California draws from Critical Race Theory profs for K-12 'ethnic studies' curriculum

Led by former academics and referring to the work of current critical race theorists, California built an ethnic studies model curriculum for high schoolers.

The curriculum stresses the importance of intersectionality — which “recognizes that people have different overlapping identities, for example, a transgender Latina or a Jewish African American” — in defining ethnic studies.

Led by former university academics and citing current critical race theorists, the state of California created the nation’s first high school ethnic studies curriculum. 

The state’s 900-page Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum was officially approved during a March 18 California State Board of Education meeting, during which the officials voted unanimously to adopt the new programming.  

The curriculum was approved under the auspices of California Secretary of State Shirley Weber — a former ethnic studies professor at San Diego State University who voted in favor of the curriculum.

“My former students are different professionals because they have a different level of respect for others,” she said in a California Department of Education press release in reference to her past academic work. “These benefits are overwhelming for our students.”

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Likewise, California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond, who founded Stanford University’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. As recently as March 16, Darling-Hammond co-authored a paper arguing that COVID-19 revealed a need to address “structural inequities” faced by “Black and Latinx” students.

The curriculum stresses the importance of utilizing the concept of intersectionality — which “recognizes that people have different overlapping identities, for example, a transgender Latina or a Jewish African American” — in defining ethnic studies. 

In the state’s implementation guide for districts, a section entitled “Useful Theory, Pedagogy, and Research” states that instructors should “familiarize themselves with current scholarly research around ethnic studies instruction, such as critically and culturally/community relevant and responsive pedagogies, critical race theory, and intersectionality, which are key theoretical frameworks and pedagogies that can be used in ethnic studies research and instruction.”

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Accordingly, the new curriculum refers to the work of academics who subscribe to critical race theory.

The curriculum defines the concept of “humanization” as “the values of love, respect, hope, and solidarity, which are based on celebration of community cultural wealth.” 

This line of thinking draws from University of California-Santa Barbara education professor Tara Yosso’s article “Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.”

Yosso’s 2005 article “conceptualizes community cultural wealth as a critical race theory (CRT) challenge to traditional interpretations of cultural capital.” The proposed “CRT approach to education” entails a commitment to “to develop schools that acknowledge the multiple strengths of Communities of Color in order to serve a larger purpose of struggle toward social and racial justice.”

California State Board of Education Communications Director Janet Weeks told Campus Reform that the curriculum is “optional guidance for districts that are looking to develop such an elective.”

[RELATED: How the California government helped fuel campus madness in 2020]

National Association of Scholars Director of Research David Randall told Campus Reform that the movement to “impose critical race theory requirements is nationwide.”

“California’s move would have been surprising even a decade ago,” said Randall. “Unfortunately, since radical activists have now nearly completed their takeover of educational institutions and bureaucracies, it is now surprising when they don’t make such moves.”

“Parents should note that we may expect CRT standards to be imposed on private schools and home schools,” he continued, “as well as to take over putatively independent assessors such as the College Board.” Randall noted that “the radical activists will seek to ensure that there is no escape from the agenda simply by withdrawing from the public schools.”

Referring to California’s new curriculum, Randall said that “taxpayers should note that the requirement to ‘familiarize themselves with current scholarly research’ is above all a diversion of money to radical activists.”

“Would-be teachers will take undergraduate courses in CRT; so too will the teachers going for MAs, PhDs, and continuing education,” he explained. “The requirement will shift a large proportion of education employment to radical activists. Even teachers who are not themselves radical activists will have to pay radical activists to be taught sufficient CRT to qualify for a job.”

“This move, extended nationwide, will create secure employment for millions of radical activists on the taxpayer dime, using the excuse of ‘professional standards,’” he added.

Campus Reform reached out to the California State Board of Education for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft