Jews praise Calif. education board's decision to rewrite curriculum

After initial draft release, there was a major outcry by Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, as well as several other minority groups over its bias

By
August 18, 2019 19:06
2 minute read.
A student exits a bus as he arrives at Venice High School in Los Angeles, California

A student exits a bus as he arrives at Venice High School in Los Angeles, California. (photo credit: JONATHAN ALCORN/REUTERS)

Jewish and pro-Israel organizations have lauded a decision by the California State Board of Education to rewrite the initial draft of the Ethnic Studies curriculum.


The board rejected the proposed draft to be taught in state schools, saying that it fell “short and needs to be substantially redesigned. A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state... The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.

“Following the Instructional Quality Commission’s review and response to all public comments, a new draft will be developed for State Board of Education review and potential approval. The board will ultimately adopt an ethnic studies model curriculum that aligns to California’s values.”

After the initial draft’s release, there was a major outcry by Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, as well as several other minority groups. Letters and a campaign were started, with many stating that the proposed curriculum “omits the Jewish experience and our country’s history of antisemitism,” and has “an anti-Israel bias.”

Following the announcement that the current draft of the curriculum had been rejected, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a brief statement on Twitter that this was a “victory for all Californians and a defeat for antisemites and extremists. [We are] grateful to [the] elected officials who intervened,” adding that the Wiesenthal Center is “ready to help revise curriculum.”

In a statement on Facebook, the Israeli American Council, which headed up the campaign and petition against the curriculum, thanked “our vibrant and active community for mobilizing and sending thousands of letters and emails to the commission. We thank the more than 14,000 who signed our petition and joined this important cause.”

CEO of StandWithUs Roz Rothstein issued a statement on Twitter, saying “The pro-Israel community and people of good will stood together, united against a hateful, biased curriculum and demanded change. Our voices were heard. We look forward to seeing a curriculum that is inclusive, and that we can all feel comfortable with.”

The AMCHA Initiative, an NGO that combats antisemitism on college and university campuses, said it was “pleased the State Board of Education has recognized the severe problems with this curriculum and agreed to go back to the drawing board.”

AMCHA director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin said, however, that “merely revamping the curriculum is like going after the symptoms while ignoring the underlying illness. The State Board of Education must establish overall safeguards to ensure that abusive and unconscionable attempts to hijack an educational curriculum in order to indoctrinate students with political, religious and ethnic hate are never attempted again. If the State Board of Education does not do this, it is imperative that our state’s elected leaders introduce legislation to right this wrong and protect our students.”

Following concerns that the original curriculum – intended to be used in all California public high schools – was blatantly antisemitic and anti-Israel, “an 83-group coalition, organized by AMCHA Initiative, called on the California Education Department last week to establish safeguards to prevent any and all future attempts to use educational curricula to indoctrinate students with a biased, inaccurate and hateful agenda.”


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