California Becomes First State in America to Approve Statewide High School Ethnic Studies Curriculum

Zack Linly
·3 min read

While Republican-run states like Florida are proposing statewide educational curricula that will “expressly exclude” critical race theory—because a lot of white people in power are fragile AF and that fragility will undoubtedly extend to the classrooms in their states—California has adopted the nation’s first statewide ethnic studies high school curriculum, and one that doesn’t shy away from discussing things like police brutality and systemic racism in America.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Declares That His New Civics Education Proposal Will 'Expressly Exclude' Critical Race Theory

The Associated Press reports that on Thursday, members of the California State Board of Education unanimously approved the curriculum with hopes that it would clear a path for states across the country to follow. But the effort to give high school students access to an education that doesn’t center whiteness above all didn’t come without plenty of hurdles.

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From AP:

Crafting the curriculum took three years, drawing more than 100,000 public comments as different groups objected to being left out or misrepresented. Public comment that preceded the board’s vote drew about 150 callers, many of whom asked the board to reject the curriculum and echoed the heated debate that took place throughout its drafting. The loudest criticism came from Jewish and pro-Arab groups who accused each other of trying to silence each other’s histories.

Some callers who identified themselves as Jewish and the descendants of Holocaust survivors said the plan “erased the unique stories of Jews in the Middle East.” Others criticized the curriculum as anti-Arab, saying it white-washed content about Arab Americans and erased earlier content about Palestinians.

The nearly 900-page Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, which has been years in the making, is meant to teach high school students about the struggles and contributions of “historically marginalized peoples which are often untold in U.S. history courses.” It centers on the four groups that are the focus of college-level ethnic studies: African Americans, Chicano/Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.

The curriculum also includes lesson plans that revolve around Jewish people, Arab Americans, Sikh Americans and Armenian Americans all of whom “have important stories to tell about oppression and contributions,” as California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said, AP reports.

Right now, America is in the midst of a racial awakening that started with nationwide anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests last year. But if this week’s shooting in Georgia in which eight people were killed—including six Asian women—has taught us anything, it’s that we still have a long way to go. (Especially considering the way a certain Cherokee County sheriff captain with a racially insensitive social media history handled his report of a white killer who he said simply “had a bad day.”)

Watch Whiteness Work: A White Man Kills 6 Asian Women, and a White Cop Says He 'Had a Bad Day'

In fact, according to AP, board members spoke on the senseless shooting during the Thursday meeting to emphasize the need for an America that is properly educated on race and racism.

“We are reminded daily that racism is not only a legacy of the past but a clear and present danger,” Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond said. “We must understand this history if we are finally to end it.”

Here’s a little more detail on the 33 lesson plans included in the curriculum as reported by AP:

One lesson plan suggests discussing an incident of police brutality as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Another urges students to interview Korean Americans and Black residents who were in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots to study how existing tensions exploded into deadly violence.

Other lessons ask students to study poetry and art by Japanese Americans put in internment camps during World War II to better understand the hostility they faced.

This is definitely an education that America’s youth needs, and one that students should have always had access to. Hopefully, California is only the first state to take this step towards racial truth in education. This curriculum is sorely needed across the nation.