American Jewish Committee cautioned Governor Gavin Newsom and top state education officials about last-minute additions before a scheduled hearing on the revised model ethnic studies curriculum.

“We were surprised and disappointed to see last night’s posting by the California Department of Education (CDE), announcing new recommendations literally on the eve of a long delayed public hearing to review revisions to the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) by the State’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC).The first draft of the Model Curriculum was laden with material highly objectionable to the California Jewish Community,” wrote Serena Eisenberg, Director of AJC Northern California, and Richard Hirschhaut, Director of AJC Los Angeles, in a letter to Governor Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Chief Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Gregson, and members of the Instructional Quality Commission.

Governor Newsom and CDE officials criticized the first draft of the controversial ethnic studies curriculum when it was released a year ago, and they vowed that a new draft would be prepared that addresses key concerns of the Jewish community.

The AJC letter pointed out that the last minute addition included a recommendation to include a sample lesson on Arab Americans, but no content was provided in advance of the meeting, and the CDE said only it would be available “in the near future,” in other words, after today’s hearing.

While AJC has consistently welcomed the inclusion of a lesson plan focusing on Arab Americans and their experience of Islamophobia in California, consistent with the objective of AB 2016 to prepare pupils “with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures,” the Jewish advocacy organization strongly objects to the effort to short-circuit ordinary procedure.

In several letters to, and meetings with, state educational officials over the past year, AJC has repeatedly called for a transparent process and “a broadly inclusive, pluralistic model curriculum that, as promised repeatedly, will not promote antisemitic biases in the classroom.” wrote Eisenberg and Hirschhaut.

“We remain perplexed why the same considerations that call for inclusion of the Arab American experience would not call for the inclusion of the Jewish American experience and lessons about the dramatically rising antisemitism in California, especially when a significant portion of Jewish Californians are of Middle Eastern and North African descent,” states the AJC letter.

“This latest action of CDE is, unfortunately, reminiscent of the CDE’s procedural irregularities over the past year and raises reasonable concerns that new promises it makes will be broken,” wrote Eisenberg and Hirschhaut.

“While we look forward to the adoption and implementation of an ethnic studies curriculum, in light of the reasonable grounds for insecurity raised by last night’s actions, AJC cannot and will not support the Model Curriculum until the final version emerges after the full public comment period is complete,” wrote Eisenberg and Hirschhaut.

“Minorities, especially people of color, have waited far too long to have their stories told, taught, and ingrained into the fabric of our public school curriculum.  Now more than ever, we hope to see a high-quality ethnic studies course in public schools as a way to empower students, build understanding, and eradicate racism.”

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