Cal State university system: all undergrads must take ethnic studies or socal justice course starting in 2023

I believe the Cal(ifornia) State University (CSU) system is the biggest state University system in the U.S., comprising over 430,000 students. On Wednesday, the CSU trustees voted that, starting in the academic year 2023-2024, all students must take either an ethnic studies course or a social justice course.  A related but slightly different measure, which has already passed the state Assembly and Senate, will soon go to the governor.

The three articles below, from the Los Angeles Times,  Courthouse News, and edsource.org (in order) give details (click on screenshots).

 

 

Apparently there was some fighting among CSU educators about the bill, as the CSU version allows you to bypass ethnic studies by taking a “social-justice” course. Some educators don’t like that, as they feel ethnic studies should be required. There seems to have been further arguments about the nature of ethnic studies, which in the bill is limited to the study of African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans (I believe students must take a course that deals with only one of these ethnicities). Although the reporting above is not clear, some trustees who opposed the plan felt that the ambit should be broader than this. (I have no feeling about that, though the four groups seem appropriate at least for Californians.) There are also two different bills, one proposed and passed by the legislature (requiring an ethnic studies course), and one proposed by CSU itself (in which a social-justice course obviates the need for an ethnic studies course); they are different and what the legislature determines will be what students have to take.

If you think about it while ignoring the current climate of Wokeness surrounding ethnicity and Critical Race Theory, there’s no reason to object to students learning about the history, lives, and experiences from those in other groups, particularly in such a diverse state as California. Why should students be required to study, say, Shakespeare or Plato or other “canonical” topics, but not the sociology of different ethnic groups whom they encounter daily?

The difference, I think, is that Shakespeare and Plato studies are not accompanied by an implicit ideology which I’m sure will be part of CSU’s ethnic-studies courses. Those courses may, although they won’t be taught for two years, be akin to proselytizing students in a way that stifles discussion or free thought. Why do I think that? Well, look at what happened to gender studies courses in universities. Dissent is suppressed in favor of Received Wisdom.

And there are these statements in the reports that buttress this concern:

[Loren] Blanchard [executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs] said the new requirement “elevates” the study of the four racial and ethnic groups that traditionally comprise ethnicstudies to the same level as the natural and life sciences, the arts and humanities. It also “makes room for the voices and experiences of other oppressed and marginalized groups,” he said.

and

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said in a statement after the vote the requirement will better equip graduates to address the complexities of the world’s problems in a comprehensive way.

“This action, by the CSU and for the CSU, lifts ethnic studies to a place of prominence in our curriculum, connects it with the voices and perspectives of other historically oppressed groups, and advances the field by applying the lens of social justice.” White said.

It’s likely that such courses will use the 1619 Project as part of their curriculum, as it was explicitly designed for that use.

It is of course possible to teach ethnic studies without conveying a particular ideology to the students, or concentrating solely on oppression. Any courses would of course have to include descriptions of the discrimination and obstacles that ethnic minorities faced in America; after all, that’s part of their history. But there is so much more to black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian-American history than a narrative of simple oppression. There are stories of triumph, of moral improvement of the oppressor, and of the wonderful diversity of each culture’s beliefs, food, music, and so on. I fear that CSU will subsume all that into a one-dimensional narrative of Critical Theory and identity politics.

As for the Social Justice courses, I have no confidence that they will turn out to be anything but Woke ideology. So it goes.

h/t: Paul

33 Comments

  1. Posted July 24, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    WOW! Disgusting. Cal State is my al mi mater too. I am glad I graduated back in he days of the dinosaurs! I would NOT take those mandatory classes at all!

  2. lesliefish
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    So, the Socialist Democrats are going all-out on propagandizing all the students they can reach, eh? Say, does a student get excused from these courses if s/he can prove that s/he IS a member of an “ethnic group”?

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      That was my immediate thought (though I don’t know what the characterizing of “Socialist Democrats” means). But why do the minorities have to take this…perhaps it’s not supposed to focus on white privilege…after all, racism is pervasive in all societies and peoples…I guess that’s the challenge? I hope this means “Western Civ. 101” won’t be cancelled. Lots of good stuff under that umbrella.

