CALIFORNIA'S ''Ethnic Studies'' in world watched, follies:

WHAT is ''ethnic studies''? Contrary to first impressions, it is not multiculturalism. It is not a way of exploring, much less celebrating, America's pluralistic society. It is an assault on it.

''A multiculturalist framework that views our people through a colonialist lens is what literally led to the need for ethnic studies,'' Sharif Zakout of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center told a state Education Department panel last year.

The first time California's Department of Education published a draft of an ethnic studies ''model curriculum'' for high school students, in 2019, it managed the neat trick of omitting anti Semitism while committing it.

More than a million Jews live in California. They are also among the state's leading victims of hate crimes.

Yet in a lengthy draft otherwise rich with references to various forms of bigotry, there was no mention of bigotry towards Jews. There was, however, an endorsement of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, which essentially calls for elimination of the Jewish state.

There was also an approving mention of a Palestinian singer rapping that Israelis ''use the press so they can manufacture'' - the old refrain that lying Jews control the media.

The draft outraged many Jews. And they were joined by Armenian, Assyrian, Hellenic, Hindu and Korean civic groups in a statement urging the California Department of Education to ''completely redraft the curriculum.'' In its original form, they said, the document was ''replete with mischaracterization and omissions of major California ethnoreligious groups.''

Last September, Gov, Gavin Newsome vetoed a bill that would mandate ethnic studies as a graduation requirement in California's high schools, pending further review of the model curriculum.

While some maintained that a critical ethnic studies curriculum was a mistake, and not just for Jews, others took to the view that, when it came to revisions, it was better to be at the table than on it.

Progressive Jews helped redraft a curriculum that included two sample lessons of Jewish-American experience, along with testimonials about Jewishness from the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Dianne Feinstein.

The Ethnic studies curriculum conceals the difference. It also does so in a uniquely lopsided way. ''Ethnic studies is for all students,'' the curriculum announces. Actually, not so much, Irish-Americans have faced a long history of discrimination in the U.S. and are famously proud of their heritage.

But the world ''Irish'' hardly appears anywhere in the model curriculum, and nowhere in its sample lessons. Russians, Italians, Poles and others rate only the briefest mentions.

Perhaps, this is because all of them, like most Jews, have a new identity, known in the jargon of ethnic studies as ''conditional whiteness,'' which simultaneously erases their past and realizes their present.

Leave aside the ignorance this fosters regarding the long history of differences, struggles and achievements by various European ethnic groups in America.

It's also the mirror image of longstanding prejudices regarding ''Asians'' or ''Hispanics'' as ethnically undifferentiated masses of mainly identical people.

When the main thing left-wing progressives see about America is its allegedly impressive systems of ethnicity or color, they aren't seeing America at all.

Nor should they be surprised when right-wing reactionaries adopt a perverse version of their views. To treat ''whiteness'' - conditional or otherwise - not as accident of pigmentation but as an ethnicity unto itself is what David Dukes of the world have always wanted.

It shouldn't be like this. Public education is supposed to create a sense of common citizenship while cultivating the habits of independent thinking.

This is a curriculum that magnifies differences, encourages tribal loyalties and advances ideological groupthink.

The World Students Society thanks author Bret Stephens.


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