Teachers in California’s Santa Clara county were reportedly instructed last year to hide from students’ parents their “ethnic studies” teaching materials, which describe the United States as a settler colonialist regime responsible for genocide and white supremacy.
In November 2020, Santa Clara County’s Office of Education held a training for teachers to get a hold of the district’s “Ethnic Studies Initiative.” According to slides obtained and posted to Twitter by City Journal reporter Christopher Rufo, the training session began with a “land acknowledgment” claiming that the county and its public schools are all built on land illegitimately taken away from Native American occupants.
“We acknowledge that Santa Clara county and our schools occupy the unceded territory of the Muwekma Ohlone Nation, the sovereign nation and original people of the skies, land, and waters where we work and learn,” the slide reads.
The training session then features a presentation by Jorge Pacheco, the president of the California Latino School Board Association and an adviser for the state’s controversial Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. Pacheco, according to Rufo’s transcript, explained that what the teachers were being prepared to teach was based on the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian Marxist known for inventing the term, “pedagogy of the oppressed.”
In his presentation, Pacheco examined the concept of “settler colonialism,” which he described as a “system of oppression” introduced into the Americas by Christopher Columbus. Pacheco told his audience that they must “awaken” students to the alleged oppression and lead them to “decodify” the system into component parts, including “white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, genocide, private property, and God,” Rufo reported.
“The kids become a subject and you are intending to awaken them to the oppression that they aren’t aware of but that they are actively participating in,” a part of the presentation reads. “Then how do we ‘destroy, dismantle’ those systems?”
Pacheco also claimed that the district’s guidelines and expectations were considered “barriers” to the teaching initiative. He suggested teachers should be “extra careful” when they teach remotely, since students’ parents at home may hear what they say in online classrooms.
“[We] have to be extra careful about what is being said, since we can’t just say something controversial now that we’re in people’s homes [because of remote learning]. Parents can take out of context or see what materials are being used so need to be careful of what they see,” Pacheco’s presentation reads.
Much of the presentation used terms and concepts of the Marxist “critical theory,” which views society through a lens of a power struggle between “oppressors” and the “oppressed.” As a result, almost anything, including the foundations of Western civilization—such as rationalism, the rule of law, and private ownership of property—can be considered tools of oppression, according to the theory.
The county office of education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.