Academia is supposed to be a land of objective reality, where ideas enter the standard curriculum for mass exposure to students only after thorough vetting.
But that’s apparently not so if the subject is sufficiently politically correct.
That’s about the only conclusion to be drawn today, as school boards around California are approving a new ethnic studies curriculum even before it’s been examined in public hearings or adopted by the state Board of Education.
School boards in places as disparate as Albany and Alhambra, San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward have endorsed this proposed curriculum, even though it’s a no more than a very slightly altered version of the course resoundingly rejected last year on grounds of bias and unjustified exclusions.
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After that rejection, the curriculum was supposed to get a complete revision. Not exactly. Pretty much the same folks who wrote the first version turned up on the committee writing the new one, creating little better than a rerun with a few t’s crossed differently, so to speak.
People writing both versions of the curriculum have mostly been adherents of something called “critical ethnic studies.” Several websites describe the central question guiding the Critical Ethnic Studies (CES) Association as this: “How do the histories of colonialism and conquest, racial chattel slavery and white supremacist patriarchies … affect, inspire and unsettle scholarship in the present?”
The first version of the planned curriculum divided Californians into four categories: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, whites and Asian American/Pacific Islanders.
Inspired by CES thinking, it focused more on racial and ethnic discrimination and little on the contributions of various groups that make up those wide categories.
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No informed American denies that slavery had a major role in American history, as did the cheap labor of Chinese and other immigrants, including the Irish, Hispanics and Jews. Nor is the suffering of American Indians in dispute, even if they don’t fit neatly into any CES category.
All this belongs in history classes, but so do positive contributions of European colonists and other immigrants who together with the others built this nation.
CES-style thinking embedded in the proposed curriculum, due for a hearing in Sacramento in August, caused the Vallejo school board to become a rare exception to the trend toward blind acceptance of a curriculum that has not been thoroughly examined.
Said Robert Lawson, a school board member there and a former history teacher, “People shouldn’t be fooled that ethnic studies are mainly to instill pride in one’s heritage. It’s a means of getting even.”
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That was essentially how the Jewish caucus of the state Legislature saw the original curriculum proposal, which contained significant lies about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. It also ignored the charters of some large Palestinian factions, including Hamas – the ruling party in Gaza – which call for killing Jews wherever they are, while completely eliminating Israel.
The planned coursework also ignored the Armenian genocide carried out by Turkey between 1915 and 1917, in which at least 1.5 million were massacred, with other millions fleeing to many places, including California, where they have thrived. It did not include the major contributions of Portuguese immigrants to California agriculture and said little about ethnic groups from Samoans to Syrians, Greeks, Yugoslavs and Egyptians, mostly sticking to the four wide categories favored by CES.
That didn’t bother the school boards endorsing the “revised” curriculum sight unseen. “Ninety-five percent of our students are Asian American and Hispanic,” said Alhambra board member Robert Gin. “I support (it) in its entirety. It is a long time coming.”
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Meanwhile, state schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond, in an update early this year, indicated he doesn’t want much change from the original proposal that was supposedly dumped. He said the new version “will acknowledge and honor the four (CES) foundational groups,” thus lumping Jews, Armenians, Irish and other Caucasian hyphenated Americans with whites in general.
That will inevitably play up racism and the World War II interning of Japanese Americans and downplay study of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, to name just two seminal events of the 20th century.
It adds up to a phony rewrite, and will likely lead to further delay of ethnic studies and another rewrite – hopefully a genuine one next time.
Thomas D. Elias writes the syndicated California Focus column. He is author of the book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It.”