Will California’s Leftist K-12 Curriculum Go National?

Stanley Kurtz, National Review, June 1, 2016

California is on the verge of approving a new and sharply left-leaning K-12 curriculum framework for history and social sciences. The move has national implications, since textbooks retooled to fit California’s changing history frameworks are often used much more widely.

California’s current curriculum is already biased toward modern liberalism, but the new framework takes several giant steps further to the left. On immigration, it is anti-assimilationist; on family and sexuality, it is radically anti-traditionalist; on terrorism, it tends to “blame America first;” on the 1960s, it highlights and implicitly lauds the most radical “black, brown, red, and yellow power movements;” on politics, it paints a halo over progressives while perpetrating a hit job on conservatives; on economics, it elevates Keynesian liberalism and ignores everything else; on military history, it is silent or slyly antagonistic; on contemporary politics, it reads like an anti-globalization protest pamphlet.

Put the proposed new California history-social science framework together with the College Board’s leftist Advanced Placement history curriculum, and K-12 education in this country could soon be a near-exclusively leftist affair.


{snip} Here, I’m going to do a concentrated critique of the framework’s 11th grade American history curriculum.

The 11th grade curriculum promises to focus on “movements toward equal rights for racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and women.” In practice, however, religious minorities receive limited attention. The focus is on racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities–sexual minorities above all. To a considerable degree, conventional political history (and even the new holy trinity of “race, gender, and class”) has been shoved aside or reduced to a supporting role by “race, ethnicity, and sexuality.”


You can almost see the authors of the framework agonizing as they acknowledge that early 20th century progressives worked to assimilate European immigrants. Assimilation, the framework editorializes, is “questionable by today’s standards that generally embrace having a plurality of experiences in the country…” Students are instructed to use the supposed oddity of progressive assimilationists to “think historically” about what could have produced such an anomaly. The answer, the framework broadly hints, is some combination of racism and unregulated capitalism.

So here, instead of simply presenting the across-the-board political and cultural consensus of the Progressive Era in favor of assimilation, the authors of the framework feel it necessary to insist that the ideal of immigrant assimilation is no longer appropriate, and was probably based on some combination of bigotry and selfishness when it flourished.


The framework’s anti-assimilationist theme is carried through to the 1960s, where radicals and ethnic separatists are featured and presented as part of a benign push for civil rights. The black power movement, with its demands for racial separatism and change “by any means necessary,” is portrayed as beneficial, if misunderstood. The violent and still controversial American Indian Movement gets similar treatment.

Most striking of all, El Plan de Aztlan, the charter of the radical group MEChA, the militant separatist organization which aims to “reconquer” the American Southwest for Mexico, is also featured as a benign example of sixties civil rights activism. This is a dangerous concession to a group whose activists populate many California schools. It is also the ultimate repudiation of America’s assimilationist ethos.


The advent of Islamist terrorism gets virtually no substantive treatment in this supposedly updated 11th grade curriculum, although it is mentioned several times in passing. For example, although we learn that the attacks of September 11, 2001 prompted increased immigration enforcement at the Mexican border, we learn nothing of substance about the greatest foreign attack on American soil, or its aftermath.


The framework’s treatment of foreign and military policy–and of just about everything else–is deeply marked by nostalgia for the radicalism of the 1960s. The framework idealizes the sixties counter-culture’s rebellion against Cold War values, and even the radicals’ rebellion against fundamental American principles. No wonder this curriculum fails to comprehend the role of our founding values in the process of assimilation. In this revised curriculum, the radical movements of the 60s seemed almost to become a new American founding, superseding the original.


In short, California’s proposed new K-12 history and social science curriculum is a carnival of leftist bias and distortion. If it receives final approval, the problem is likely to spread across the country, as publishers forced to meet the demands of the most populous state offer their revised textbooks nationally.


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