Conservatives and fair-minded liberals are alarmed that high schools are drawing up plans to teach the “1619 project,” the New York Times ’ revisionist account of race and the American founding, in history classes. The reality is turning out to be worse. The largest state in the union is poised to become one of the first to mandate ethnic studies for all high-school students, and the model curriculum makes the radical “1619 project” look moderate and balanced.
Last year California’s Assembly passed its ethnic-studies bill known as AB 331 by a 63-8 vote. Then the state department of education put forward a model curriculum so extreme and ethnocentric that the state Senate’s Democratic supermajority balked. The curriculum said among other things that “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.”
The bill was put on ice, but protests and riots in recent months gave Sacramento’s mavens of racial division more leverage. The education department delivered a new draft model curriculum this month, and AB 331 has been revived. It passed a Senate committee Aug. 20 and is expected to go before the full body soon. If Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it, the legislation would require all school districts to offer a semester-long ethnic studies class starting in 2025.
The model curriculum now on the education department’s website says the course should “build new possibilities for post-imperial life that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance.” Yes, this is a course for K-12 students. It suggests teachers provide “examples of systems of power, which can include economic systems like capitalism and social systems like patriarchy.” Students can then be taught “the four ‘I’s of oppression”—ideological, institutional, interpersonal and internalized.