California Assembly Passes “Ethnic Studies” Bill
The California Assembly voted 58-9 in favor of Assembly Bill 101 (AB 101) on May 27, sending it to the State Senate. The legislation would force students to learn critical race theory, opponents say, while supporters say the bill would promote a more inclusive curriculum.
Deputy Kevin kiley (R-Rocklin) told The Epoch Times that despite broad support for the bill among state lawmakers – primarily the Democratic majority – he remains committed to drawing attention to the program and the risks associated with it.
“I hope that in the end my arguments – and the arguments of many, many, many thousands of people – will prevail, and that we will do the right thing and engage not in this agenda but in the reform of basic education. in California that will provide students with a real educational opportunity, ”Kiley said.
The bill would require that all high schools offer ethnic studies courses starting in the 2025-2026 academic year, and would require all public school students, including those enrolled in charter schools, to take at least one full semester course in studies ethnicities to graduate from 2029-2030 school year.
AB 101 would further require that course instructions and materials “be suitable for use with students of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, students with disabilities and learners of English” and “not do not reflect or promote, directly or indirectly, any bias, bigotry or discrimination against any person or group of persons on the basis of any category protected ”under applicable law, according to the analysis of the Education Committee of the assembly.
Although AB 101 is known as the “Ethnic Studies” bill, Kiley said the elements of the curriculum that would be required in California public schools are based on critical race theory.
“I don’t think anyone would dispute that,” he said. “The kind of ideological agenda that this program embodies is quite similar to what’s being promoted elsewhere, although it’s somewhat unique to California and being turned into a graduation requirement. “
He added: “You are not supposed to use the compulsory education process to instill a particular political point of view. You are supposed to give students the tools to form their own opinions on important issues that affect the communities, the country and everything in between.
Jose Medina, (D-Riverside), the author of AB 101, cited the 1965 lynching of Emmett Till in Missouri and the death of George Floyd in Minnesota when he introduced the bill to the Assembly .
“As tens of thousands of young people marched across the United States declaring that black lives matter, calling for police and justice reform, high school students in California… have raised their voices, demanding more that the same Eurocentric curriculum that high schools in California have always taught, ”Medina said.
“High school students today, like the young Chicano students in 1968 who graduated from high school in East LA, want to see themselves reflected in the history, the novels, the poetry, the drama that are taught in high school. “
Kiley said when the first draft of the bill’s program was released it was universally condemned by the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, whose members “wrote a letter saying it echoed the Nazi regime’s propaganda. “.
“Now you might think our response would be to do away with everything immediately and be accountable to whoever was responsible for it; after all, people lost their jobs, their careers, for things much less serious than trying to teach high school kids about Nazi propaganda, ”Kiley said.
“But that’s not what happened. Instead, we said, “OK, we’re going to make some adjustments, we’re going to make some changes, we’re going to tone down the Nazi propaganda, and then we’re going to force this on all high school kids in California.” “
Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), who chairs the Jewish Caucus, said the 18-member caucus has since supported a revised version of the model program.
“I want to point out that all of our caucus members supported this bill last year,” said Gabriel.
“There was a curriculum model, a first draft that came out, which our caucus opposed. There were very sectarian elements in this information, song lyrics about how Jews control and manipulate the media – things our community found absolutely untenable, ”he said.
But he said the caucus “has come to the table” and “engaged with stakeholders.” Following a “robust process” approved by the state Board of Education, “a model curriculum… was adopted almost unanimously. “
“Now there are voices within our community, some who are still concerned about ethnic studies who still have objections to it, but the vast majority of Jewish community organizations which have many members speaking on behalf of our community are proud of what’s in the model program, ”he said.
But Kiley said American Jewish groups, among others, continue to oppose the Fourth version of the Ethnic Studies curriculum. One group, he said, described the bill as “tantamount to putting an even bigger target on the backs of every Jewish student” at a time when “anti-Jewish sentiment, hostility and violence have taken hold. reached truly alarming levels ”.
“Anti-Semitism is just a manifestation of what is so fundamentally wrong with the program he offers,” Kiley said.
“And it is not only the exclusion of groups, the denigration of groups, it is that it seeks to impose a particular vision of the world on students rather than giving the tools of analysis and critical thinking to build their identity. And I am particularly opposed to the idea that this program is in some way in the service of equity. “
Kiley, a former teacher, said the quality of education in California is so deplorable that students have won a A $ 50 million lawsuit against the state for violating their civil rights “on the basis that they did not learn to read”.
“I can speak to this matter firsthand. I taught in high school in Los Angeles… and when my 10th graders came into my class, the average reading level was fifth grade, ”he said.
“When I came to the Legislature, my top priority was to fight for real equity in education. Yet all attempts I have made to increase equity and educational opportunities have been stifled by the most powerful vested interests in this capital, whose business model is to keep children trapped in schools. failing.
Medina cited the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans and mentioned the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese internment camps during World War II as examples of why California students should learn about it. more on ethnic minority groups.
“It is time for us to listen to the voices of our students and teachers calling for ethnic studies,” Medina said. “Remember, it’s never too late to do the right thing.”
Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said high school students should learn more about their own history. “You can’t build your identity if you don’t know your story,” she said.
The bill was first read in the California Senate on May 28, before being sent to the Rules Committee for assignment.