California ethnic studies curriculum distorts history to conform to Critical Race Theory

February 1, 2021 • 9:30 am

The tweet from Bari Weiss below may exaggerate a tad when it says that the proposed California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC), a required course for 6 million California public high-school students ordered by the governor, is the most important story in the Jewish world this month.

But the story is extremely important for two reasons.

First, the curriculum is not just a denigration of Jews and Israel, as well as the elevation of the BSD movement, but also a denigration of the earlier civil rights movement, downplaying nonviolent methods of Dr. King and the advances of the Sixties, and emphasizing instead the Black Lives Matter movement (see below for an objection from Civil Rights icon and MLK advisor Clarence Jones).  The lesson for Jews, though, is that California will soon be in the business of casting them as oppressors, so young people will get a formal lesson on the demonization of Israel and the glorification of the oppressed Palestinians. Jewish high-school students in California are in for a bad time—and worse when they get to college.

And that underscores the second reason this plan is odious: it’s infused with Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the oppression narrative, which will promote identity politics and set the groups in multiracial California against one another. I have no objection to ethnic studies per se: after all, 40% of California students are members of minority groups. But this plan in particular uses ethnic diversity to construct and emphasize a hierarchy of power and push the narrative of White Toxicity. And of course since California has more students than any other state save Texas, its recommendations will undoubtedly be adopted by other states. We will have an entire generation educated to either be inculcated with guilt for what their ancestors did, or be inculcated with resentment for having ancestors that were oppressed. In other words, the curriculum is designed to produce a Woke Generation.

If you don’t believe me, read the two stories below, one from Tablet and the other from Jewish Journal (no, you won’t find this in many liberal papers), or access the curriculum at these three sites.


and this from Jewish Journal:

Some excerpts from Tablet. Note that some aspects of the original curriculum have been changed, but I’ll have to take the word of these two sources, as the documents are scattered all over the place.

[In 2019], when the first draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) was released, Kaplan [Elina Kaplan, California tech manager with two children] couldn’t believe what she was reading. In one sample lesson, she saw that a list of historic U.S. social movements—ones like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Criminal Justice Reform—also included the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (BDS), described as a “global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions.” Kaplan wondered why a foreign movement, whose target was another country, would be mischaracterized as a domestic social movement, and she was shocked that in a curriculum that would be taught to millions of students, BDS’s primary goal—the elimination of Israel—was not mentioned. Kaplan also saw that the 1948 Israel War of Independence was only referred to as the “Nakba”—“catastrophe” in Arabic—and Arabic verses included in the sample lessons were insulting and provocative to Jews.

Kaplan, 53, a Bay Area mother of two grown children who describes herself as a lifelong Democrat, was further surprised to discover that a list of 154 influential people of color did not include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, or Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, though it included many violent revolutionaries. There was even a flattering description of Pol Pot, the communist leader of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, who was responsible for the murder of a quarter of the Cambodian population during the 1970s.

Oy! Apartheid again, and, as usual, totally deceptive. And Pol Pot! But wait! There’s more! The whole plan was full of CRT jargon, propaganda, and implicit calls for activism:

Kaplan began calling friends. “Have you read this?” she asked, urging them to plow through the 600-page document. The language was bewildering. “Ethnic Studies is about people whose cultures, hxrstories, and social positionalities are forever changing and evolving. Thus, Ethnic Studies also examines borders, borderlands, mixtures, hybridities, nepantlas, double consciousness, and reconfigured articulations. …” This was the telltale jargon of critical race theory, a radical doctrine that has swept through academic disciplines during the last few decades.

I had to look up “nepantlas“, which I thought were trousers.

. . . The new curriculum, which will eventually be promulgated throughout the California school system of 6 million children, would “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism … and other forms of power and oppression,” according to the proposal. It would “build new possibilities for post-imperial life that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance.”

