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California-mandated ethnic studies sparks curriculum clash

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California-mandated ethnic studies sparks curriculum clash


California’s public schools will be required to offer a full-year course in ethnic studies beginning in the 2025-26 school year. And by 2030, students won’t be able to graduate without it.

But school districts, including some in the Bay Area, are caught up in a curriculum crossfire that’s landed some in hot water — and court.

Ethnic studies examines the history of race and ethnicity in the United States, with an emphasis on the experiences of people of color. But as public schools face heightened tensions stemming from the Israel-Hamas war, the clock is ticking for educational leaders to address how to teach the state’s new mandate — especially when it comes to Israel, Palestine and the ongoing conflict.

The state took five years and four drafts to approve an ethnic studies “model curriculum” for schools to follow. But districts are not required to implement it as long as their curriculums don’t reflect or promote bias, discrimination or religious doctrine.

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There are two competing visions of ethnic studies at the heart of the conflict: critical or “liberated” ethnic studies — often taught at universities — and “constructive” ethnic studies, which the state’s model now closely resembles.

The key difference between the two courses comes down to politics, said Elina Kaplan, co-founder of the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, an advocacy group pushing for schools to implement constructive ethnic studies.

The liberated model “focuses on power structures, repression, imperialism, colonization,” Kaplan said. “Everything else is what we would call constructive ethnic studies. Think of it as the depoliticized version of ethnic studies.”

Elina Kaplan, the co-founder of the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, at her home in Foster City, Calif., on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

When the state unveiled the first draft of its curriculum in 2019, the material was largely criticized for being antisemitic, loaded with politically correct jargon and not inclusive enough about the histories of Jewish, Armenian, Sikh and other communities.

“It was very clear that it did not represent all of the communities that needed to be included,” said Marc Levine, a former state Assembly member and the Central Pacific regional director for the Anti-Defamation League. “In fact, it had discriminatory language specifically about Jews and Israel.”

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The draft received over 20,000 public comments, most of which objected to the omission of Jewish Americans and antisemitism, while Israeli persecution of Palestinians was highlighted. The 2019 draft also included sample topics focusing on strikes and protests for Palestine and calling for the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.

One source material included a song by Ana Tijouz and Shadia Mansour, with the lyric, “for every free political prisoner, an Israeli colony is expanded.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom described the curriculum as “insufficiently balanced and inclusive” and said the draft needed to be substantially amended.

In 2021, he approved a bill that revised the model ethnic studies curriculum and removed content Jewish groups found harmful. Palestine isn’t mentioned once in the finalized 700-page curriculum model or 30 sample lessons, although lessons on the Holocaust, antisemitism and Jewish American identity are included.

The original course was designed by a group of 19 ethnic studies experts who were selected by the California Department of Education. After the state revamped the curriculum, some members of the group joined with other educators and activists to develop and implement their own course, the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition.

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The group did not respond to The Bay Area News Group’s request for comment, but in a statement on its website said that the ethnic studies model curriculum that the state Board of Education approved in March 2021 bears so little relation to the original draft” that every member of the advisory council “demanded that their name be removed.”

The coalition complained that the state’s new curriculum “sanitizes” the course by removing or redefining terms like capitalism and revolution, erases all mention of Palestine and fails to depict the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and the true causes of police brutality.

But the liberated coalition’s model also has been widely criticized as antisemitic.

StandWithUs, an international nonprofit promoting Israel education, said the coalition was trying to “exploit” the state’s new requirement as a “platform for antisemitism, anti-Israel propaganda and other forms of bias.” The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism said the model’s promotion of a specific political view violates the California Constitution and Education Code.

Several California school districts are already facing lawsuits over material some find objectionable.

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The Deborah Project, a law firm advocating Jewish civil rights, has sued Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District and Hayward Unified High School District, citing “overtly” antisemitic teaching materials.

The firm has also sued the coalition for pushing antisemitic and anti-Zionest materials in Los Angeles public schools.

