LETTER: Original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Draft Supported by Trans Queer Racial Educational Justice Coalition


The widespread support for the original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Draft continues to grow, with support from leading educators of color, community-based and grassroots organizations, institutions, professional associations, K-12 and higher education Ethnic Studies departments, university Education departments, school boards, anti-racist and equity-based educational programs. Parts of the original curriculum draft are already in use in districts and classrooms throughout California and beyond. Here, a letter from the Trans Queer Racial Educational Justice Coalition to the CA Department of Education, as the department’s “recommended revised draft” is preparing for release, today. Whose voices will be prioritized now and moving forward? We will see…

To: State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond, Instructional Quality Commission Chair Jose Iniguez, and Instructional Quality Commission Executive Director Shanine Coats

We write in support of the original California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Draft (ESMC), and urge you to maintain the powerful Guiding Values, Principles, and Outcomes of Ethnic Studies Teaching embedded within it. It is imperative to adhere to the root from which this framework was founded upon: achieving holistic humanity and helping students develop critical consciousness. We recognize the work that the California Department of Education (CDE) has done in support of LGBTQ+ visibility, family acceptance, and gender identity inclusive policies. However, we want to remind you that the CA-ESMC draft furthers this work by centering Trans, Non-Binary and Queer Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who founded the movements that have paved the way for these important discussions to take place. The framework should be a tool used to support BIPOC in school by giving them a perspective of their story that is representative of their community cultural wealth. The CA-ESMC would teach all students that the struggle for LGBTQ+ visibility, acceptance and gender inclusion were initiated and led by Black and Brown Trans, Non-Binary and Queer activists, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Gloria Anzaldua. It is imperative that you keep the Guiding Values, Principles, and Outcomes of Ethnic Studies Teaching present in the original draft, as well as the language and framing that supports LGBTQ+ communities throughout the document.

In light of the recent global pandemic, the emerging economic recession, and racial injustices, as a coalition of Queer educators and community organizations, we ask the CDE to join the fight to address these ongoing challenges. Through understanding powerful language and terminologies contained in the CA-ESMC, students and educators may bring up the conversation for racial and systemic change in communities across California in specific and nuanced ways. Yes, this includes recognizing the value and importance of terms that were the target of closed-minded criticism from those who wish to maintain the oppressive status quo, terms found in the CA-ESMC draft and which need to remain within it, including: “cisheteropatriarchy, heteronormativity, transphobia, herstory, hxstory, hxrstory, womxn, xdisciplinary, misogynoir, two-spirit, nepantlas, Fa’afafine, Fakaleti, and Mahu”, and having the courage to think beyond rigid binaries and the limitations of traditional disciplines. Words represent concepts, to censor our language, is to censor our thinking, and our being.

With youth understanding these dynamics of power, students will be able to confront both patriarchy and cisheteropatriarchy, as well as racism and white supremacy, which perpetuate violence against our most vulnerable communities: LGBTQ+ Communities of Color. Ethnic Studies can fundamentally transform the very conditions that have allowed injustice and inequality to exist by uplifting our stories courageously through teaching and learning. This year alone, twenty one Trans and Gender Expansive people have been murdered in our country—the vast majority Trans BIPOC. The CA-ESMC Draft directly works to address and combat Transphobia. Our coalition members who are queer educators are already integrating these powerful and necessary Guiding Values and Principles into our classrooms, and they must remain.

Detractors of this field of thought have stated that the curriculum will cause divisiveness, or that the terms are “jargon”, as if queer BIPOC students cannot access academic language, including that which directly results from the CA State Board of Education guideline that the ESMC disciplinarily also connect with Gender & Sexuality Studies. It is racist, heterosexist, and riddled with low expectations to not allow students to encounter this academic language; as educators, it is our job to teach and “scaffold” content-specific academic language accordingly, not deprive our students of the language and concepts themselves. We urge you to not listen to pressures from status quo whiteness and heteronormativity. We appreciate the solidarity from the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Advisory Committee, and now it is upon the CDE to not dilute or exclude this language of the field.

We want to make it clear to the CDE that the original Guiding Values, Principles, Outcomes, and descriptive language of the CA-ESMC all foster cross-cultural collaboration, empathy, and understanding. These, we believe, are the elements of authentic social unity, and we urge you to not dilute the ESMC draft in any of these regards. The time for Trans Queer racial educational justice, through concepts and language that apply to our lives and to intersectional Ethnic Studies, is now; please respect this and do not negate or erase it in the curriculum.

In hope for solidarity,

Trans Queer Racial Educational Justice Coalition

Steering Committee

The full letter from Trans Queer Racial Educational Justice Coalition to the California Department of Education in support of the original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum draft may be found here.

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One thought on “LETTER: Original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Draft Supported by Trans Queer Racial Educational Justice Coalition”

  1. Alan Miller

    Yes, and do Jews support this version?

    This isn’t me just tossing out the Jewish card (as I often do, for kicks) . . . this is a serious issue as Jewish groups have repeatedly been opposed to the Ethnic Studies bills thrown out there as progressives often end up twisting themselves in knots and divide themselves when it comes to Jewish issues, and bringing in Jewish history as told by Jews (which Jews? – another issue) can be in conflict with some progressives’ world views.

    And again, will there be “history” and “ethnic studies” taught separately, as if there were a “white male conquerer” world view vs. “all others” — or will there be one history course that offers multiple perspectives?

    Or “history/herstory” fine . . . or hxstory?  You’ve got to explain the accompanying grahpic . . . first I’ve heard that term (more new terms, yaaaaaaaaaay!!!! (said no one)) . . . and how in heck do you pronounce it?  And what does it meeeeeeeeean?   And what is the O[UR] thingy?

    “Please don’t use your secret language at the dinner table, children”.

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