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21 Woke Mandates Reveal California’s Radical Education Bender

California funds leftist interest groups to transform schools, while requiring all districts to follow mandates pushed by said interest groups.


In less than 12 years, California has passed more than 20 education mandates with the goal of sowing radical gender theory and critical race theory into the state’s education practices.

It is easy to get numb to California’s single-minded pursuit of wokeness in K-12 education. When all of California’s actions are collected in one place (as we show in a recent report from the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life and the Idaho Freedom Foundation), the ambitions are truly breathtaking. Since 2011, California has gone on a social justice bender.

Each of these 21 mandates aims to remedy either (1) homophobia, (2) transphobia, or (3) racial inequity, or (4) establish manipulative teaching techniques to shape children’s affections toward the first three categories. California laws, it seems, are focused on promoting gay pride and transgenderism among students. At least eight mandates concern combatting homophobia or incorporating gender identity into school policy, classroom instruction, or teacher training. In addition, California emphasizes developing manipulative teaching techniques called “transformative-social and emotional” learning and culturally responsive teaching so that its woke agenda can be ever more successfully implemented. Let’s look at some of these specific mandates.

Combating Homophobia

Seth’s Law, enacted in 2011, mandates schools to adopt anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. The state also enacted the FAIR Education Act in 2011 which mandates that examples of LGBT people be incorporated into social science instruction for all K–12 students.

In 2015, California enacted the Healthy Youth Act which mandated “LGBTQ+ inclusive” Comprehensive Sex Education for grades 7–12. The next year, the state adopted a suicide prevention policy requiring public schools to adopt suicide prevention policies for grades K–12 that specifically mention and incorporate LGBT students. Two years later, the adoption of the Online Anti-Bullying Training for Teachers and School Staff required schools to provide teachers and staff with annual online training on bullying.

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2019 required the California Department of Education (CDE) to provide LGBT resources for school districts. The CDE then adopted the Health Education Framework in 2019 which includes training teachers to affirm and perhaps cultivate LGBT identities in students. Kindergarten students must learn about challenging gender stereotypes, gender identity, transgenderism, and gender nonconformity. None of this, however, is enough for the CDE to rectify supposed homophobia in the system. This year the superintendent of public instruction created a task force on inclusive education to pressure curriculum providers to diversify their materials and be LGBT inclusive.

Outlawing Transphobia

In 2013, California enacted the School Success and Opportunity Act, which required public schools to allow all K–12 students to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and other school facilities not based on their sex. By 2021, the state passed the Menstrual Equity for All Act requiring public schools to put feminine hygiene products in both men’s and women’s restrooms in grades 6–12. In 2022, the Gender-Affirming Health Care Act was passed, effectively allowing the state of California to take a child from his or her parent’s custody if the parent does not affirm transgender surgery.

Dismantling Racial Inequity

California has increasingly made school discipline into a race issue. Beginning in 2019, the state passed a law on suspension and expulsion that required public schools to adopt a “restorative justice” program banning suspensions in elementary and middle schools for willful defiance. In 2021, the CDE published school discipline guidelines directing school districts to adopt restorative justice practices and more social-emotional learning in the classroom.

Now the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Mandate passed in 2021 requires that all students must complete a semester-long course in ethnic studies in order to graduate from high school. The state recently adopted a mathematics framework for all K-12 schools and declared that “teaching toward social justice can play an important role in shifting students’ perspectives.” These ideological math standards presuppose that teaching math plainly and objectively reinforces oppressive power structures, and therefore must be transformed through politicized pedagogical practices to make math about social justice and equity.

Tactics for Teaching and Keeping Kids in School Longer

In 2011, California Early Childhood Educator Competencies incorporated a focus on “culture, diversity and equity,” which requires the use of culturally responsive teaching methods, “identity development,” and SEL competencies. In 2017 the CDE developed the “California SEL Guiding Principles” which affirmed SEL as “an essential part of a well-rounded, quality education in all youth-serving settings.” The guiding principles included a commitment to equity, culturally responsive teaching, and whole-child practices.

A few years later, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond created the “Advance SEL in California Campaign.” The project culminated with a report declaring that Transformative Social-Emotional Learning (T-SEL) needed to be the “cornerstone of California’s education system.” Another key finding of the initiative was that racial equity must be an integral part of T-SEL. To implement the recommendations made by the campaign, the CDE developed “equity-focused” T-SEL guidance tools for districts to use in “every learning and teaching context across the education system.” The tools directed districts to adopt culturally responsive policies that reinforce “equity, inclusion and anti-racism.”

Under CDE’s 2020 Transforming Schools Initiative (TSI), the time kids spend within public schools increases. Spending on universal pre-K programs grows by $100 million. TSI establishes “community schools” where education bureaucrats in partnership with leftist interest groups visit private homes to prepare all for culturally responsive and equity training in schools.

The money supporting the California social justice apparatus includes $1.8 billion for professional development including equity and LGBT training, and affirmative action for teachers; $500 million for school counselor training and residencies; $250 million for inclusive early education programs; over $1 billion to improve school lunches; $5 billion for a 30-day increase in the number of school days.

The TSI gives no less than $75,000 to school districts to use for anti-bias activities, such as anti-racism teacher and administrator training, the development of a diversity plan, “inclusive” curricula for K–12 students that address bigotry or racism and promote “pride in one’s multiple identities,” and student-led efforts about racism or bigotry. Leftist interest groups will organize to receive a large chunk of the funds to provide endless training.

California’s K-12 system is a perfect storm. The legislature lavishly funds leftist interest groups to transform the schools, while requiring all school districts to follow the curriculum mandates pushed by leftist interest groups. Interest groups are pushing on open doors, since school boards and the state Department of Education are filled with ideologues who embrace the woke vision. Teacher certification programs in schools of education are informed by this vision too. It is, to some extent, the same in every state. But when it comes to wokeness in education, there is no place like California.

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