(JNS) After an immediate backlash over a proposed ethnic-studies curriculum by the California Department of Education, 83 organizations emailed a letter to the department, calling for it to establish safeguards to prevent any and all “future attempts to use educational curricula to indoctrinate students with a biased, inaccurate and hateful agenda,” according to a statement from the AMCHA Initiative, which organized the Wednesday letter.
Addressed to Soomin Chao, chair of the department’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), the organizations acknowledged the letter sent to her from individuals and groups, including California Legislative Jewish Caucus, but stated they were writing to her “because we believe these concerns highlight a much deeper and graver problem, namely, the fact that an educational curriculum can be hijacked by those pushing a political and hateful agenda.”
“If not addressed, this problem threatens to undermine not only the current effort to develop an ethnic studies model curriculum, but all other curricular efforts undertaken by the Department of Education,” continued the letter. “In order to prevent such abuse and the extremely harmful consequences that will ensue from it, we believe safeguards must be put in place before any state-mandated curriculum is adopted for use in California classrooms.”
California lawmakers have begun to raise alarms over the proposed curriculum, the result of a 2016 law calling for the creation of a model ethnic-studies curriculum by the state’s board of education.
The proposed curriculum is currently going through public comment and expected to go through revisions before being approved next year by the board.
Chao told JNS she received the letter from the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and forwarded it to the IQC to be submitted as public comment.
She added that the IQC will be addressing public comments at its Sept. 19-20 meeting.
The letter remarked that “more than one-quarter of the Model Curriculum Advisory Committee members, appointed by the State Board of Education to draft the ESMC, have publicly expressed animus towards Israel and its supporters, with some members openly supporting BDS. There is no doubt that these committee members have unconscionably used the state-mandated curriculum as a tool for politically indoctrinating California’s high school students with anti-Israel propaganda and encouraging them to engage in political activism against the Jewish state.”
These members include Gaye Theresa Johnson, Theresa Montano and Samia Shoman; are all academics documented for their anti-Israel sentiments and outright bias.
The proposed curriculum section on “Arab American Studies Course Outline” contains a number of passages concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as “Direct Action Front for Palestine and Black Lives Matter,” “Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel” and “Comparative Border Studies: Palestine and Mexico.” It also includes studying national figures such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the late Columbia University professor Edward Said, Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, the late radio personality Casey Kasem, actress Alia Shawkat and the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas–all of whom are associated with antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, and in the case of the congresswomen, a push to enact legislation punishing Israel.
“Studies of antisemitic activity on college and university campuses across the country have consistently shown that schools with anti-Zionist expression and activity, including the promotion of BDS, are about three times more likely to host incidents targeting Jewish students for harm, including acts of harassment, vandalism and assault,” wrote the 83 groups. “Implementation of a model curriculum that includes the promulgation of such political, ethnic or religious hatred can’t help but threaten the safety and well-being of Jewish and pro-Israel high school students in the state.”
The letter concluded, “We strongly urge you, as well as the Board of Education officials and state legislators copied on this e-mail, to immediately address this consequential problem by establishing safeguards for ensuring that all state-sponsored curricula and other instructional materials may never be created or used as tools of political indoctrination that promote hatred and incite harm against any race, religion, group or individual.”