October 19, 2019

CA Assemblyman Criticizes ‘Anti-Jewish Bias’ Among Authors of Ethnic Studies Curriculum

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California Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) criticized the “anti-Jewish bias” among the authors of the initial Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) draft and suggested that different people will be writing the next draft.

The Jewish News of Northern California (J.) reports that Berman, who was speaking at an American Jewish Committee San Francisco event at the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco on Sept. 16, said that some of the authors of the ESMC draft are “outspoken BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] supporters,” suggesting that “there was a strong, kind of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish bias among some of the writers, among some of the advisory board members.” He added that the Department of Education’s “vetting wasn’t as tight as it needed to be.”

Berman added that there were three writers that mainly developed the ESMC – although their names have not been made public – from February to April. The California Legislative Jewish Caucus, which Berman is a member of, didn’t see the draft until June.

A lot of us immediately thought, wait wait wait, there’s a lot in here that’s wrong,” Berman said. “It practically eliminated the Jewish Californian experience.”

On Aug. 12, the State Board of Education announced that the ESMC will undergo significant revisions in response to backlash over the initial draft.

According to the J.,Berman assured members of the Bay Area Jewish community that there will be a different group of authors involved in the ESMC’s revision, saying, “We don’t expect that any of those folks are going to be part of the process moving forward.” He added that Jewish Caucus Chair Ben Allen (D-Los Angeles) has joined the Instructional Quality Commission, which oversees the ESMC, and the next round of authors will be more heavily scrutinized.

Myriad Jewish groups have condemned the ESMC for being too one-sided in favor of the BDS movement. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told the J. in August that the current ESMC “will never see the light of day.” CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has similarly called for the ESMC to be revised to include Jews since “acts of hate are happening against the Jewish people.” 

Beverly Hills City Councilman Julian Gold called for a recall campaign against the authors of the ESMC. A bill requiring ethnic studies to be taught in state high schools has been delayed for another year until the ESMC has been revised.

Revisions for the ESMC will be considered at a state Department of Education meeting on Sept. 20. The deadline for the ESMC to be approved is March 31.