Critics: Revived California Ethnic Studies Curriculum Pushes Political Agenda

October 2, 2019 Updated: October 2, 2019

After Assembly Bill 331, a piece of legislation that would require California students to take ethnic studies before high school graduation, was delayed in August, the state has made plans to revise the curriculum and bring it to a vote in 2020.

In September, a number of activists and members of the community gathered in front of the California Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission to give feedback on the proposed curriculum.

Claims that the subject was politically biased and excluded several minority groups, especially the Jewish community, reportedly prompted Assemblyman José Medina to originally put a hold on the bill.

“It is not a question of whether the subject itself is necessary but rather, how do we ensure the curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous and inclusive enough,” Medina wrote in a statement. “This underscores the importance of taking the time necessary to ensure we get the curriculum right.”

To some critics, such as California Policy Center’s co-founder Edward Ring, this course would actually teach children to hate those who don’t come from the same background, fueling more tension than helping to dissipate it.

In an article for the nonprofit’s website, Ring explained that AB 331 would teach children to look at capitalism as an exploitation system, and that cis-hetero white males are “oppressors.” Furthermore, the ethnic studies curricula would “make students obsess over their victimhood,” all the while teaching that “race and gender are merely ‘social constructs.’”

According to a petition asking for the bill’s implementation, the ethnic studies bill received a great deal of support from groups such as the Freedom Socialist Party, the California Teachers Association, the Association of Raza Educators and National La Raza Unida Party.

In their letter of support, California Teachers Association wrote that “[e]thnic studies promotes cultural and linguistic diversity and helps keep students engaged in learning.” The Freedom Socialist Party wrote that the course is important because it “[speaks] to students who have felt invisible and marginalized, [and it helps] to inspire and motivate them in their education, so that they learn their own history.”

Despite the focused message on how this curricula would benefit students, AB 331 supporters often push left-leaning ideologies or are public sector unions, supporting the claim that the curriculum has political goals, said Ring.

“Private sector unions differ from public sector unions [in the sense] that they cannot be unreasonable with their requests,” Ring told The Epoch Times. “If they ask for too much, they will break the companies employing them. Public sector unions, on the other hand, [know they can] ask for more, [and more] translates into more laws, and more laws into more government agencies, more public employees, and more dues-paying members.”

While Ring, a political and financial analyst, can’t explain why unions would push school children to be exposed to certain gender and ethnic ideologies, he said that it is clear that teaching the young to see certain groups as the enemy aligns with a political agenda.

The more people distrust each other and depend on government for sustenance, employment, and other types of financial support, the more people the government will have to hire, he explained. This means that many public sector unions will continue to grow both in size and in influence.

“This [agenda] leads to more government programs, more public employees, more union dues, but it goes against the public interest,” Ring told The Epoch Times.

“In education, this [agenda] translates into cheap labor, [flooding] the country with immigrants [whose children] are taught to resent those who were already here. They are not going to learn important skills.”

And while some legislators might not agree with all of the bill’s goals, most legislators end up bowing to these unions, Ring added, because the stakes are high.

“Politicians [get] campaign cash from unions, so they are afraid [to not follow their lead],” he said.

But what’s most striking about the ethnics studies bill and the support it got from public sector unions is the fact that this type of educational agenda “benefits financial special interests,” he said.

“The people who are developing and who own big land, they are not fighting public employee unions, they are working parallel [to them].”

Finally, more laws and regulations lead to artificial scarcity, Ring explained. This means that more regulations in education tend to produce low-quality public education. The poor will remain poorly instructed and less likely to prosper, while the wealthy will continue to excel since their children have access to quality private education.

All in all, Ring argued, public sector unions may publicly complain about a particularly oppressive sector of society, but in the end they seem to be actually benefiting the same groups they claim to stand against.