Sequoia Union High School District, Morgan Hill Unified School District and Berkeley Unified School District are also facing backlash from community members for their ties to the liberated coalition’s model.

While both course models focus on four areas — Black studies, Asian American and Pacific Islander studies, Chicanx/Latinx studies and Native American studies — Liberated’s material largely excludes the histories of ethnic groups who may be considered White.

The Liberated Coalition explained that its course material does not include European-American ethnic groups, including Jews, because while those groups have faced discrimination, “their experiences differ from the contemporary and historical experiences of radicalized communities in the U.S., especially their experiences with racism and colonialism.”

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Liberated also focuses heavily on activism in its student assignments. For one lesson on redlining and U.S. housing discrimination, the course has students write a persuasive letter to county leaders calling for reparations.

The group responded to criticism of its course saying that students are aware of their surroundings — including racism and injustice — from a very young age.

“Ethnic studies doesn’t tell students what to think, but it is a framework for understanding their reality,” the group said.

But co-founder of the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, Kaplan, said the model stands to do more harm than good in the long run.

“Ethnic studies is good and it’s healthy and it’s the right thing for our students to be learning,” Kaplan said. “They should just be learning it in the way that the legislators intended, which is in this positive empowering way to learn about each other and to confront racism and discrimination.”

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California

California Democrats Need Real Opposition | Connecting California

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California Democrats Need Real Opposition | Connecting California


California Democrats need real competition—not Republicans like John Cox—to pressure them to deliver on their progressive promises, writes columnist Joe Mathews. John Cox in 2021. Courtesy of AP Newsroom.

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In our era of one-party rule by complacent Democrats, California might benefit from a coherent and compelling political opposition.

Instead, we keep getting John Cox.

You probably don’t recognize Cox’s name. This goes to the heart of the problem.

Cox, a businessman and former congressional and Republican presidential candidate from Illinois who moved to the San Diego area more than a decade ago, has been the most prominent opponent of ruling Democrats during their 14 years and counting of total political control in the Capitol.

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Cox spent millions of dollars running twice against Gov. Gavin Newsom—losing to the governor in 2018’s regularly scheduled election and again in the 2021 recall. Over the past dozen years, Cox has also proposed provocative and attention-grabbing ballot measures, including initiatives to increase the size of the legislature, limit gas taxes, and force elected officials to wear the names of their top donors on their clothing.

None of Cox’s initiatives passed. And he made no lasting impact on political debate, much less the actual governance of this state.

He recently wrote a book that, mostly unintentionally, demonstrates why.

The Newsom Nightmare: The California Catastrophe and How to Reform Our Broken System, published late last year, pulls back the curtain to offer some insider takes on California politics. Cox details, for example, how talk show host Larry Elder’s entry into the 2021 recall race, with the support of the politically toxic Donald Trump, hurt any chance of a Newsom recall passing by allowing the governor “to make Elder, along with the former president, the face of the recall and shift the debate from Newsom’s failures.”

Cox recounts scandals over regulating the utility PG&E, which the state bailed out even after it killed people in fires and a gas explosion. And he offers vignettes of California small businesspeople and mid-level officials frustrated by the overregulation and official secrecy of a state that is great at many things—but not governance.

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But like so much of the political conversation in our state, Cox’s book doesn’t add up to very much. Cox offers no future-focused opposition narrative that would pressure Democrats to improve their performance or create public demand to cast them out of office.

The bigger problem is that Cox can’t elucidate what a California opposition could stand for.

Maddeningly, Cox clearly understands the perils of an absent opposition. “Having a single-party supermajority govern every branch of government throws the checks and balances crucial to representative democracy off kilter. It renders democracy impotent,” he writes.

And he correctly points out structural problems in the governing system that give power to rich and powerful people and interest groups. He shows how California legislative districts are so big—by far the most populous of any in the U.S.—that every lawmaker must raise millions to run for office. He details a “pay to play” campaign finance system that allows businesses, unions, and rich people with state contracts to give money to the very same lawmakers who make financial decisions. And he recounts how the outsized power of donors prevents Californians from turning their grand ambitions and good intentions for better education, health care, and housing into reality.

