Responding to California’s Ethnic Studies Curriculum

News from the Jewish Community Relations Council

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Jewish Silicon Valley is part of a coalition of 11 Jewish organizations across the state that collaborated in response to California Board of Education’s model Ethnic Studies curriculum.

The curriculum caused alarm in the Jewish community, beginning with the problematic first draft that didn’t mention antisemitism as a form of hate, included BDS language, and had no representation of Jewish American experience. JCRC distributed talking points and mobilized community members to write letters to the Instructional Quality Commission, the State Board of Education, and Governor Newsom.

Diane Fisher, Jewish Silicon Valley’s JCRC Director, worked with JCRC Cabinet member Susan Meyers, Emeritus Dean of the Department of Education at SJSU, to formulate a response to the curriculum proposal. Together they read the highly problematic sections of the curriculum, reviewed the dozens of pages of edits crafted by San Francisco JCRC’s Institute for Curriculum Services, and signed onto letters to the commision in support of those changes.

During the process, Diane and Susan fielded hundreds of concerned emails from the Jewish community, and kept people apprised of the progress being made on behalf of our community.

As a result of feedback from JCRC and many other Jewish organizations and members of the public, the final draft of the curriculum is very different from what the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) originally proposed. On March 18, the Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a version of the curriculum that includes nearly all of the Jewish community’s recommended changes, and which includes two lessons about the Jewish American experience. Lessons on Sikhs, Armenians, Koreans, Japanese, Filipino and Laotian Americans are also included, along with the Jewish American lessons, in a section of resources promoting interethnic bridge-building.

The work isn’t over yet. The model curriculum may be adopted by some of California’s 1,000+ school districts, but many districts are writing their own curricula. This makes JCRC’s work more important than ever, as we work to establish relationships with school board members and ethnic studies committees, to ensure none of the anti-Jewish materials from the first draft model curriculum appear in local curricula. The JCRC has a task force working on this, and will be looking to expand with parents and teachers from the Jewish community. Since most Jewish students in the Bay Area attend public school, our diligence and collaboration will have an important impact.

To learn more or to become involved with efforts to ensure that ethnic studies in California public schools accurately represent the American Jewish experience, please contact Diane Fisher at diane@jvalley.org.

Read the March 31 op ed on this topic by JCRC board member Susan Meyers, in the San Jose Spotlight.