California’s state legislature is on the verge of mandating an “ethnic studies” course for students to graduate from high school. Why not? Today in California, K-12 public school student enrollment is only 23 percent “White, not Hispanic.” Based on current immigration and fertility statistics, California’s demographics will eventually become America’s demographics.
If America were the melting pot it used to be, this would not be a concern. If America engaged in colorblind but merit-based immigration policies, this would not be a concern. But America is not screening immigrants for job skills and education, and America today is, at least as the Left would have it, no longer a melting pot, but a “salad bowl.”
It should come as no surprise that the “salad bowl” philosophy informs every word of the California Department of Education’s proposed curriculum guidelines for ethnic studies classes. Unlike carrots that absorb the juice of the beef and the aroma of the garlic in a fine pot of stew, California’s salad bowl vision is a strictly separatist entree, with lettuce and tomatoes and artichoke hearts all mixed, but not the least bit blended.
Even promoting a salad bowl model of American culture in lieu of a melting pot might seem like not such a big deal, but that really depends on how the ingredients are described in the cookbook, and what sort of dressing is poured over the ingredients. According to California’s proposed ethnic studies curriculum, the ingredients are either oppressors or victims, and the dressing is steeped in the spices of envy, resentment, guilt, shame, anger, and revenge, all topped with a heaping helping of weirdness.
The funny thing is, it’s a very small percentage of ingredients in California’s ethnic studies salad bowl who are classified as oppressors. It’s not, for example, all of the whites, constituting 23 percent of the salad ingredients. A majority of whites, specifically women and anyone who is LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual), get excluded from the “oppressor” category. Only the cis-hetero-white-males remain, barely topping 10 percent of the student population.
The “Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum” has to be seen to be believed. A good place to start is the bibliography, where one may view the new vocabulary that will be pounded into the minds of California’s teenagers. Here is a sampling from the California ethnic studies glossary:
Accompliceship—the process of building relationships grounded in trust and accountability with marginalized people and groups. Being an accomplice involves attacking colonial structures and ideas by using one’s privilege and giving up power and position in solidarity with those on the social, political, religious, and economic margins of society. This is in contrast to the contested notion of allyship which is often performative, superficial, and disconnected from the anticolonial struggle.
Androcentric—the privileging and emphasis of male or masculine interests, narratives, traits, or point of view, often in spaces where power is wielded.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)—is a global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions . . .
Capitalism—an economic and political system in which industry and trade are based on a “free market” and largely controlled by private companies instead of the government. Within Ethnic Studies, scholars are often very critical of the system of capitalism as research has shown that Native people and people of color are disproportionately exploited within the system.
Chicana/o/x—A contested social and political identity chosen by people living in the United States with Mexican and indigenous ancestry. The term with the ‘x’ is pronounced with an ‘-ex’ sound at the end of the word.
Cisgender—a person whose chosen gender identity corresponds with their sex assigned at birth.
Cisheteropatriarchy—a system of power that is based on the dominance of cisheterosexual men.
Classism—is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups.
Critical race theory (CRT)—while manifesting differently, CRT is often engaged to offer a critical analysis of race and racism within a particular discipline, field, system of power, culture, etc. CRT draws on a collection of critical frameworks to better understand how race and racism are interwoven into the fabric of American society.
Cultural appropriation—the adoption of elements of a culture (i.e. clothing, jewelry, language/slang, iconography, textiles, sacred traditions, etc.) other than your own (often historically marginalized groups), without knowledge or respect for the original culture.
Gender—western culture has come to view gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options—men and women. Instead of the static binary model produced through a solely physical understanding of gender, a far richer tapestry of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect resulting in a multidimensional array of possibilities. Thus, gender can also be recognized as a spectrum that is inclusive of various gender identities.
Herstory—is a term used to describe history written from a feminist or women’s perspective. Herstory is also deployed when referring to counter narratives within history. The prefix “her” instead of “his” is used to disrupt the often androcentric nature of history.
Hxrstory—pronounced the same as “herstory,” hxrstory is used to describe history written from a more gender inclusive perspective. The “x” is used to disrupt the often rigid gender binarist approach to telling history.
The Four “I”s of Oppression—the four “I”s of oppression are: ideological oppression (an idea, concept, or theory whose qualities advocate for or can be interpreted as causing harm or upholding the views of a dominant group at the expense of others), institutional oppression (the belief that one group is superior than another and that the more dominant group should determine when and how those on the margins are incorporated into institutions within a society), interpersonal oppression (how oppression is played out between individuals), and internalized oppression (the internalization of the belief that one group is superior to another).
Race—a social construct created by European and American pseudo-scientists which sorts people by phenotype into global, social, and political hierarchies.
