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Ethnic studies movement sweeps California

A new draft of California’s model ethnic studies curriculum is under review, 11 months after criticism of the first draft forced a rewrite. The draft will go through 8 months of review and is expected to be adopted by the State Board of Education next March, EdSource reports. 

The language in the new draft is “more moderate and inclusive,” according to EdSource. The original draft came under fire for jargony language, as well as a section of Arab American history referring to Israeli oppression of Palestinian which critics saw as one-sided. 

Korean American and Indian American organizations also came forward last summer to advocate for a more diversified study of Asian Americans, The New York Times reports. 

“At a time when people across the nation are calling for a fairer, more just society, we must empower and equip students and educators to have these courageous conversations in the classroom,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said, EdSource reports.

The curriculum is simply a guideline for classrooms: a bill introducing an ethnic studies requirement to graduate high school was withdrawn last fall, EdSource reports. 

The draft comes less than two weeks after the California State University system (CSU) announced an ethnic studies requirement for graduation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Students can fulfill the requirement with courses that “focus on historical or current ethnic studies or social justice issues,” San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“It will empower our students to meet this moment in our nation’s history, giving them the knowledge, broad perspectives and skills needed to solve society’s most pressing problems,” CSU Chancellor Timothy White said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Community organizations and local student activists are also advocating for ethnic studies and a more equitable curriculum. 

According to The Sacramento Bee, Diego Leibman from Whitney High School is currently advocating for a district-wide Asian American studies curriculum to acknowledge his school’s racist namesake, who exploited Chinese workers after residents burned down the city’s Chinatown.

On the other hand, Liana Le from Southern California’s Westminster High School is working with Diversify Our Narrative, an organization aiming to diversify reading material to include authors and stories of color, Vox reports. 

“A lot of people think that teenagers or students don’t have the authority or power to do anything,” Le said, according to Vox. “There are so many different campaigns and initiatives started by young people to try and change the high school curriculum. I can’t vote yet, but this is one area I can confidently advocate for.”

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