  3. eric
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    If you think about it while ignoring the current climate of Wokeness surrounding ethnicity and Critical Race Theory, there’s no reason to object to students learning about the history, lives, and experiences from those in other groups, particularly in such a diverse state as California.

    I tend to agree, with two caveats. The first is, as you say, the worry that the course is not learning views on the subject matter so much as it is indoctrination into the one right way of thinking about the subject matter.

    My other caveat would be purely practical: I hope they’re substituting this in for some other general- or university-wide education requirement, rather than adding on another required class.

    • Keith
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Yes, credit bloat has been an issue for years in higher ed. Learning history via general education humanities courses is a valuable part of any liberal arts education. All schools should safeguard against the various forms of bloat (or “creep”) that work their way into courses, into programs, into degrees, etc. Not that this is the only or even the major factor contributing to the high cost and attrition rates in higher ed, but it is a factor.

  4. Posted July 24, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    “The difference, I think, is that Shakespeare and Plato studies are not accompanied by an implicit ideology which I’m sure will be part of CSU’s ethnic-studies courses.”

    Well, the Woke would probably disagree, claiming that Shakespeare and Plato are white studies. Of course, this kind of thinking would lead inexorably toward eliminating everything but Studies of Color.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      When I was in school, the study of color involved a color wheel with lots of colors. Now it’s either black or white, with no shades in between.

    • Posted July 25, 2020 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      Shakespeare was English, but was he “white”?
      I don’t think I was taught Shakespeare’s genetic heritage in the various Shakespeare courses I took or the books I’ve read. Plato was Athenian Greek, but same for him. Who were his ancestors and how many of them were “white”? Of the modern day Greeks, I’ve known many of whom were swarthy, not “white”. (Historically, Greeks lived all over the Mediterranean world.) Ditto with Italians, who also seem to be considered “white”. Depends, to a large degree, on what part of the Mediterranean, Greece or Italy your family lived in.

      • Posted July 27, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Some (uninformed, arguably racist in the other direction) folks have claimed that *Socrates*, at least was “black” …

  5. Posted July 24, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    There is a critical need to indoctrinate more recruits to the Woke cause.

  6. Steve Gerrard
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Is it normal for Cal State to have its policies developed by the state legislature? That seems like an awkward way to run a college.

    As for the course, having students recite the pledge of allegiance was hugely effective when I was a kid. Surely some more rote learning and recitation will be a good thing. Whatever.

    • Michael Botwin
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately the legislators in California routinely interfere with the operation of the CSU. This particular item won’t ultimately make much of a difference as most campuses (including my home campus, California State University, Fresno) already had a similar requirement (the “social justice” part is new though).

      On the broader issue of legislative interference:

      It seem like like every time a student’s mommy or daddy gets angry about something in the CSU they call their state representative and the circus starts.

      Glad I have only a few years until retirement.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      “Is it normal for Cal State to have its policies developed by the state legislature? That seems like an awkward way to run a college.”

      Possibly not, when a fifth-grade dropout can be elected to a local school board across the fruited plain.

  7. DrBrydon
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Totally cynical: Is this on top of current requirements? I wonder if this means that more students will have to do a fifth year of college? All that yummy tuition. Does anyone seriously think that ethnic studies needs to be elevated to the same level of as the Humanities or Sciences, or that Academia has paid insufficient attention to minorities in the last fifty years? It is clearly an effort to further inject their ideology into education. Humbug.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      “Is this on top of current requirements? I wonder if this means that more students will have to do a fifth year of college? All that yummy tuition.”

      And will it facilitate job acquisition and higher salaries, since some omniscients presume to evaluate universities on these metrics?

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    … Shakespeare and Plato studies are not accompanied by an implicit ideology …

    I’m not so sure it’s possible for the study of the Humanities to be completely devoid of an implicit ideology. Now that ideology may be so deeply implicit as to be foundational to the study of the western canon itself (and, thus, to be so far from the surface as to be all but invisible to the general observer), but that’s not the same as being ideology-free.