“The key to solving these problems,” he writes, “is to fashion solutions that reflect good practice and policy, forged by intelligent and well-thought-out tradeoffs, that have the effect of helping the vast majority of our people rather than favoring a narrow interest or group.”

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But you’ll read in vain for a detailed Cox proposal full of well-thought-out tradeoffs or compromises on major issues. And that’s not the only contradiction in the book. Cox rightly bemoans the politics of personal attacks—personality and cultural wars distract us from deeper problems. Yet he still chose The Newsom Nightmare as his title.

The bigger problem is that Cox can’t elucidate what a California opposition could stand for. His book is all over the place—there’s Ronald Reagan nostalgia, blasts at local bureaucracy, contradictory calls both for tougher regulation and lighter regulation of business, and a bunch of word salad about immigration that might only make sense to frequent Fox News viewers.

There’s also a confusing ending about the national peril of what Cox calls “Californication,” which seems to be about many things but does not have anything to do with an old David Duchovny series about sex in our state.

Cox does draw some blood when he writes about the abusive tactics of trial lawyers and the distorting power of the state’s public employee unions, which saddle government budgets with unsustainable pensions. But he never offers a clear solution to the tricky question of how to take away benefits that are legally guaranteed.

He also takes a few swipes at his own party but doesn’t explain how someone might bring Republicans back to relevance in California.

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Cox’s failures of coherence wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that there is another gubernatorial election scheduled for 2026. And already, a half-dozen Democratic politicians—all with long experience in politics and little record of governing success—appear to be running for the office.

There is, as of yet, no clear opponent to these insider Democrats. And there is no one offering a clear prescription for how to change California’s structure so that people in our progressive state finally get the progressive solutions they’ve been promised—higher wages, high-quality healthcare, stronger schools, and affordable housing.

Perhaps someone will step forward to provide real opposition and offer a compelling vision for how to fix the state’s broken governing system and deliver more and better services.

Or perhaps Californians who want a change will be stuck with someone like John Cox, again.

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Pursuit suspect in Southern California hits speeds of 135 miles per hour

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Pursuit suspect in Southern California hits speeds of 135 miles per hour


A reckless driving suspect who led officers with the California Highway Patrol on a dangerous high-speed chase was taken into custody Monday night.  

The suspect was leading authorities in chase in northbound lanes of the 605 Freeway before taking the westbound 210 Freeway.  

At times, the driver was splitting lanes in traffic at speeds of 130 miles per hour, getting away from ground units, though CHP was tracking the suspect from the air as well.  

  • Police searching for pursuit suspects in Los Angeles

The driver eventually exited the freeway and pulled into a parking lot in Pasadena where he was taken into custody.  

No injuries were reported.  

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Sky5 was over the chase, which can be watched in the video player above.  



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The Future of Higher Education Enrollment in California

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The Future of Higher Education Enrollment in California


CCC’s uncertain future

As part of its projection of future transfers from the community colleges to CSU, the Enrollment Demand, Capacity Assessment, and Cost Analysis for Campus Sites study provides a pre-pandemic perspective on the future of community college enrollment (HOK et al. 2020a, HOK et al. 2020b). The study projects that community college enrollment among students taking 12 or more units per semester—a key indicator of the likelihood of transfer—would drop slightly from 2017 to 2035, with growth in the Central Valley and Inland Empire and declines in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Alternatively, in its five-year capital outlay plan released in February 2024, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office projected 1.7 percent enrollment growth, an increase of over 24,000 students, from 2024–25 to 2028–29 (CCCCO 2024). While these differing projections reflect uncertainty about community college enrollment, increases over the past year suggest that growth may be possible. What does seem certain is CCC’s need for additional funding for capital facilities to accommodate any enrollment growth.