Whiteness—a social construct that has served as the foundation for racialization in the United States. Whiteness is the antithesis of Blackness, and is commonly associated with those that identify as white. However, Whiteness is much more than a racial identity marker, it separates those that are privileged from those that are not.
Xdisciplinary—The term signifying that Ethnic Studies variously takes the forms of being interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, undisciplinary, and intradisciplinary, in diverse academic and everyday contexts. The holistic, humanistic, loving and critical praxis approach for teaching Ethnic studies.
What Does It All Mean?
It is easy to mock these convoluted terms and their twisted logic. If “race” and “whiteness” are “social constructs,” and if “gender” isn’t “binary” but is rather a “far richer tapestry of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect resulting in a multidimensional array of possibilities,” then why is the “cisheteropatriarchy” so problematic? Why make students obsess over their victimhood, if race and gender are merely “social constructs”?
Some of the concepts expressed in this glossary reveal the ideological agenda behind this curriculum. “Social justice” is expressed as “the equitable distribution of resources (rights, money, food, housing, education, etc.) to every individual regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, or nationality.” “Net worth by race” is defined as “the disparity or inequality of wealth among races, specifically when it comes to financial capital in resources, income and savings.”
This points to an agenda—to the extent students aren’t learning at the same rates, to the extent various communities aren’t earning the same income, or experiencing the same rates of crime, or any other aggregate disparity, “social justice” will demand restitution. And, of course, “white supremacy” (an “operationalized form of racism that manifests globally, institutionally, and through systems of power”) will be to blame.
A “Work in Progress”
While right-of-center pundits have openly mocked the bizarre vocabulary and leftist indoctrination contained in the proposed curriculum, it has attracted criticism from all quarters. Even a Washington Post article led off with quotes from critics who “accuse it of espousing bias against Israel and Jews,” defining capitalism as a “form of power and oppression” and promoting a “far-left-wing political agenda.”
Examining the sources of leftist criticism may spark amusement among conservatives, because much of the criticism stems not from the basic premise of the curriculum, which is that most Americans are victims of oppression, but that their favored victim group was not included among those victims. As the Los Angeles Times reported, “the draft sparked opposition among many Jewish groups, who have been joined by organizations representing Armenians, Greeks, Hindus and Koreans in calling for changes.”
In response to an outpouring of negative comments, committee members have described the curriculum as “work in progress,” and that “there would be some changes made.”
The follow up will be an amazing exercise in hypersensitivity—otherwise known as “engaging with stakeholders”—wherein, amidst a cacophony of bloviation, California’s woke leftist education experts shall painstakingly balance the claims of every imaginable aggrieved group. Eventually they will excrete a final ethnic studies curriculum that includes every conceivable victim.
And that’s what they’ll be teaching in California’s schools. Will capitalism still be described as “a form of power and oppression”? Probably. What conceivable victim would want to exclude that cause for restitution?
Alternate Ways to Teach Ethnic Studies
As America becomes multiracial with stunning rapidity, maybe teaching some sort of ethnic studies is a good idea. But the premises beneath California’s proposed version of ethnic studies are all wrong. The curriculum is a product of leftist agitators who have taken over virtually all of California’s public institutions, especially the public schools.
To teach ethnic studies properly, a small subset of lessons might deal with significant differences in customs that would be helpful for members of different communities to know about one another. More practical and less ideological courses offered, for example, to nurses and others who work with the public are careful to include this sort of instruction.
Similarly, another useful portion of an ethnic studies curriculum might do a broad survey of the historical legacies of various parts of the world where students of different backgrounds came from. To the extent something like this isn’t already offered in a history class, it could enrich the curriculum in an ethnic studies class.
But the dominant message that should inform an ethnic studies class in California’s high schools, and everywhere else in America where these classes may eventually be offered, needs to be positive and uplifting. For that reason, such a class should not pander to the bitter sentiments and careerist pimping of the victim industry, whose mission is to instill destructive self-pity into every member of every race or sex who isn’t “cis-hetero-white.” Rather, students should be encouraged to take individual responsibility for their success or failure in life, regardless of their race or sex, in the most tolerant, enlightened society in the history of the world.
Moreover, an ethnic studies class aimed at high school students should not be proclaiming capitalism to be an “engine of oppression.” It should be examining capitalism, with honesty and balance, as an economic system that, despite imperfections, has proven the best way to deliver prosperity, innovation and freedom.
An ethnic studies class does not have to be saturated in pseudoscientific gobbledygook, nor steeped in anti-Western and anti-white propaganda. As California, and America in due course, transitions to becoming a fully multiethnic nation, teaching these falsehoods to a multiethnic student body is the worst way to create a harmonious society, whether it’s a sweet tasting salad or a savory stew.
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