Capitalism was classified as a form of “power and oppression,” and although “classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and transphobia” were also listed as forms of oppression, anti-Semitism was not. Jewish Americans were not even mentioned as a minority group.

It’s not just Jews who are objecting, and I, for one, object much more to the overall narrative of the plan than to its characterization of Jews. Click on the links above to see more. I particularly deplore the downplaying of Dr. King and his associates, and the advances that peaceful civil rights protests made in the Sixties.

Some pushback:

Kaplan wasn’t the only one upset about the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. Clarence Jones, former legal counsel and speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., in a letter he wrote to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s Instructional Quality Commission, called the ESMC a “perversion of history” for providing material that refers to non-violent Black leaders as “passive” and “docile.” Jones, who is co-founder of the University of San Francisco Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, decried the “glorification” of violence and Black nationalism as “role models for the students,” and rejected the curriculum as “morally indecent and deeply offensive.”

The unassailably liberal LA Times editorial board weighed in, criticizing the offering as “an impenetrable mélange of academic jargon and politically correct pronouncements” that served as an “exercise in groupthink, designed to proselytize and inculcate more than to inform and open minds.” It warned it was “in bad need of an overhaul.”

Here’s an excerpt from Jones’s letter:

And from the editorial from the entire Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, a paper that is of course on the Left, criticizing the ESMC as “an exercise in groupthink”.

We have no objection to a course that broadens students’ thinking about race and gender and sexuality and history and power. But too often the proposed ethnic studies curriculum feels like an exercise in groupthink, designed to proselytize and inculcate more than to inform and open minds. It talks about critical thinking but usually offers one side and one side only.

. . .Similarly, there’s a suggested list of social movements that students might research — but here again, the curriculum feels awfully one-sided. There’s nothing wrong with students studying the Black Panther Party or the Third World Liberation Front or the Occupy Movement or the Palestinian-led BDS movement. But what happened to studying a range of ideas, reflecting a variety of ideologies and perspectives, and having students take sides, dispute and debate those ideas, honing their research and thinking in the process, and ultimately deciding for themselves? This curriculum feels like it is more about imposing predigested political views on students than about widening their perspectives. [JAC: that’s because it is!]

Among other things, the model curriculum lists capitalism with white supremacy and racism as “forms of power and oppression.” OK, but shouldn’t students also hear arguments that capitalism has allowed for an expansion over time of the middle class, or even from those who believe in a laissez-faire, sink-or-swim economy.

And isn’t it possible that some students won’t agree with the curriculum’s assertion that BDS is a social movement “whose aim is to achieve freedom through equal rights and justice.” Does that perhaps merit further debate?

The governor signed this against the recommendations of the Cal State system’s chancellor, board of trustees, and academic senate, all of whom did not oppose ethnic studies courses, but objected to the state forcing a specified and standardizes curriculum down their throat.

And yes, there have been revisions, but they’re pretty dire. Moreover, the curriculum itself notes that “additional counselors will be required to help students deal with the trauma of the new content.” Trauma! You know what that means: the curriculum is designed to upset students.

Here are two more excerpts about the source of the curriculum and a few changes that have been made after citizen’s comments (you can still comment here until March 17):

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of AMCHA Initiative, which fights campus anti-Semitism, points out that all 13 founding members of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA) are BDS activists. CESA, the national home base for critical studies, passed a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions in 2014, and the group’s past four biennial meetings included multiple sessions demonizing Israel. “There are a couple thousand academic boycotters of Israel in the country,” she said, “and the largest percentage of them come from ethnic studies. Anti-Zionism is built into the theory and the discipline of ethnic studies, which demonizes Israel as an apartheid settler-colonialist Nazi state.”

. . . . To placate critics, the third version has added lessons about Korean Americans, Armenian Americans, and Sikhs. Two lessons have been offered about Jews. One, following crude CRT dogma, teaches that Mizrahi Jews coming to the United States from Arab lands were mistreated by “white” Ashkenazim. The other suggests that Jews of European descent have white privilege.

