(From Press Release) – The “Save CA Ethnic Studies” coalition has been building significant momentum in support of keeping the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) draft as the foundation, its framework focusing on communities of color, and its further development necessitating input from Ethnic Studies experts including the original California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Advisory Committee. The ESMC is a non-mandated guide that was drafted at the California Department of Education earlier this year. It is multidisciplinary, focusing on the study of democracy and civic engagement in communities of color.
Attacks from outside of communities of color, and from outside of Ethnic Studies, have taken place. Unfortunately there have been some inaccurate attacks in the media for the past fifty days about the ESMC and advisory group. Some of the media myths are addressed on their website at www.savecaethnicstudies.com Even if the attacks were not intended to be institutionally racist to discredit Ethnic Studies or to divide and conquer communities, the harm has been done. Ethnic Studies educators and others are now responding. This mobilization for support cannot be stopped.
5,000 plus supporters have signed the coalition’s petition in just 9 days. Backing up the coalition’s demands and its thousands of diverse supporters are many educational, professional, and civil rights organizations, as well as the honorable California Legislative Black Caucus. Without hesitation, Educational Researcher Christine Sleeter, the sole author whose work is specifically cited in the AB 2016 legislation, has sent a letter directly to State Superintendent Thurmond in strong support of the draft as well. Standing with them is also the first female mayor of Oakland Jean Quan and the 1929 Civil Rights Organization League of Latin American Citizens. Also original 1968 Black Student Union (BSU) and Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) members have written in support of the ESMC to the State Superintendent Thurmond. As they put it, “We, the undersigned, are veterans of the historic 1968 Black Student Union/Third World strike at San Francisco State College that rocked the nation. The mission of that 5-month strike is the foundation upon which Ethnic Studies exisits and must remain as a permanent fixture in California’s public schools today.”
Discussing public schools at the last California State Board of Education (SBE) meeting on September 11, were several Save CA Ethnic Studies representatives who spoke in person in support of the ESMC and the movement. A letter was submitted to the SBE on behalf of Dr. Theresa Montaño, who is the spokesperson of Save CA Ethnic Studies, former Vice President of the California Teachers Association, Chicana/o Studies Professor at California State University (CSU) Northridge, and a former member of the Ethnic Studies Model Advisory Committee. Her letter stated, “Let’s be clear, this is not politics, it is an issue of educational equity and of closing the “opportunity gap.” The meeting ended with a statement by the Board leadership saying, “there is support for Ethnic Studies.”
The ESMC and mobilization is also strongly backed by CSU support. The CSU Council on Ethnic Studies, representing all the Ethnic Studies departments across the CSU system on 22 campuses, is also in support as well as several University of California Ethnic Studies departments. These are all noted on the Save CA Ethnic Studies website.
At the high school board level, the San Francisco Unified School District School Board–whose program was documented by a Stanford University study to increase student attendance, GPA, and graduation credits–are also in strong support of the ESMC draft (with edits) and authentic Ethnic Studies. They were disappointed and troubled by the attacks against the model curriculum from outside of communities of color and outside the discipline. The California Latino School Boards Association also recently signed on to the petition supporting the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.
Also the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), which is the second-largest district in California and 5th largest in the nation, is also in solid support. On September 10th, the Superintendent and entire Board of Education came out in support of the Save CA Ethnic Studies’ petition and ESMC draft (with some revisions), and urged the State government to continue the process of implementing an authentic Ethnic Studies as a graduation requirement. A 2019 UC San Diego research brief, found several impressive outcomes for the SDUSD ES program, including students “able to identify and define college-level concepts and vocabulary”, how it “increased their appreciation towards schooling”, “developed more positive perceptions of themselves as learners and gained more motivation after understanding the struggles of people of color”.
At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), students from various organizations also gathered at a meeting on Wednesday, September 11 to form a student-led UCLA Ethnic Studies Student Committee in support of the Save CA Ethnic Studies mobilization. As their summer session ended, students expressed their inspiration by the movement, their desire to be Ethnic Studies educators, and what they see as necessary solidarity as the newer generations of this struggle that goes back over 50 years.
Why is this momentum and mobilization important to Californians? Ethnic Studies curriculum aims to be inclusive and responsive to all students, especially the 1.9 million students in California high schools today. It complements the existing CA Social Studies and History Curriculum Framework and it strengthens civic education and engagement, which is more vital than ever before. In fact, last week the State Department of Education discussed the State Seal of Civic Engagement—an award given by a school or district in recognition of students who practice and reflect on civic engagement—that emerged from AB 24. The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum when completed can precisely support teachers and students in this goal.