Why California’s proposed curriculum is clearly problematic

I cannot believe that we have to say this, but regardless of your politics, antisemitism is wrong, and it should not be tolerated, let alone taught.

August 16, 2019 00:35
3 minute read.
Why California’s proposed curriculum is clearly problematic

BAD EDUCATION in California?. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 The California Department of Education is currently reviewing a new proposed Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) that is not just anti-Israel but downright antisemitic by any meaningful definition. This includes the standard definition used by the federal government; the 31 governments that are members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance; all 50 countries, except for Russia, that make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; and the governments of the United Kingdom, Romania, Austria, Germany and Bulgaria.

The proposed curriculum, which was theoretically designed to “aid in the eradication of bigotry, hate and racism,” instead signals that some forms of bigotry are to be accepted without question.
I cannot believe that we have to say this, but regardless of your politics, antisemitism is wrong, and it should not be tolerated, let alone taught.

Here are the facts:

The ESMC is correctly concerned with the importance of studying hate crimes, bias, prejudice and discrimination, but astonishingly, it completely omits the concept of antisemitism. For the record, according to a recent FBI report, the majority of religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States are committed against Jewish people. In fact, since the FBI began reporting these statistics in 1993, there has not been a single year in which Jewish people were not the victims of the majority of religiously motivated hate crimes. 

Far from teaching about the evils of antisemitism, the curriculum actually singles out Jews and the lone Jewish state for special condemnation. Among many other things, it refers to Israel as an apartheid regime without even attempting to give any evidence, support or context for that vicious slander. It refers to the creation of Israel by the Palestinian term nakba (disaster) without mentioning that there might be another side to that story. It promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, an international effort whose ultimate goal is to delegitimize and destabilize the State of Israel.

It should be noted that BDS has been a significant factor in the recent trend of antisemitic incidents both globally and domestically, and has been repeatedly and demonstrably linked to radical terrorist groups.

THIS IS not a partisan issue; in 2016 both the Republican and Democratic platforms included language disavowing BDS, and California itself has an anti-BDS law that says the government will not do business with those who engage in this form of discriminatory behavior. The ESMC however sees nothing problematic worth mentioning.

The proposed curriculum even throws in some classic antisemitic tropes for good measure, including song lyrics about Jews controlling the media and manipulating the public.

Aside from the fact that the curriculum as it stands is antithetical to its own stated purpose of eradicating bigotry, it is also unlawful and potentially dangerous. It is unlawful because it violates the California Education Code’s multiple prohibitions on discrimination and prejudice, as well as the specific requirement that when adopting instructional materials for use in schools, governing boards include only materials that accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society, including the contributions of different ethnic groups. Needless to say, in its cartoonishly antisemitic depiction of Jews as manipulative aggressors, the contributions of the Jewish people in the United States and specifically California are entirely absent.

The curriculum is dangerous because antisemitism is on the rise in the United States of America, and that harsh reality has affected the Jewish community in profound ways ranging from economic and cultural boycotts based on American Jews’ perceived loyalty to Israel, all the way to Jewish people being the group with the highest percentage of hate crimes perpetrated against them. California now seeks to institutionalize and encourage this hatred, with the state’s imprimatur.

The fight against antisemitism has nothing to do with any notion of Jewish exceptionality, and everything to with good old-fashioned American equality. Hatred and discrimination, including subtle forms of hatred that masquerade as school curricula, ultimately lead to violence and even death, just like they did in Poway, California, this past April, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this past October. Let us pray that the state learns that lesson and correct its curriculum before it is too late.

The writer is special counsel for international affairs at the American Center for Law and Justice.

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