The Jewish Journal points out that Jews are the only group in the curriculum for whom the term “privilege” is used. And this privilege is not earned by way of talent, or educational and professional attainment, but rather trickery. The ESMC, echoing Nazi propaganda about Jews as impostors and appropriators hiding in plain sight, points out that American Jews often change their names (“this practice of name-changing continues to the present day”) to change their rank in the social hierarchy.

What the hell? If this isn’t anti-Semitism, it’s rubbing elbows with it.  Well, this is going to happen, and California students can expect to be set against one another in class.

But it’s not just California. Get a load of what’s going down in Seattle:

Meanwhile, the city of Seattle has already created a proposed framework for implementing ethnic studies throughout its K-12 curriculum. Math teachers will ask the following questions: “identify how math has been and continues to be used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color,” “analyze the ways in which ancient mathematical knowledge has been appropriated by Western culture,” “how important is it to be right?” and “Who gets to say if an answer is right?” It appears educational leaders are all for this. The president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Robert Q. Berry III, told Education Week: “What they’re doing follows the line of work we hope we can move forward as we think about the history of math and who contributes to that, and also about deepening students’ connection with identity and agency.”

This is happening everywhere, including, of course, colleges. The major thrust of education now seems to be not learning itself, but promoting social engineering along the lines of CRT. The wave seems unstoppable unless people like us, unafraid of being tarred with the inevitable label of “racist”, object to the propagandizing of society—and especially of children.

42 thoughts on “California ethnic studies curriculum distorts history to conform to Critical Race Theory

  1. Just a suggestion but isn’t one of the best ways to fight this crap by the use of social media. Fight fire with fire. It should be directed toward the right groups of course, the parents of school age kids, PTAs and other groups. Go hard with the distortions and bias and harm this action will cause.

  2. I look at too many things now, and can never remember where I saw stuff, but I saw Jones’s letter, and whoever posted it also pointed out that California has the lowest literacy rate of any state. (According to, it is 76.9%.) Is this really what California should be spending its time and resources on?

  3. That paragraph which starts with “Kaplan began calling friends.” What language is it written in? Really, “hxrstories”? How can anyone understand anything in this crap?

  4. Hxrstories, hybridities, nepantlas… Wtf??
    Lets’ have no more question about WokeThink being a minor “fling” being pushed by a small % of college students who will soon grow out of it. They are dedicated, and their numbers do not matter if they plant themselves into major newspapers and school administrations.

    1. ‘Hxtories’ is such an ignorant attempt at fixing a non-problem that you’d expect it to come from SNL or (in the past) Monty Python, not an actual curriculum.

  5. Who gets to say if an answer is right? Well, the force of gravity for one, which, if the engineers who designed the plane you’re traveling got the math wrong, will take it down out of the air, killing you and maybe a few hundred other people. The laws of fluid dynamics for another, that will punish an incision in the wrong blood vessel by an incompetent surgeon with a massive loss of blood and likely death for the patient. And a countless number of other hard, cold, potentially lethal facts about the world that are unmoved by human ideologies. Even in less fraught situations, omitting the relativistic corrections built into GPS devices can wind up getting you to Albany when you thought you were going to Rochester, and a software glitch in a tax program can wind up making it look like you owe Uncle Sam ten times your annual income.

    Do these idiots have any clue about the fact that the external universe is actually a real thing that works a certain way? And these are supposed to be MATH teachers pushing this unbelievable garbage??

    1. “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard Feynman.

      Even outside of science, anyone trying to push ‘we’re all equally right’ postmodernism on their corporate boss is likely in for a rude surprise.

  6. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the projected public school enrollment (elementary and secondary) t for fall 2020 for California was 6,251,900 and Texas was 5,468,800. Thus, California has the largest public school enrollment in the country. The California Department of Education reports that for 2019-2020 1,744,104 students were enrolled in public high schools. So, for California, this seems to be the number of people affected by the proposed curriculum. Texas reports that for 2019-2020, 1,587,686 students were enrolled in high school.