  9. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Do, say, physics students have compulsory studies on Plato or Shakespeare? or even, say, medical or psychology students? I’m a bit lost here.
    Although I agree that serious ethnic studies could be interesting in widening a student’s horizon, I think that it is ridiculous to make them compulsory for all students. For all students?
    All students should need to attend a course in evolutionary biology, I’d say 🙂

    • eric
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      In most American universities, every student has to take 3-10 classes from a broad variety of subjects. Typically a couple humanities, a couple social sciences, a couple hard sciences. A freshman seminar or English course where everyone reads the same book is also reasonably typical, I think.

      So yes, this would be compulsory for all students, but that’s a requirement which is not unusual. The only thing new/different about this one is the choice of ethnic studies as the topic and, as PCC says, the suspicion that they’re going to tell everyone what to think about ethnic studies rather than actually do an academic study of it.

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    It should not escape notice that required courses in Social Justice will entail more faculty positions for trained experts in the relevant Critical Theory. These experts would naturally be graduates of such programs as “Whiteness Studies”, the specialty which gave us Robin DiAngelo. The demands of curriculum organization will also need more Diversity Consultants, and to help them in their invaluable task, Associate Diversity Consultants and, after that, Diversity Consultant Consultants.

  11. nay
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you, Professor. When I was at university in the early 70s, they were just starting up the Ethnic Studies program as an optional course (it wasn’t required and I didn’t take any classes). It shouldn’t be hard to make a semester or year of ES a degree requirement in lieu of history or foreign language (assuming these are still required – they were doing some weird things to university requirements after I left).
    A special Social Justice course should not be necessary (and certainly should not be named SJ) if it’s covered by History, Foreign Language or ES. It should be recognized that EVERY ethnicity-culture-religion has been oppressed by some other ethnicity-culture-religion at some time or other up through the present day. That said, however, it should be stressed that, while pockets of christian-based ethnicities continue to be oppressed, the development of christian-based western culture has dominated the most recent centuries of World History, such that it became the dominant form of oppression.

    • AlTazim
      Posted July 24, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Why is it necessary that anything about oppression, or oppressed groups, should be stressed in an ethnic studies course? I took a Middle East history course for the period c.1250(sack of Baghdad)-c.1700(slow decline of Ottomans and Mughals), taught by a Persian who’d grown up Turkey and studied at Oxford, and learned a great deal about not only the history of the region, but also cultural practices and how they still reverberate or continue today. There was no talk of oppression, except that which we could decide on our own; we didn’t have discussions, for example, about whether the jizya was oppressive discrimination or whether Aurangzeb was an anti-Hindu religious bigot.

      To me this was as much an ethnic studies course as anything else. Same with the cultural psychology course I took: we explored the mental patterns of various cultures. What troubles me is the idea that it’s only an ethnic studies course if it focuses on oppression, or on wholly or semi-autoethnographical studies by members of certain groups talking about their struggles. “Oppressor vs oppressed” does entail a specific political program.

      • revelator60
        Posted July 24, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        “Why is it necessary that anything about oppression, or oppressed groups, should be stressed in an ethnic studies course?”

        It isn’t, but today we live in a therapy culture of victimization. Victims are the only morally pure and worthy folks around. The more oppressed, the more pure. Call it the Oppression Olympics. As one of the academics quoted in the post said, ethnic studies “makes room for the voices and experiences of other oppressed and marginalized groups.”

        On the face of it this is a noble purpose, but in light of today’s cultural climate it will further contribute to the Balkanisation of America. And students from “non-oppressed” groups who take these courses will either become self-hating wokies or rebel and ask for “white” culture studies (increasingly likely since whites are no longer the majority ethnic group).

  12. Posted July 24, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Crazy question..is the stuff that will be taught in these new courses actually TRUE? If so, I’m open to it.

    Might be a good question to ask on the first day of class.

    But if the response is something along the lines of, “Well, what you think of as “objective truth” is actually a narrative invented by the white patriarchy for the purpose of oppressing minority groups…”

    …then I think we have our answer…

    • Posted July 27, 2020 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      If done so there’s a lot of flexibility one might have some promising stuff pop up. For example, I think doing an undergraduate seminar on M. Nussbaum’s _Political Emotions_ would be great for a “diversity and inclusion” requirement.

