Photo Credit: Melissa Minton
Students raise their fists in solidarity with the Third World Liberation Front 2016 at SF State College of Ethnic Studies, May 9, 2016.

Despite warnings from more than 100 university scholars and academics that the final draft of the state-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) contains numerous empirically false and politically-motivated claims about the educational benefits of ethnic studies, the California Department of Education (CDE) refused to remove any of the misleading claims.

One hundred and forty-five scholars, including 17 Distinguished Professors and a Nobel Laureate, publicly demanded that the State Board of Education – which is slated to approve the final curriculum this Thursday – withhold approval until the baseless claims used to convince school districts to implement the curriculum are removed.

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“We are 145 university scholars and academics, who are deeply concerned about the implementation of a state-mandated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum whose education benefits are not supported by empirical research,” wrote the scholars. “Most of us were signatories on letters to the California Department of Education exposing the unsubstantiated and misleading claims that provide the rationale for why school districts should implement the curriculum. We are writing to express our deep dismay over the CDE’s unwillingness to carefully review and remove these baseless claims from the final draft of the ESMC, and we urge you to withhold approval of the curriculum until the claims are removed.”

In January, 35 scholars, including AMCHA co-founder Dr. Leila Beckwith, wrote to California education officials with an eight-page comprehensive analysis of the research cited in the ESMC as evidence for bold claims that ethnic studies courses result in “positive academic and social outcomes for students.” The scholars found that none of the dozens of articles cited in the ESMC provided sufficient evidence for the claims attributed to it, and they urged the CDE to remove the unsubstantiated and misleading claims.

And earlier this month, 114 scholars, “deeply concerned that empirically unsubstantiated claims of the educational benefits of ethnic studies are being used to advance the political goals of some activist-educators,” reiterated the call to education officials to remove these claims. The scholars noted that Christine Sleeter, author of the ESMC’s central and demonstrably false claim that “there is considerable research evidence” of the educational benefits of ethnic studies, is herself a leading proponent of Critical Ethnic Studies, a narrow and highly controversial version of the discipline that is firmly rooted in ideologies that divide society into oppressed and oppressor groups based primarily on race, and coerce students into political activism to advance the practitioners’ ideological goals.

According to the scholars, Sleeter and fellow educator-activists, including several members of the original ESMC advisory committee, have been using false claims about the benefits of ethnic studies to ensure that Critical Ethnic Studies is incorporated into the ESMC and taught in classrooms throughout the state.

“As you well know, the pandemic has been responsible for a catastrophic loss of instruction for millions of K-12 students in the state. One study by researchers at Stanford University found that during the early stages of the pandemic, children lost an average of 116 days of reading time and 215 days of math work and that recovery from these losses could take years,” warned the scholars. “In light of the pandemic’s drastic reversal of students’ academic achievement, it is irresponsible and unethical to use false claims about the academic benefits of the ESMC to convince already overwhelmed school districts and teachers to implement a curriculum that has not been shown to improve students’ academic achievement and may, in fact, add to their trauma. We, therefore, urge you to withhold approval of the ESMC unless and until the Benefit of Ethnic Studies section is removed from the curriculum,” concluded the scholars.

Although the ESMC has gone through three revisions since its highly controversial and politicized first draft, and much of its objectionable content has been removed along the way, Critical Ethnic Studies principles have been at the heart of every draft to date, including the final one. AMCHA co-founder Tammi Rossman-Benjamin was the first to expose the way in which the discipline of Critical Ethnic Studies is deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. And AMCHA has led several coalition efforts to educate officials about how a Critical Ethnic Studies-based ESMC can’t help but incite division, hatred, and harm to many students, especially Jewish students.

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