    The Tablet article is confusing. It refers to six million children that will be subject to the proposed curriculum. This means children in all grades. But, if it is only for high schools students then the number is much lower, not that it really matters.

    I have never been in favor of ethnic studies no matter what is taught in them, particularly if they are substitutes for American history courses. If the latter are well taught, they will incorporate the experience of various ethnic, religious, gender groups etc. into the American experience as a whole. To me, it seems that “studies” courses tend to teach students to think of group identity rather than as part of a whole. I have argued many times on this site that identity politics are inevitable because they reflect the desires of the groups they represent. Still, they can on occasion lead to excesses that threaten democracy, for example, white Christian nationalism. The role of public education should be to attempt to counterbalance the divisive tendencies of people thinking of themselves solely as members of some identity group.

      1. Yes…great ending Or as i just learned from the alternative math, $ 2,000 +$ 2,000 = $20,002,000…I’ll take it in cash.

        1. But wait—put the 2s next to each other and then the 000s next to each other and it’s $22,000,000! With woke math, getting rich is dead easy!

  7. Excellent summary, Ceiling Cat.

    I’m wondering what more we can do. I lived in CA for a while and was inundated by CRT at my woke workplace. It’s not just being driven by Gen Z. Leaders in their sixties were implementing aspects of it at the institution.

    I was even asked in my job interview if I had any minority status that I could use to apply for grants. It was really that overt and that sickening. First, isn’t it illegal to ask that in a job interview? Second, it was clear that they cared more about sleuthing for money based on color than they did about any ability I had as a scientist.

    I saw black and Hispanic students time and again put in grants on disparities research. It was appalling, an insult to their intelligence, and a disservice to them. Why mentor someone to think about cutting-edge science when you can steer them towards getting one of the NIH grants for and about underserved populations—as in prostate cancer happens more to blacks; I’m black; therefore, I’ll write a grant about racism fueling prostate cancer? I once brought up what a disservice it was and a lead scientist responded, ‘They are choosing it’. Like hell they are! They were being taught that disparities were their ticket to science and rewarded for victim identities. The institution was built on getting grants this way.

    Not that disparities research isn’t important. But when the institution sets people up to see racism as the fundamental cause of everything, people aren’t rewarded for doing research that requires thinking or discovery.

    So CA going fully woke doesn’t surprise me. It does scare and dishearten me.

  8. I believe that European white students are already a minority in Californian schools, as non-Hispanic whites are only about 37 % of the population.
    So you have a curriculum that teaches that Euroamerican children, who may be a smallish minoritiy in in classrooms some neighborhoods, belong to a group that has historically oppressed all others. Now what does that remind me of?

  9. Sadly, we are on the same trajectory in Sweden. Not many are fighting back, and the liberal media makes sure to paint any pushback as coming from right wing extremists. I’ve got a mixed race daughter soon entering school, and I do worry she will be indoctrinated. I’ve seen it happen to several friends, and it has driven a wedge between parents and their kids. I live in one of the most woke places in Sweden, and me and my wife are considering moving. Perhaps even to another country. At the same time, I don’t want to exaggerate the situation, and I do wonder if it’s as bad as I reckon it is. I work in the academia, and I have enough examples from my years at my current university to write a long essay. I hope my biases are skewing my outlook, as I am deeply worried.

  10. Commenter #9, reminiscing about a California institution, reports: “They were being taught that disparities were their ticket to science and rewarded for victim identities. The institution was built on getting grants this way.” In addition, there are the Schools of Education, where two processes occur: (a) teachers are trained to pass on to children the strategy of turning victim identities into profit; and (b) educationism grants are routinely sought to facilitate this teaching, and incidentally to support the grantees and the institution. School of Ed graduates eventually join the committees that write plans for school boards, and other committees which award the very grants upon which the Ed Schools depend. It appears to be a perfect positive feedback loop.

