Push for Ethnic Studies in Schools Faces a Dilemma: Whose Stories to Tell

By Dana

Discuss a recent instance of police brutality in your community. Read op-eds arguing for and against legal status for unauthorized immigrants. Compare and contrast border conditions in the Palestinian territories and Mexico.

Those are some of the lesson plans suggested in a draft of California’s newly proposed ethnic studies curriculum for K-12 public schools. The documents have led to a bitter debate in recent weeks over whether they veer into left-wing propaganda, and whether they are inclusive enough of Jews and other ethnic groups. Now, amid a growing outcry, even progressive policymakers in the state are promising significant revisions.

The materials are unapologetically activist — and jargony. They ask students to “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism and other forms of power and oppression.” A goal, the draft states, is to “connect ourselves to past and contemporary resistance movements that struggle for social justice.”
Many educators and policymakers across the country have been pushing for instructional materials that confront race in America, citing instances of racist violence and the divisive and inflammatory language ricocheting in politics, on social media and beyond. California is one of the first three states, alongside Oregon and Vermont, to forge ahead this year with creating K-12 materials in ethnic studies.

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