  13. Posted July 24, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Since this is a statement that could be found to be stifling to free speech, but its coming from an organ of a state run university, I wonder if this could be challenged on first amendment grounds?

    • Posted July 24, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      I think I meant this to be for an earlier post. Time warp.

  14. phoffman56
    Posted July 24, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    “…in the bill is limited to the study of African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans…”

    Maybe by the 22nd century, USian university students will begin the learn a bit about the outside world.

    Pardon the sarcasm, but I’m impulsive.

  15. Posted July 24, 2020 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Alas, JC, neither Shakespeare nor Plato are required reading at any Cal State or UC campus, so these courses are hardly the cherry on the sundae. And if one really wants to train minds to understand social and political problems, instead of social justice and ethnic studies courses I propose the following requirements: Micro- and Macro Economics, Statistics, quantitative methods in the social sciences, classics in political theory (including Marx, of course), US, European, and world history (emphasizing political and economic history). That way, students can be trained in the tools to understand social and political issues, rather than be indoctrinated in any particular ideology. Your university, for example, used to really embrace the idea that it taught its students to think, not what to think (that’s alas, no longer the case, I fear). I’d also add: Western literature, Philosophy, Art and Music history.

  16. Mate
    Posted July 25, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Race war incoming.

    I expect the worst. These courses will instill the same mindset we see in these blm-protests: white guilt in whites, resentment towards whites by any other ethnicity. This will destroy your society from within. If the Russians were behind this (they are not), it would be the biggest success by any spy agency ever.

    Just like at the NYT, the old guard will not withstand the onslaught of the young wokesters. The sad thing is, it was entirely predictable, the few voices that warned against it, were ignored. Most faculty, although not in line with ideologies that led to this, simply could not be arsed to speak out against it. Now they are old and soon gone. This ideological turn is already stifling inquiry in the natural sciences and we have seen young med students argue against personalised health care, which takes into account that different races suffer from different ailments to a different degree, e.g. a more aggressive treatment of prostate cancer for blacks is in order because of the more severe course of the illness. But that’s racism.

    The only positive I can see is that the final destruction of the universities will be just a funeral, by then they will be dead for a long time.

    Looks like Mearsheimer is right: nationalism beats liberalism (although he thinks this only holds in terms of foreign policy).

  17. Posted July 25, 2020 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    “There seems to have been further arguments about the nature of ethnic studies, which in the bill is limited to the study of African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans (I believe students must take a course that deals with only one of these ethnicities).”

    Sounds like they’re unduly restricting the categories of ethnicities to be studied by lumping too many very diverse groups together. Are they only going to study African-Americans in the U.S. descended from slaves? Then, they’ll be focussing on predominantly one ethnic group originally from Africa. What about all the ethnicities of Africans still living in Africa or countries other than the U.S. or Africa? Ditto with “Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian-Americans.” In the U.S. specifically, in regards to Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders are just grouped in with all Asians.

    I think we do ethnic studies a gross disservice by trying to lump so many different ethnicities together.

    • Posted July 27, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      One interesting project in “race and ethnicity” studies would be to discuss *how and why* such things exist and how we know them. (A little social ontology and epistemology.) Not much work in this area, mind you, exists, particularly on the former. But that too should be an interesting thing to teach to students. I remember the first time I took a course where the answers to the questipons we were discussing *were still debatable*. What *fun that was*! Inculcating that love in more students (I was lucky to experience it) would be wonderful! (This does not take away from skills courses, where one learns from what has been done before; both are needed.)

  18. Posted July 26, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    And how can any single academic course convey the variety and richness of any ethnicity or culture anyway? What will be taught is generic, self-righteous gunk.

    • Posted July 27, 2020 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      I don’t know even how to tell what is same and different. (See above about social ontology.) For example, without “boundaries” cultural appropriation is impossible.

      And *I agree* that social systems of people were and are systematically and individually oppressed! Just synthesizing and analyzing ideas here is very hard indeed. In fact, it might be terrifying to some incoming students that are used to having teachers simply “give them answers”. But the well-educated person should be comfortable with not knowing – and know when it has happened!


%d bloggers like this: