Disastrous California curriculum

Unfortunately, the contents of the current draft are wholly inadequate at achieving a balance of ideas and representing a diversity of ethnic groups.

By NOAH PHILLIPS
August 17, 2019 19:26
3 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)

California, America’s most populous state, has unveiled a widely criticized draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum for public schools. The proposed curriculum remains in a public-feedback period until August 15th, when its content will be finalized.

Unfortunately, the contents of the current draft are wholly inadequate at achieving a balance of ideas and representing a diversity of ethnic groups. Instead, it promotes markedly politicized ideologies at the expense of Jewish and Israeli students.

The curriculum firmly espouses an unmistakably slanted perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, beginning with a hyper-partisan and inaccurate characterization of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. The glossary for the curriculum calls BDS “a global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions. Inspired by tactics employed during the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian-led movement calls for the boycott, divestment, and sanctioning of the Israeli government until it complies with International law.”

In fact, the BDS movement rejects the concept of compromise with a Jewish state under any circumstance, marginalizing Jewish and Israeli students in the process. Prominent endorsers of BDS regularly harbor and overtly condone antisemitic ideology. Founder Omar Barghouti has repeatedly hailed the demise of the potential for a two-state solution in favor of a sole Palestinian state. “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” Barghouti has also made calls to “armed resistance” against Israelis and, in true antisemitic revisionist fashion, denied the historical suffering of Jews in the Middle East altogether, stating, “There were no pogroms. There was no persecution.” BDS in actuality is a far cry from the favorable language utilized by the draft curriculum.

Likewise, the draft curriculum asserts that the State of Israel governs by imposing “apartheid conditions” on the Palestinians, ignoring the reality that Israel is a multicultural democracy, while the Palestinians are governed by their own leaders and do not want to be part of a Jewish state. Any characterization of Israel as employing apartheid policies is naive at best and purposefully slanderous at worst. What BDS activists often condemn as “apartheid” policies are, in reality, precautionary measures by Israel necessary and proportionate to the terrorist activities of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the monetary incentivizing of terrorist activities ($360 million annually, 7% of the Palestinian Authority gross domestic product) by the PA in the West Bank.

Notable as well in the curriculum are its significant omissions. With the express purpose of the proposal being to “reflect the pupil demographics in their communities” and “promote self and collective empowerment,” it would seem obvious that a prominent aspect of the curriculum should be the study of the most targeted religious ethnic minority in California: Jews. In 2018, Jews accounted for nearly 63% of California’s religious hate crimes, dwarfing by comparison the second-most persecuted religious group, Muslims at 14%. Nonetheless, the curriculum does little to support the study of Jewish culture and history as a sizable sect of the ethnic composition of the state. In fact, two of the three mentions of “Jews” in the provided sample curriculum are in reference to a section succinctly dubbed “Arab Stereotypes,” which draw heavy implications that Jews perpetuate stereotypes and slurs against both Arab men and Palestinians, painting Jews as a collective aggressor targeting minorities rather than being a targeted minority themselves.

The curriculum, purportedly devised to serve the interests of all ethnic minorities that experience oppression and minimal representation, fails tremendously in practice. With only passing references acknowledging the existence of “antisemitism,” and the demonization of Jews and Israel, the proposal’s achievements run starkly counter to such aspirations. As the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum nears the conclusion of the final stages prior to its official implementation, the fundamental flaws and exclusion of Jewish perspectives discredit the curriculum altogether.

To issue feedback to the California Department of Education on the proposed curriculum, download the Public Input Template available on the California Department of Education website and email the completed form to ethnicstudies@cde.ca.gov.

The writer is the 2019-2020 StandWithUs high school intern. He resides in New York. Follow him: @noahaphilli.


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