In March the California State Board of Education unanimously approved a 900 page Ethnic Studies curriculum to help teachers educate students about groups that are different than them. The curriculum is voluntary and was developed over a multiple year effort and with thousands of public comments. The resulting curriculum is the fourth draft. The curriculum “helps students see themselves as active agents in the interethnic bridge-building process we call American life.”
Since the approval of the curriculum, the “hate” over the optional curriculum has exploded. A small but vocal community of residents have vehemently opposed the ethnic studies curriculum. It has been called anti-White and anti-American. Opponents in Los Alamitos, a city in Orange County, wrote in their letter of opposition to the elective that it “teaches children that America is based on white supremacy and that white people are racists, even if they don’t know it.” This is a fairly far-reaching opinion. The reality of our history in America is that the white population has dominated other cultures forcing Native Americans off their land in a death march and interning Japanese-Americans, for example. Knowing our past is not designating today’s children as necessarily racists. The idea is that they talk about different cultures in hopes that there is more acceptance of people who are different than ourselves regardless of race or ethnicity.
Other opponents believe the curriculum is anti-Western forcing students to self-identify as oppressors or victims. In a letter to the Santa Clara County Board of Education, residents began by stating “We are concerned citizens, parents, and voters of Santa Clara County.” Yet, a careful examination of the signatories shows that many of the supposed citizens, parents and voters are not actually residents of the county. They live in places such as San Mateo and San Bruno (in a neighboring community), Napa, Walnut Creek, and Encino (more than 300 miles from Santa Clara county).
They go on to suggest that the curriculum should have parent input. Never mind the fact that the curriculum has gone through multiple drafts with public comments. There has been plenty of opportunity to voice an opinion. The signatories, many of whom are Asian, argue that this has been put upon them and the curriculum is full of hate. They are particularly wary of the “critical ethnic studies” that may be placed in schools. It especially interesting that this is occurring in Santa Clara County, an area considered to be quite liberal, and where 80% of the student body in the county are non-White. Thirty-percent of the student body is Asian. So, here is a small group suggesting that teaching about other cultures is anti-American.
Parents have argued that teaching ethnic studies is the equivalent of teaching anti-White curriculum. This bimodal interpretation of humanity is disturbing. Learning about other cultures is not equivalent to being anti-White. You can value both Black lives and White lives as well as Asians, Latinos, and other ethnicities. The opponents seem to be scared, of what, I am not sure. It is as if they don’t understand the value of other cultures. Research has shown that enrollment in ethnic studies courses can improve attendance, grades, and other educational outcomes for high school students. Furthermore, it is clear that there is a deep need for better cultural understanding. Police shootings of blacks, violence against Asian-Americans, and continued attempts to disenfranchise minority voters are just examples of how far we still have to go. Not only will our students benefit from inclusion of ethnic studies but is clear that many of the residents of California would as well.