do it.
The "Arab American Studies Course Outline" includes sample topics such as the BDS movement and "significant figures" who support BDS, including Ms. Sarsour and Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
The curriculum includes rap lyrics from Shadia Mansour that include, "Get out Yankees from Latin America/French, English and Dutch/I love you Free Palestine," and, "For every free political prisoner, an Israeli colony is expanded/For each greeting, a thousand houses were demolished/They use the press so they can manufacture."
The Legislative Jewish Caucus described the last lyric as "a classic antisemitic trope about Jewish control of the media."
The curriculum was written by an 18-member panel appointed by the state board of college and secondary educators, about 25% of whom have "publicly expressed animus towards Israel and its supporters," said the AMCHA letter.
The Washington Times has reached out to several members of the Model Curriculum Advisory Committee.
Foes have called for the draft to be shredded and re-written, but Jewish groups also said the board needs to implement safeguards to ensure that such state-sponsored drafts are never again used "as tools of political indoctrination that promote hatred."
"Their approach is to divide the world between oppressed and oppressor, and to talk about the virtue of fighting the oppressor and all the ways we need to fight the oppressor," Ms. Rossman-Benjamin said. "But who is the oppressor? It's whoever the drafters decide that it is, right? And they've decided the oppressor is the Jew and Israel."