November 13, 2019

State Superintendent Calls for Ethnic Studies Curriculum to Include Jews

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond called for the 2020 Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) to include Jews in an Aug. 14 press conference with the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, the Jewish News of Northern California (J.) reports.

Various Jewish groups have criticized the proposed ESMC for failing to address anti-Semitism and promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Thurmond said during the conference that Jews need to be included in any ESMC because they’re “being attacked at this time in synagogues” and “acts of hate are happening against the Jewish people.”

Thurmond also told the J. on Aug. 13 that the ESMC needs to be more balanced in its presentation of Israel and didn’t like that the ESMC referred to the creation of Israel as the Nakba, or catastrophe.

“As far as I’m concerned, there should be no reference to the creation of anyone’s homeland as being catastrophic,” Thurmond said. “There’s no place for that in public education.”

Thurmond added that the Jews’ contributions to “civil rights and human rights” should be highlighted in the ESMC.

On Aug. 12, the State Board of Education (SBE) announced that the current ESMC draft “needs to be substantially redesigned.” The SBE has the final say over proposed curriculum, whereas Thurmond can only provide recommendations, according to the J.

Sen. Ben Allen (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-San Fernando Valley), the chair and vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, respectively, said in a statement to the Journal on Aug. 13, “We appreciate the strong support we have received from state leaders in response to our concerns about the flawed draft curriculum. While there is much more work to be done, we are confident that the State Board of Education is committed to developing an inclusive and accurate ethnic studies curriculum.”

The Anti-Defamation League similarly said in a statement, “ADL welcomes the California Board of Education’s acknowledgment of the deeply problematic material in the model ethnic studies curriculum. We support including ethnic studies in high school curricula and we are eager to see it succeed. We look forward to hearing more about necessary and substantial revisions.”

The ESMC has to be approved by March 31.