Talk about indoctrination! Lesson plans suggested in a draft of California’s recently proposed "ethnic studies" curriculum for K-12 public schools are "unapologetically activist — and jargony."
To share a few examples from the New York Times:
Discuss a recent instance of police brutality in your community. Read op-eds arguing for and against legal status for unauthorized immigrants. Compare and contrast border conditions in the Palestinian territories and Mexico.
The post continues:
[The materials] ask students to “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism and other forms of power and oppression.” A goal, the draft states, is to “connect ourselves to past and contemporary resistance movements that struggle for social justice."
The debate in California highlights some of the difficult questions that educators will face: Which groups, and whose histories, should be included? Is the purpose to create young, left-leaning activists, or to give students access to a broad range of opinions? And are teachers, the majority of whom are white, ready to teach a discipline that is unfamiliar to many of them?
Don't get me wrong -- education is hard. So hard. A piece I read in the Atlantic this week (The Radical Case of Teaching Kids Stuff) completely contradicts research and meta-analyses I've read on the same topic, but... still... makes sense... so.... could... be... right? Must... read... more.
But here's something I do know. Or thought I knew.
The purpose of school isn't to indoctrinate children...
To be fair, it sounds like some of the bill is reasonable. For example:
The California course materials focus on people of color, such as African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Central American immigrants and Pacific Islanders. Much of the material is uncontroversial, including lessons that ask students to examine a 1943 real estate deed restricting occupancy to white tenants, or to learn about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
All ideas should stand up to scrutiny, and the idea that we should reexamine how and what we are teaching our children as new information becomes available is a good one. In fact, a willingness to reexamine one's own ideas is a tenet of a good thinker. It makes sense to ask more thought-provoking questions, instead of just teaching children names and dates. We should look look at who is being showcased in history classes, and consider whether there are other actors worth mentioning.
I, for one, was really surprised when I traveled to Queensland and met an Australian actor who was in the middle of filming a movie about Australia and New Zealand in WWII. The history classes I'd taken never even really mentioned their involvement in the second world war.
That said... not all ideas are good ideas. I've read calls for a "more inclusive literary canon." I wanted to get on board...
But I just couldn't see the value in teaching some obscure African poet who wrote pretty words, instead of a text that shaped modern politics, social movements, and viewpoints. "Representation," I guess?
But, just as any literary canon must necessarily exclude some cultures, countries, authors, sexualities, genders, and genres (the school year is only so long)... "ethnic studies" must necessarily be exclusive. For example, according to the NYT article:
But after California released the draft of the materials for public comment in June, some Jewish legislators and organizations complained that anti-Semitism was not an area of emphasis, while the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel came up repeatedly. Armenian, Greek, Hindu and Korean organizations later joined the Jewish groups in calling for revisions...
Moreover, not every marginalized group is obsessed with their oppression.
Shereen Bhalla, director of education for the Hindu American Foundation, said the curriculum should include information on the contributions Indian-Americans have made to the United States, and on the discrimination they have faced through immigration restrictions and hate crimes.
Designing an "ethnic studies" curriculum that is acceptable to every interest group is going to be a monumental task.
But the part that shouldn't be hard... is teaching an in objective way, designed to encourage critical thought, analysis, skepticism, good debate skills, and even emotion regulation?
It did not help that some of the terms used throughout the more than 300 pages of documents — “hxrstory, “cisheteropatriarchy,” “accompliceship” — were inscrutable to many in Sacramento and beyond.
The [California Legislative Jewish Caucus] letter cites translated song lyrics included in one of the model lesson plans, in which a hip-hop artist raps, in Arabic: “For every free political prisoner, an Israeli colony is expanded. For each greeting, a thousand houses were demolished. They use the press so they can manufacture.”
So... it sounds like the proposed curriculum is trying to teach children what to think, not how to think.
But it's nothing new.
As I wrote in a previous post, Students of 2016 Were Exposed to Fewer and Less Provocative Ideas Than Students of 2014. This kind of indoctrination translates into graduates that are incapable or critical thought -- or afraid to express their ideas should they commit a thought crime. (See also: Leaked Emails Reveal Left-Of-Center Journalists, Authors, and Academics Fear Speaking Their Minds Publicly.)
It leads to the proliferation of "social science" that is unfounded in reality, evidence, or data. (See also: "Microaggressions" Scholar Gets OWNED By Philosophy Professor.)
It leads to ignorance veiled as activism. (See also: Emma Watson Didn't Refuse the Corset Because of Feminism. She Did It Because of Ignorance.)
It leads... to hate, division, and injustice. (See also: Equality of Treatment is Just. Equality of Outcome is Only Possible Through Injustice and I Changed "Men" to "Muslims" in an Everyday Feminism Post, and Here's What Happened.)
THE GOOD NEWS HERE...
Is that California lawmakers aren't being completely stupid about this. According to the NYT:
...amid a growing outcry, even progressive policymakers in the state are promising significant revisions...
I hope they stick to that "right is better than quickly" mentality.