Ethnic studies bill delayed a year in California amid controversy

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LOS ANGELES — A measure that would require all California high school students take an ethnic studies course is on hold for at least a year after pro-Israel groups and other critics raised concerns about the curriculum.

The decision was announced Thursday by the author of the bill, Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside. He said he remained committed to making ethnic studies a graduation requirement, but problems and disagreements with the draft curriculum need “ample time” to be worked out.

“I strongly believe in the tenets of ethnic studies and continue to assert that it is time for California to make the subject a requirement for all students,” Medina said in a statement. “It is not a question of whether the subject itself is necessary but rather, how do we ensure the curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous, and inclusive enough. This underscores the importance of taking the time necessary to ensure we get the curriculum right.”

Despite his support of ethnic studies, Medina joined other members of the Legislature’s Jewish caucus who objected to portions of a “model” ethnic studies curriculum that is being developed to guide the state’s teachers.

Critics questioned, for example, why Islamophobia is defined in the curriculum’s glossary but not anti-Semitism. Pro-Israel groups, in particular, complained that the curriculum’s brief presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one-sided.

Ethnic studies in California have focused mainly on four groups: Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and indigenous peoples —those present in the Americas before the period of European colonization.

State officials have pledged that there will be substantial changes to the curriculum to make it more inclusive before its final approval, which is scheduled for March. There has also been pushback from some students and ethnic studies teachers in defense of the draft curriculum.

Medina’s delay allows the curriculum to evolve into its final form before lawmakers have to vote on whether ethnic studies would become a graduation requirement.

A separate pending bill would make ethnic studies a graduation requirement for students at Cal State campuses.

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