The state’s top education officials are hitting the pause button on a plan for teaching ethnic studies to California high-schoolers after the draft faced a flood of criticism.

The draft has faced backlash and been called biased, too “politically correct,” and anti-Semitic. It includes jargon such as “cisheteropatriarchy” and “hxrstory,” and refers to capitalism as a form of power and oppression alongside white supremacy and racism. The draft’s glossary includes xenophobia and islamophobia, but not anti-Semitism. 

At a press conference last week, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said the ethnic studies model curriculum draft needs work and the Education Department will extend the curriculum’s deadline if necessary to get the draft right. Members of the State Board of Education earlier this week wrote that the current draft “falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.” The draft was created by an advisory committee composed of K-12 teachers and college professors who met a total of six times.

Standing by Thurmond’s side were members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, who skewered the draft in a letter to the department last month. Thurmond said “there was no intentional omission of the experiences of Jewish Americans,” but added that the draft should be more inclusive, better balanced and better reflect the state’s diversity. 

He said the department will be making many recommendations to the Instructional Quality Commission, which will make final decisions on the curriculum. The commission includes state Sen. Ben Allen, a Santa Monica Democrat and the chair of the Jewish caucus, who thanked Thurmond and the department for calling for changes to the curriculum. 

“They recognized that we really need some significant changes — if not to go back to square one,” Allen said. 

Earlier this week, the State Board of Education’s president, vice president and a board member released a joint statement that lambasted the draft. They wrote that the “curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all.” 

Their statement follows thousands of public comments to the department. 

“While ethnic studies has a historic framework, I think the task for us will be to establish California’s version of what ethnic studies look like and how we have a conversation,” he said. “There’s no limit on groups who have experienced oppression.”

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