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We Must Prevent the First Ethnic Studies Draft From Surfacing

Published: (Updated: ) in Jewish News by .

Never was there a better time to prevent prejudice from entering our schools.

The post We Must Prevent the First Ethnic Studies Draft From Surfacing appeared first on Jewish Journal.

As a former head of a private elementary school in Virginia, I had been invited to sit on a public school district textbook adoption committee. The task was to review textbooks from publishers that would be used in various core curricula and make recommendations. I recall vividly when one world history textbook was being considered. It included a map of the Middle East, but instead of the cartological image of Israel (which was officially welcomed as a nation-state member of the United Nations on May 14, 1948), Palestine replaced the Jewish state. When I raised objections to the deletion of Israel on that world map, some on the committee defended the version, refusing to acknowledge the existence of the modern state of Israel.

Bias and prejudice existed then, and it exists today in California, in the form of an assembly bill that deals with an early draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). Never was there a better time to prevent prejudice from entering our schools. Here is why:

In February 2021, the California State Board of Education overwhelmingly endorsed a fourth and final draft of an ESMC, which state legislators mandated be implemented in every California public high school as a graduation requirement. The first draft of the ESMC contained lesson plans that were antisemitic and anti-Israel, and it was strongly criticized by the Jewish community and members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. Even Governor Newsom publicly declared that the first draft would “never see the light of day.”

The governor may soon be eating his words. After more than 100,000 public comments, the fourth and final draft of the curriculum was passed by the California State Board of Education with deletions of the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel material (thanks in large part to concerned members of the Jewish community and members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus). However, those efforts to remove the antisemitic content will be futile if California Assembly Bill 101 becomes law.

efforts to remove the antisemitic content will be futile if California Assembly Bill 101 becomes law.

Assembly Bill 101, which was introduced in December 2020 and amended in April 2021, specifically authorizes local educational agencies, including charter schools, to require all students to complete a one-semester course in ethnic studies. Although the bill recommends that school districts adopt the state-approved ESMC, it allows for the adoption of any course “approved by the governing board of the school district,” including the antisemitic first draft.

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If you don’t think this issue is serious, consider the fact that after the California State Board of Education voted to approve the final draft of the curriculum, 20 educators who were responsible for developing the first draft demanded that their names be removed, as they claimed that the fourth draft of the curriculum did not reflect their biased views. Those educators are currently lobbying school districts throughout California to select the first draft of the curriculum.

Every Jewish citizen in California should oppose AB 101 and sign a letter to the Legislative Jewish Caucus to oppose it (If we cannot get the Jewish legislators to oppose the bill, how can we expect non-Jewish legislators to vote against it?). And Jews from all states should sign the letter, underscoring to the California Jewish legislators that this issue is of major concern not just to residents of California. If AB 101 is signed into law, consider the ripple effect throughout the country.

I hope that AB 101 never sees the light of day, but should it pass, I would implore Governor Newsom to do the right thing: Veto it and send a message to California that the right course is not to allow the first, controversial draft of the ethnic studies curriculum to spread hatred in our schools. Instead of teaching which group had it worse, we should teach the values of kindness, respect and love for every human being, tenets that are part of the very fabric of our nation. If we can do that, we can indeed cultivate a more united California and country.

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Reuven Taff has spent 50 years serving Jewish communities. For 25 years, he was the rabbi and spiritual leader of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento, California, now serving as rabbi emeritus.

The post We Must Prevent the First Ethnic Studies Draft From Surfacing appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/336635/we-must-prevent-the-first-ethnic-studies-draft-from-surfacing/

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