The late March deadline for approving a new ethnic studies program for California public schools is almost here, and one thing remains clear. This project is still a work in progress, needing much more work before it becomes something that will not insult large groups of Californians and stir even more divisions than today’s.
Yes, there have been improvements. So much so that many who contributed to the original draft of the program that was soundly rejected two years ago are now asking to have their names erased from the final version, whatever it eventually looks like.
They demand this because the original’s “guiding principles … have been compromised by political and media pressure.” The byline boycott, pushed on several Facebook posts, urges individual school districts to reject the final state version and instead adopt “a liberated ethnic studies model curriculum.”
Of course, what looks like a liberated curriculum to those folks, mostly adherents of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, looks to others like encouragement of new prejudice and bias.
That’s why the original draft, based on the CESA principle that much of American history is steeped in white supremacy and oppression, was roundly rejected by legislative committees that looked it over.
The curriculum’s redone version, out in January, was somewhat less negative about U.S. history and far kinder to whites in general, Armenians, Jews and Israel, also adding information about Irish immigration and the discrimination encountered by both Irish and Jewish newcomers.
But the left-leaning tilt of the proposed program remained obvious to anyone glancing at the list of individuals suggested for study at various grade levels.
The curriculum’s footnotes proposed examining figures like former President Barack Obama, former California state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, one-time Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink and her colleague from Brooklyn, Shirley Chisholm, the first woman to make a serious run for president.
There are also proposed units on onetime Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, self-proclaimed “lifetime communist” Angela Davis, convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal, the vocally anti-Semitic Arab-American leader Linda Sarsour and others.
Nothing is offered or recommended on any figure from the right, not the late President and California Gov. Ronald Reagan, not the black South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. No one.
So kids would not be educated on Mr. Reagan’s evolution from liberal union leader to genial conservative icon.
This, said state Schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond, a former Democratic state legislator from Richmond, was because the curriculum “needs … fidelity to the four ethnic groups that launched the (CESA) movement” during a student strike at San Francisco State University in 1968. He gave no reason for such fidelity.
The four groups include African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian American/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans. Not a mention of the European immigrants who rebelled against English colonial rule and risked their lives to create human benchmarks like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Not that Caucasian or mostly white ethnic groups are ignored. Rather, one segment of the program claims they redefined themselves after arrival as “white and American,” thus assuming a mantle of “racial privilege” and abandoning their previous identities. That’s simply untrue, no matter what CESA thinks.
Where would that leave the white, largely Jewish Freedom Riders so vital to the Civil Rights struggle in the South during the early 1960s? Essentially ignored.
What about white abolitionists and other whites who set up whole chains of quality schools for children of former slaves in the period between 1870 and 1910? Also absent. Minority children thus would be led to believe no Caucasians ever cared about or aided them when they were oppressed.
There’s a presumption here that all Caucasians arrived in this country with instant “white privilege,” an approach that leaves out all nuance and ignores the history of the textile industry, the union movement and the outright oppression of huge numbers of poor white immigrants.
In short, what’s before the state Board of Education today improves on the version from two years ago, but it’s still inadequate. That means much more reworking is needed, the current deadline be damned, and if Mr. Thurmond and the state board are at all responsible, they will see that the deadline is extended by at least another year.
Thomas D. Elias
Email Thomas Elias at email@example.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more of Mr. Elias’ columns, visit www.californiafocus.net