    Positive feedback loops tend to, well, overshoot—and end up in crashes. Time will tell.

    1. Yeah, a revealing opinion piece regarding Bernie and his mittens. The writer was stutteringly outraged by the attention paid to a white man, whose glaringly obvious offenses were that he was (a) white, and (b) a man.

    2. And aren’t those mittens a form of cultural appropriation? I’m sure if someone dug down deep enough and for long enough and applied the right filters we could come up with something.

  11. I am waiting for someone to explain how acid/base reactions are a result of white privilege because they were identified by Svante Arrhenius. Does anyone have an alternate result for the reaction, under standard conditions, for sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid other than sodium chloride and water. I would be really interested in hearing it.

    1. You are bringing up empirical counterexamples, by which action alone you have made your racist white-privileged attitudes apparent. So there.

      In another world, the previous sentence would be an instance of satire, or something. But we see this kind of response to your query all the time now. I just hope I live long enough to see the pendulum even *start* to swing back.

  12. Good grief – utter madness. Most things eventually end up crossing to this side of the Atlantic, but hopefully this won’t anytime!

  13. Considering the “revisions” these BDS supporters made, is there any question anymore that the movement and its most ardent supporters is, at its core, antisemitic?

    I didn’t think I could get any more horrified by critical theory and its seeping into our national discourse, classrooms, media, etc., but I am now. The language about “white” Jews oppressing other Jews, about Jews trying to game the system by changing their names (they changed them to gain privilege, not to avoid the racism they faced!), about Jews being “privileged,” smacks of the most insidious kind of antisemitism, and it’s being included in a curriculum to teach children throughout California. This is how country-wide antisemitic movements have started throughout history: first, they teach you that Jews are sneaky and undeservedly successful; then, they teach that Jews are actually oppressing everyone else and stealing what’s rightfully others’; then, once the lies spread far enough and the hatred comes to a boil, the pogroms begin.

    I desperately hope that this is not the beginning of something that will become more widespread, but it’s not as if we’re seeing articles about it all over the NYT or pieces on MSNBC and CNN. The academics steeped in CRT have a large contingent of BDS supporters, and they’re taking over institutions critical to education and the dissemination of information. As a Jew, I find all of this pretty damn scary.

  14. Hey, don’t worry too much about maths. It is a subject which deals entirely in symbols and abstracts (and sometimes their relation to real life) and has a history – entertaining though it is – which is irrelevant to its results, but which emerged from different cultures, eras, and histories. Zero, anyone? And although, given data, it can quantify oppression and privilege, it has zero to say about them.
    Also, and crucially, it is very hard, takes lots of practice, and is identical in all schools and cultures.
    But best of all, speaking here as a UK maths teacher (sorry Americans, mathematics is > 1) no one understands this subject like us, so the number of maths teachers writing their curriculum to include current cultural trends -> 0.
    And there is nothing anyone else can do about it.
    Sine, cosine and tangent of 60° anyone?

  15. Somebody has got to launch a class-action lawsuit against this blatant propaganda. Is there a lawyer in the house?

  16. Brother that’s all kinds of disturbing.
    I’m going to look up the Pol Pot bit.
    And I think you were right – like – “I don’t wear those napantlas anymore since I bought jeans.”
    hahaha we kill me!

  17. Well at least I’m glad they translated the curriculum from its (North) Korean original so the kids can read it, (they do still teach reading, right? Typical – white man’s BIPOC oppression):

    “If I had xx number of Yankee American bastards and I killed xx – how many Yankee American bastards would I have left?”
    (Actual elementary school math question in the DPRKorea)

    The gloriously uncapitalist North Koreans have successfully “decolonized” their schools, you gotta give them that. And further south, that Pol Pot guy? Freedom fighter!

    The whole thing is so bananas – what are they thinking out there?
    Oops – I’d better go now and “check my priv”

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