No one objects in principle to a serious ethnic studies program, just as sensible people support “multicultural” perspectives rightly understood. The trouble with a lot of multiculturalist projects and various identity-studies programs in schools today is that they are highly politicized and ideological. This attracts some students, but it understandably turns off many students—perhaps a large majority.
Hence the demand of zealous advocates for ethnic studies to make their subject matter mandatory, as is proposed currently for California’s K-12 system. The California State Legislature is moving forward with a bill, AB 331, that will require all high school students to take a one-semester ethnic studies course as a condition of graduation. The bill would apply to charter schools in addition to public schools. Just how would the curriculum be generated? AB 331 states, “The model curriculum shall be developed with participation from faculty of ethnic studies programs at universities and colleges with ethnic studies programs and a group of representatives of local educational agencies.”
Even the Los Angeles Times, a reliably liberal newspaper, sees where this is headed, and warns in an editorial:
[T]he state is in danger of letting its students down. The goal of the new course is to help students learn about and engage with the history and culture of groups that have been overlooked, marginalized or subjected to “invisibility.” But a current draft of the model curriculum, drawn up by a committee of teachers and academics and headed to the State Board of Education, is an impenetrable melange of academic jargon and politically correct pronouncements. It’s hard to wade through all the references to hxrstory and womxn and misogynoir and cisheteropatriarchy. . .
[T]oo often the proposed ethnic studies curriculum feels like an exercise in groupthink, designed to proselytize and inculcate more than to inform and open minds. It talks about critical thinking but usually offers one side and one side only.
I decided to look up the draft curriculum guidance documents (which you can find here), and the whole thing is just as bad as the Times suggests. Here’s a sample from the first page of the Introduction:
At its core, the field of Ethnic Studies is the interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity with an emphasis on experiences of people of color in the United States. Further, it is the xdisciplinary, loving, and critical praxis of holistic humanity – as educational and racial justice. It is from communities of color and our intergenerational worldviews, memories, experiences, identities, narratives, and voices. It is the study of intersectional and ancestral roots, coloniality, hegemony, and a dignified world where many worlds fit, for present and future generations.
The field critically grapples with the various power structures and forms of oppression, including, but not limited to, white supremacy, race and racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia, that continue to impact the social, emotional, cultural, economic, and political experiences of Native People/s and people of color.
Ethnic Studies is xdisciplinary, in that it variously takes the forms of being interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, undisciplinary, and intradisciplinary. As such, it can grow its original language to serve these needs with purposeful respellings of terms, including history as herstory and women as womxn, connecting with a gender and sexuality lens, along with a socioeconomic class lens at three of its intersections.
Oh goody. Just what our K-12 education system needs—moving further toward the radicalized character of our colleges and universities.
The public comment period for this curriculum guidance is open until August 15. Readers in California may wish to comment on this, and can do so by the process explained here. I doubt it will do any good.