UC, CSU, and CCC Face Capital Facilities Funding Challenges

Historically, UC and CSU received capital facilities funding via voter-approved General Obligation (GO) bonds or lease-revenue bonds. However, no GO bonds have been approved since 2006. Funding streams have shifted since the systems were granted expanded debt-financing authority; funding now comprises a complex blend of debt instruments and revenue sources, including state bonds and loans, investment income, private investment, student fees, and philanthropy. It must be noted that CSU campuses have significantly less access to these sources than UC.

Local CCC districts—which have long made most of their own capital finance decisions and have the authority to tax and borrow—have been able to cover their capital needs. Still, all three systems have consistently stressed the need for capital facilities funding to support future enrollment growth. This need has not been sufficiently addressed in recent budget and compact targets, and state funding will likely be more difficult to secure given an uncertain budget future (UC 2023b, CSU 2023b, CCCCO 2024).

There is no state plan to address identified capital renewal needs, and the systems are facing growing maintenance backlogs (LAO 2023). Furthermore, the systems have all identified unmet funding needs for the construction of new facilities to accommodate growing student populations. SB 28, a bill that would have placed a $15.5 billion GO bond to fund K–16 facility construction on the March 2024 ballot was ultimately shelved. Future support for expanding student housing, in particular, remains uncertain. While the governor’s proposed budget for 2024–25 includes funding for the Higher Education Student Housing Grant (HESHG) program, which supports additional housing projects and helps maintain affordability among existing units, it also suspends significant investment in the California Student Housing Revolving Loan Fund Program, which provides zero-interest loans for below-market-rate student housing projects.

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In short, the state’s higher education systems are likely to continue to face significant shortfalls in much-needed capital facilities funding. Long-term development plans from the UC, CSU, and CCC suggest enrollment growth is a priority, but accommodating this growth requires sufficient capacity, which in turn requires funding.

UC and CSU Have Developed Growth Strategies in the Context of Capacity Constraints

As we have seen, UC and CSU have struggled to meet the short-term goals laid out in their multi-year compacts, and they may face longer-term headwinds due to changes in the state’s demographics. And even if demand rises due to increases in A–G completion, the systems may face persistent supply and capacity constraints. Promisingly, UC and CSU have strategized several ways and implemented various initiatives to promote enrollment growth, addressing demand-side challenges by expanding opportunities for students to access their institutions, and addressing supply-side challenges by using current capacity more efficiently.

Both UC and CSU have prioritized expanding intersegmental collaboration. In its 2022 Budget Compact Report, CSU cited multiple efforts to boost enrollment, including a new partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as planned collaboration with CCCs to expand dual enrollment opportunities (CSU 2022). UC’s 2030 Capacity Plan explicitly highlights the system’s goal of increasing enrollment at campuses in the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire through various intersegmental and outreach efforts, including collaboration with the community college and K–16 systems to streamline freshmen and transfer pathways.

Both systems have explored ways to increase transfers from community colleges, piloting dual admissions programs that guarantee admission for community college students who were not initially admitted as freshmen applicants, and expanding pathways through their respective Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) program, Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG), University of California Transfer Pathways (UCTP), and Pathways+.

Removing barriers to access is also a priority. Many programs and campuses at UC and CSU are impacted, meaning they receive more eligible applicants than can be accommodated. This, in turn, results in stricter admissions criteria that makes it more difficult for otherwise-eligible students to be admitted. Some CSU campuses have recently discontinued impaction, removing stricter admissions criteria for many of their programs in an attempt to address low yield rates among redirected admits and increase enrollment among qualified applicants.

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At the same time, UC and CSU have embraced non-traditional growth strategies to increase enrollment in the context of current capacity constraints. Reducing the time it takes students to earn degrees not only helps campuses achieve their multi-year compact goals to increase graduation rates but also allows more new students to enroll. To reduce the time to degree, CSU and UC are providing more effective and tailored academic supports, offering expanded advising, improving their curricula, and scaling policies and practices that worked well during the pandemic.

The systems have also explored increasing online, summer, and off-campus offerings—including study abroad programs, off-campus internships, and partnerships with other institutions. Together, these efforts allow campuses to take in more students without having to expand their physical capacity.



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