Watchdog group opposes ‘liberated’ ethnic studies curriculum

For the first time in more than 20 years, and only the second time in nearly a century, the University of California is considering adding a new admission requirement that will force all California high schools to teach the controversial and antisemitic “liberated” ethnic studies curriculum, exposes a new petition from more than a thousand UC students, faculty, parents, alumni and donors and California taxpayers.

“As UC stakeholders, we are outraged and appalled that a small group of activists seeking to circumvent state law and contravene the will of the public, state legislators, the governor and top education officials, have been allowed to hijack UC’s faculty governance process for their own political and financial gain,” wrote the petitioners to the UC Academic Council, which is currently considering the proposal.

The petitioners note that this “ill-conceived and dangerous proposal” is the direct result of a small group of activist-educators. It has absolutely no educational merit or justification; and it will unleash hatred and bigotry, especially antisemitism, into California’s public, charter and private schools. The petitioners also expose that the proposal originated from a UC Berkeley student activist and that the six-member UC Faculty Ethnic Studies Working Group responsible for writing the UC new admissions requirement course criteria are proponents of the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition. In addition, point out the petitioners, if this proposal passes it will be a financial bonanza for LESMC, raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the UC approval process.

LESMC is the educational consulting group whose leaders had drafted the initial ethnic studies curriculum roundly rejected by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the State Board of Education, all Jewish communal organizations and California’s Jewish Legislative Caucus, whose members warned that such a curriculum would “marginalize Jewish students and fuel hatred and discrimination against the Jewish community.” The State Board of Education later drafted a new curriculum that omitted all the antisemitic content, and a law was passed making ethnic studies a California high school graduation requirement.

The new California law, however, permits individual school districts to adopt whichever curriculum they prefer – the state’s recommended curriculum or a Liberated version. Due to this loophole, LESMC continues to promote its overtly anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist curriculum and consulting services to school districts across California. And the criteria for the new UC requirement, as crafted by LESMC proponents, will force every high school in the state, including California private schools to choose liberated. This will even apply to religious schools that firmly reject the curriculum’s ideological tenets, moral valuations and coerced political activism and would be in direct violation of the California Education code, which protects the autonomy of local school districts and private schools in developing appropriate curricula for their students.

Currently, all10 UC campuses require incoming freshmen to have taken a designated number of high school courses in seven subject areas, such as history, English, mathematics and science. The new proposal adds an eighth subject area, ethnic studies. In order to fulfill the proposed admissions requirement, students must take a one-semester high school ethnic studies course whose content meets the criteria determined by the LESMC-influenced faculty ethnic studies working group.

In contrast to the concise descriptions of the pedagogically sound knowledge base and analytical skills in each of the current seven subject areas, the proposed ethnic studies criteria contain ideologically-laden jargon, demand rigid adherence to a set of highly controversial and politicized tenets and moral valuations, and force students to engage in behavior that promotes partisan, political goals. These course criteria are firmly rooted in ideologies that are deeply anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist, and, when incorporated into an “approved” classroom will inevitably lead to the portrayal of Jews as “white, privileged oppressors” and Zionism as a “racist, colonialist system of oppression,”

“Please understand that if you approve this ethnic studies admission requirement with its liberated course criteria, and students at every public, charter and private high school in the state are forced to take a ‘critical’ ethnic studies course, you will be responsible for unleashing enormous bigotry and enmity — especially antisemitism — into California classrooms, and threatening the safety and well-being of many students,” wrote the petitioners. “We strongly urge you to reject this politically motivated, academically vacuous, and extremely harmful proposal.”

AMCHA has led several efforts to warn about the dire harms of a Liberated curriculum. Its director, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, was the first to expose the way in which the discipline of “critical” ethnic studies is deeply antisemitic and anti-Zionist. AMCHA has also led several coalition efforts to educate officials about the dangers of a curriculum based on  “critical” ethnic studies. She has testified before the California Senate Education Committee and the Assembly Education Committee against AB 101, the bill that mandated an ethnic studies course as a high school graduation requirement, and she provided evidence that if AB 101 became law, most school districts would adopt some version of the rejected antisemitic first draft.

AMCHA monitors more than 450 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. The organization has recorded more than 3,500 anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses since 2015. Its daily Anti-Semitism Tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.