by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Students applying to any of the University of California’s 10 campuses soon may soon be required to take ethnic studies courses taught through an “anti-racist and anti-colonial” lens, following a faculty board vote meeting last week.
The University of California’s Academic Senate on March 30 considered “course content guidelines” for ethnic studies courses that high schoolers will be required to take before applying to the school system. The guidelines mandate students learn about “the impact of systems of power and oppression,” such as “empire,” “white supremacy,” “anti-Blackness,” “xenophobia,” and “patriarchy” in the courses.
This is the latest step in a years-long battle over ethnic studies in California, where the State Assembly and Department of Education have in recent years proposed several controversial drafts of course standards. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) vetoed a State Assembly Bill in 2020 that would have implemented an earlier draft of the model ethnic studies curriculum—which drew ire from conservatives for including chants to Aztec gods and excluding Jews from discussions about oppressed religious and ethnic minorities. After the department rewrote model standards, Newsom signed a separate bill last fall to require high schools to teach ethnic studies by 2025.
In November 2020, the University of California’s Academic Senate added the one-semester ethnic studies as a course requirement for high schoolers graduating in 2030. The proposed guidelines discussed during last week’s meeting would force high schools—including charter or private schools with students seeking entry to the University of California system—to “center anti-racism and anti-racist solidarity” in their ethnic studies courses.
In addition to making land acknowledgments, high school ethnic studies classes should “honor anti-colonial and liberatory movements that struggle for social justice” and “critique histories of imperialism, dehumanization, and genocide to expose how they are connected to present-day ideologies, systems, and dominant cultures that perpetuate racial violence, white supremacy, and other forms of oppressions,” the guidelines state.