March 18, 2021 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is disappointed by the California State Board of Education’s adoption today of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). After a two-year, highly contentious process, this fourth and final version of the curriculum is fundamentally flawed.
AJC has been supportive of the efforts in California to develop an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). K-12 students should be able to learn the role of ethnicity, race, and religion in the life of all the state’s residents and their diverse communities. Quality ethnic studies courses can help to meaningfully address issues of racial injustice and strengthen our democracy.
AJC advocated strenuously for improvements both to the content and process that preceded today’s vote. In coalition with Armenian, Assyrian, Greek, Hindu, and Korean advocacy organizations, AJC successfully advocated for the curriculum to represent California’s rich diversity and illuminate its multiple perspectives more fully. AJC is encouraged that the histories of African Americans, Asians, Latinx, Native Americans, Arabs, Jews, and many others will be explored in California classrooms.
Additional AJC recommendations are included in the final, approved model curriculum. Significantly, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism is integrated into the curriculum. Two sample Jewish lesson plans are also included, acknowledging the diversity of the Jewish community. And the antisemitic material pervasive in the first draft was removed.
Revisions of curriculum were a salve but ultimately not curative of the fundamental flaws at the heart of the original curriculum, much of which represented a rigid ideological (but sharply contested) world view.
For the state with the largest public school system in the nation, this ESMC, which will potentially serve as a model for other states, falls short, and vigilance will be needed as it is introduced into classrooms.