October 20, 2019

State Board of Education President Says Ethnic Studies Curriculum Needs to Be Delayed a Year

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

State Board of Education (SBE) President Linda Darling-Hammond announced in a Sept. 20 op-ed that the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) should be delayed for a year.

Writing in EdSource, a nonprofit education news site, Darling-Hammond wrote that the initial ESMC “wades unnecessarily into a global debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that feels unbalanced. It has drawn legitimate criticism over word choice and content omissions.”

She added that “there is considerable work to do” in order for the ESMC to be palatable for SBE, which is why she is endorsing Assembly 114, a bill that would push back the deadline for the SBE to approve the ESMC to 2021. The current deadline is March 31.

“With extra time, the California Department of Education can consider how to integrate what has been learned from more than 21,000 comments received on the draft, and to conduct focus groups with teachers and students to gather feedback on what they’d like to see in the curriculum,” Darling-Hammond wrote. The bill is currently awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature.

Earlier in the day, the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), the SBE advisory board in charge of developing the ESMC, held a hearing on the matter. Four StandWithUs high school interns spoke out against the initial ESMC during the meeting.

“My family’s experiences as Jewish immigrants from the Middle East are nowhere to be found in this curriculum,” Palisades Charter High School student Kian Mirshokri said. “I’m urging the IQC to make changes, so public high school students like me are represented and understood by our peers.”

Another StandWithUs intern, Lowell High School student Michael Peralta, said that the initial ESMC “actively marginalizes me with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric.”

The IQC decided to push their ESMC review process back a year, according to StandWithUs.

On Sept. 16, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) said at a American Jewish Committee San Francisco event that a few of authors of the initial ESMC were supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement who held an “anti-Israel, anti-Jewish bias.” He added that he didn’t think “that any of those folks are going to be part of the process moving forward.”