California has curriculum modeled more on marxism than on markets
The California state seal declares “Eureka,” originally a Greek word that means “I found it,” and with good reason. After James Marshall discovered gold in the territory in 1848, the rush was on. By 1852, two years after California gained statehood, the population skyrocketed from 14,000 to 250,000. But times have changed, and people are now leaving.
California is the second most expensive state to live in and has the second worst overall tax burden, according to the Tax Foundation. As if that is not enough, California lawmakers want the district schools to focus on progressive grandstanding instead of serving as a ladder of opportunity for children. The state is neglecting the responsibility of public schools to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need for the future.
To wit, while 57 percent of black fourth grade students and half of hispanic fourth grade students cannot read at even a basic level, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law in 2016 that required the state board of education to create a model ethnic studies curriculum, a project that is awash in ambiguous ideas and historical inaccuracies.
Start with the definition. The draft materials define ethnic studies as “the disciplinary, loving, and critical praxis of holistic humanity.” Confused? There is a helpful footnote that says, “Throughout this model curriculum, language is used that deliberately offers an alternative to traditional wording that could have a particular context within the dominant culture. More information about these terms can be found in the glossary.”
Parents will not know what their child is learning because the state is making up words, but at least there is a glossary. More harmful are the few intelligible ideas. As William Evers, a former member of the California Academic Content Standards Commission, recently pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, the model curriculum says capitalism is a “form of power and oppression” and such systems “dehumanize” people.
Yet as more nations have adopted free market ideas over the last 20 years, some one billion people, of different ethnicities, have been lifted out of poverty, a finding noticeably absent from the California draft curriculum. There is no discussion of the disaster that is Venezuela due to tyrannical socialism. Venezuela is mentioned in the sample teaching materials, though, in the lyrics to a rap song that include a helpful tip to “get out, Yankees, from Latin America,” which is provided in multiple languages.
Parents and students on both sides of political debates should object to this project. Conservatives will bristle at the inclusion of the revisionist history of Howard Zinn. Black and hispanic families, who overwhelmingly voted for liberal candidates in California, should ask why state officials are focusing on ethnic studies when the gap between white and hispanic eighth grade reading scores on a national comparison is 27 points, the fifth largest gap among states across the country.
Similar double digit gaps exist in both mathematics and reading between white students and minority students in fourth grade and eighth grade. These families in California should demand to know what lawmakers are doing to improve the likelihood that their children will have the most basic tools they need to succeed in school and in life.
California lawmakers are forging ahead with the new curriculum. State officials are accepting comments on the model until tomorrow, but lawmakers are considering a proposal that would require state university students to take an ethnic studies class before they graduate. State lawmakers considered a proposal last year that would have made ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement, but the proposal became an opt in program for a small number of school districts.
Meanwhile, parents and taxpayers are leaving California. According to “growth states” data from Uhaul, which counts the number of one way moving trucks going in and out of states, California ranks third from the bottom. A survey of state residents released earlier this year found that more than half of respondents are considering leaving the state because of the high cost of living. Families in California disgusted with the made up words in the new school curriculum will not be far behind.
Jonathan Butcher is a senior education policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation and former education director at the Goldwater Institute.
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