Educators Demand that CDE Support a Real Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum 


Dear members of the Instructional Quality Commission, the State Board of Education, and the California Department of Education,

The decisions made at the November 19, 2020 IQC meeting did not live up to the standards set by the most basic definition of Ethnic Studies, let alone the hard-fought civil and human rights struggles from which it emerged. We are sure that you know we cannot accept the decisions that were made by the Instructional Quality Commission. We are also confident that you know we will continue to publicly advocate for our communities and for the liberatory values and principles at the heart of Ethnic Studies. And we will retain our hope that it will be possible for us to work with you to forge a path that is rooted in the well-being of all those impacted by the decisions you are making, especially in these times.

As educators and Ethnic Studies scholars, we urge the Instructional Quality Commission, the California Department of Education, and the State Board of Education to re-empower experts in the field of Ethnic Studies—those who trained in the field, those who are steeped in the literature, those who understand its implementation in K-12 classrooms—to make revisions that align with the principles, values, and pedagogy of Ethnic Studies.

The sidelining of the original committee echoes an all-too-familiar experience amongst people of color of having our expertise denied. The significance of Ethnic Studies lies in the important questions and difficult conversations it opens up, drawing on a diverse set of experiences across communities of color, to support all our students to achieve their academic potential and contribute fully to an equitable, just, and peaceful world.

Adding a lesson here or there on specific cultures and relegating it to a “catch-all” appendix doesn’t substitute for a substantive understanding of how struggles for justice against colonial conquest, enslavement, and discrimination have shaped US history and current realities. In the districts in which we work and live, we see every day the harm to students when curriculum, pedagogy, and school climate are not based on strong social justice principles. In the current political climate, all of our students need and deserve education based in Ethnic Studies principles, values and pedagogy.

The controversy over the ESMC highlights the meaning and substance of Ethnic Studies. Ethnic Studies explores the intersection of race and power, and centers the strategies of marginalized communities fighting for their rights. When Black, Latinx/Chicanx, Asian and Indigenous students first fought for Ethnic Studies in the late 1960s, their demands were seen as too radical. We now know how important those demands are to educating our youth, connecting students to the communities from which they come, and building democracy. It is time for the CDE to stand with us on the right side of history and support an ESMC that will protect, educate, and inspire all our children.