Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Update

Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) is concerned about efforts to reinstate an exclusionary and antisemitic Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.

Lara Kiswani and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) have helped sponsor a petition called “Save CA Ethnic Studies” which states, “Will it [the California Department of Education] institute a Ethnic Studies curriculum that uplifts the stories of all communities of color or reject one that includes Arab Americans—bending to the desires of pro-Israel groups [emphasis added]….”

Kiswani has made numerous statements over the years that she believes Zionists should be excluded from the California Education system. A selection: 

“Bringing down Israel will really benefit everyone in the world and everyone in society, particularly workers.”

“As long as you choose to be on that side [supporting Israel], I’m going to continue to hate you.”

“BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement against Israel] really should be about shifting the cultural framework, shifting how we see Israel and isolating it and making it feel unwelcome anywhere and everywhere.” 

A number of communities including Armenian Americans, Greek Americans, Hindu Indian Americans, Assyrian-Americans, Sikh Americans, Korean Americans, and others condemned the initial Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) on the grounds it was not inclusive enough. The Jewish community raised numerous objections ranging from the lack of inclusivity to the wholesale demonization of Israel. Fortunately, the pushback was tremendous and the Department of Education is currently revising the ESMC through its Instructional Quality Commission (IQC). 

To be clear, diverse communities came together to respond to the curriculum based on their own concerns. Claiming in this petition that they are “bending to the desires of” Jewish groups erases their lived experiences and concerns. This dangerous trope of Jews controlling other minorities deeply motivated the Poway, Pittsburg, New Jersey mass murders and the repeated attacks on Jews in Brooklyn and Monsey. PZC condemns this language as both racist and antisemitic.

We encourage the IQC to continue to reject extremism and antisemitism in the curriculum, and commend them for the progress they have made so far. It is crucial that the kind of hatred and misinformation Kiswani has trafficked in not be allowed to become the norm or sanctioned within any public education curriculum.  

Ethnic Studies is incredibly important to get right. California will become a model for the country, ensuring that students learn the history of people and groups that have been systematically excluded from American history books. We cannot let Lara Kiswani, the AROC, MPower Change and CAIR-LA, through this petition, promote a narrow and one-sided agenda that seeks to center certain ethnic groups while erasing others.