A coalition of groups wrote a joint letter to members of the California state assembly asking the lawmakers to vote no on a new measure to mandate an “ethnic studies” curriculum for high school students.
“We are 14 organizations deeply concerned about the enormously harmful impact that AB 101 — the bill making a course in ethnic studies a graduation requirement in all public and charter high schools in the state — would have on our students and our state. AB101 is an imprudent measure based on the highly controversial ethnic studies model curriculum,” the letter states.
AB 101 would require schools implement an ethnic studies course for students to obtain a diploma. The curriculum would be developed under the “Instructional Quality Commission” and the State Board of Education. According to the organizations who sounded off against the initiative, the bill would violate the state’s constitution and be costly for taxpayers.
The bill does not define “ethnic studies” but it is a theoretical academic discipline that centralizes race and identity. According to the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, it “is the critical and interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity with a focus on the experiences and perspectives of people of color within and beyond the United States.”
Article 3 of the Education Code says “[n]o person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes…” The groups determine that the new effort will violate this clause, as well as article 4 on “sex equity.”
AB 101, the groups argue, would promote “neo-Marxist ideologies” and “indoctrinate students into narrow political beliefs and political activism.” A competitive-edge survey released by Parents Defending Education, one of the signees, found that three-quarters of Americans oppose “white privilege training” and 80 percent reject classrooms that promote “political activism.”
The letter focuses on the vast economic consequences of such a diversity-related initiative. The organizations cite a study by Stanford University researchers that found between March and June 2020 children lost an average of 116 days of reading time and 215 days of math time.
“However, instead of directing essential educational funding to help students recover from these devastating educational losses in foundational subjects such as Math, Science and English, AB 101 would divert an enormous amount of taxpayer funds into courses that have not been shown to benefit students academically, and may even harm them,” the letter states.
A Director of Budget Services and Financial Planning at a school district in California estimated in 2015 that the plan would cost $73 million. It would cost $150 per student, according to the estimate. The groups estimate that accounting for supplementary factors, AB 101 could cost California “$132 million per year, $664 million over 5 years and $1.32 billion over 10 years.”
The groups that signed the letter include Alliance to Protect Children, AMCHA Initiative, Better Milpitas, California Association of Scholars, Californians For Equal Rights, Foundation Educators for Quality and Equality, Equal Rights for All-Pac, National Association of Scholars, Parents Defending Education, Protect Our Kids, San Diego Asian Americans for Equality, Silicon Valley Chinese Association Foundation, TOC Foundation, and US Asian Art & Culture Association.