Nina Argawal, Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2020
A bid to make a one-semester ethnic studies course a high school graduation requirement was vetoed late Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who cited the ongoing controversy over the appropriate curriculum in his message on the legislation.
“I value the role ethnic studies plays in helping students think critically about our history and understand the experience of marginalized communities in our state,” Newsom wrote. “This academic discipline will help prepare our young adults to become civically engaged and participate fully in our democracy.”
For those reasons, Newsom said, he signed a separate bill last month making ethnic studies a graduation requirement for all 430,000 undergraduates in the California State University system.
California is currently in the process of developing a model curriculum for ethnic studies. The process has been fraught with controversy.
An initial draft of the curriculum, released in the summer of 2019, provoked widespread objection, particularly among Jewish groups who argued that it was anti-Semitic, purposely excluded Jews, and promoted the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Others criticized the curriculum, which included a glossary of discipline-specific terms, like “hxrstory” and “cisheteropatriarchy,” as being too jargon-filled and politically correct.
At the request of Jewish legislators, the bill added caveats that instruction and materials for a course in ethnic studies “be appropriate for use with pupils of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, pupils with disabilities, and English learners”; “not reflect or promote … any bias, bigotry or discrimination against any person or group of persons”; and “not teach or promote religious doctrine.”