(July 1, 2021 / JNS) Last week, the California Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) board of directors voted unanimously to approve a new $ 40 million ethnic studies policy. In its press release, the district noted, “The policy and efforts to develop an ethnic studies framework are informed and will include critical race theory and the model liberated ethnic studies curriculum.” This is exactly what the Jewish community feared and fought relentlessly for almost two years to prevent, as the state wrote and rewritten, its Model Ethnic Studies Program (ESMC). Now, however, the Jewish community is back at square one.
A little background is needed.
In the summer of 2019, the California State Board of Education released a draft ethnic studies curriculum, for use in all public high schools in California, that was blatantly anti-Semitic. He omitted information about American Jews and anti-Semitism, used classic anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes, and was openly anti-Zionist.
And the reaction was fierce. Twenty thousand Californians, all 16 members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and dozens of organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, the American Jewish Committee, and the Israeli Council. America, the proposed curriculum has sounded the alarm. The Jewish Caucus said the program “would marginalize Jewish students and fuel hatred and discrimination against the Jewish community,” and Governor Gavin Newsom vowed the original program “would never see the light of day.”
The State Board of Education (SBE) returned to the drawing board, and a year and a half and many revisions later, a fourth iteration that included lessons on American Jews and eliminated overt anti-Semitic content was approved by the SBE. However, a very big problem remained: Individual school districts are autonomous and can use any ethnic studies program they choose, including the original rejected version. And for the past two years, the dethroned original editors have worked hard to lobby individual school districts to do just that.
Which brings us back to the present. The “Liberated” program adopted by Hayward is the brainchild of the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Institute (LESMC), a for-profit educational consultancy company created by the authors of the first rejected version of ESMC as a medium. lucrative to sell a version of their rejected project – including its anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist lessons – in school districts statewide. The anti-Zionist principles of the âFreedâ program were exposed on May 26 at a teacher training workshop for ethnic studies for HUSD teachers, where they learned: âIn Palestineâ¦ people who seek to maintain systems of oppression and racial domination share ideologies, strategies and weapons. For example, policing strategies have been transnational, with US and Israeli police forces exchanging tacticsâ¦ Let’s continue to share ideas and resources and have courageous conversations. [in classrooms]â¦ We continue to witness the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians due to settler colonialism.
While the HUSD may be the first school district to publicly commit to adopting and implementing the anti-Semitic “Freed” program, other school districts in California may not be far behind.
The Salinas Unified School District recently approved a LESMC member and former co-chair of the first ESMC Advisory Committee Project to design their Ethnic Studies course and provide counseling services ($ 1,500 per hour). Unsurprisingly, several parents in the district of Salinas expressed their outrage at the highly politicized and confrontational nature of the program. The San Diego Unified School District is expected to approve a $ 77 million spending plan to emphasize ethnic studies in all subjects from Kindergarten to Grade 12, which will be overseen by a chaired ethnic studies team. by a member of LESMC and former writer for the Ministry of Education. first draft of the ESMC. And the Jefferson Elementary School Board approved a $ 40,000 contract with the consulting services of a LESMC member and co-chair of the first ESMC Advisory Committee project, to develop a curriculum for ethnic studies classes in 8th grade.
LESMC founders and members have also provided ethnic studies consulting and teacher training services to the California Department of Education, California State University, and the University’s Instructional Leadership Corps. by Stanford, created by Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California SBE. Additionally, the two largest teacher unions in the state – the California Teachers Unions and United Teachers Los Angeles – have both expressed support for LESMC and will no doubt encourage their members to embrace the Liberated Ethnic Studies program. and use the teacher training services of Groupe LESMC.
While the success of LESMC in bringing the âFreedâ program and ethnic studies expertise to school districts is alarming, it is not by far the biggest problem for the Jewish community. AB 101 est. This is the bill that is currently making its way through the state legislature that would make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement. If it becomes law, hundreds of school districts that do not currently offer ethnic studies classes will scramble to adopt a program and find professional help to implement it, and the LESMC and its “Liberated” program will be. there to answer them.
The Jewish community simply does not have the bandwidth to oppose LESMC and its anti-Semitic agenda in each of the hundreds of school districts where it is likely to be considered. This is why it is crucial that members of the Jewish Legislative Caucus, who led the way in opposing the first anti-Semitic version of ESMC, speak out about the obvious danger AB 101 poses to Jewish students.
Although members of the Jewish Caucus in the State Assembly voted in favor of AB 101 despite appeals from nearly 70 rabbis, over 1,000 Californians and hundreds of other supporters of the Jewish community in California nationally, there is still time for Jewish Caucus senators to stand up for Jewish students. and oppose this bill when it comes to a vote in the Senate this summer.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin is the director of the AMCHA Initiative, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism in colleges and universities in the United States. She was a faculty member at the University of California for 20 years.