Muslim, Sikh and Jewish Groups Seek Inclusion in California’s New Ethnic Studies

George Washington High School stands in San Francisco. California's Department of Education plans to release a detailed how-to guide to safely reopen schools in the age of face masks and physical distancing. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Religious groups are urging California education officials to include their histories and cultures in a model ethnic studies curriculum being developed for high schools in the state.

The proposed curriculum, which the Department of Education has been planning since 2018, centers on Chicanos and Latino Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans. It is intended to serve as a guide as schools design the ethnic studies courses that could be mandated for graduation beginning later this decade.

But Jewish, Sikh, Arab American and other groups have sought to be represented in the curriculum as well, and they say that the department’s offer to expand an appendix of resources to reflect these religious and cultural identities isn’t enough.

They’ll be making their case during a pair of virtual meetings Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 18 and 19), when the State Board of Education will present the latest curriculum revisions to the Instructional Quality Commission. The commission serves as an advisory body to the board.

The Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement are asking that Sikhs be included under the Asian American studies curriculum, as are members of the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, who are calling on the department to include Arab American studies within the Asian American unit.

The original proponents of the curriculum worry that including additional faith and ethnic groups will “water down” a program intended to highlight the effects of systemic oppression of the four major ethnicities.

The Anti-Defamation League criticized the curriculum last August for “failing to include Jews in a meaningful way,” neglecting discussion of anti-Semitism.

Jewish groups have also been critical of a segment on Arab American history with references to Israeli oppression of Palestinians, according to EdSource, that the Anti-Defamation League said incorporated “harmful anti-Jewish stereotypes in its completely inappropriate and biased criticism of Israel.”

Since then, the department has recommended removing the content referring to Israeli oppression and language that was perceived as anti-Semitic.

But CAIR is urging the department to disapprove “definitions of antisemitism that equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism,” arguing that if California’s education system “succumbs to a campaign that would brand any mention of Palestine in public schools as de facto anti-Semitic — we’re going to face a dire precedent.”

Once the Instructional Quality Commission moves the revised curriculum forward, a 45-day public review period will follow. By law, the State Board of Education must adopt the curriculum by March 31, 2021.

#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org.

 

more from IFYC

Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh, the person who nominated Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize and encouraged King to speak out against the war in Vietnam.
What Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about the power of mindful breathing through art.
A scholar of democratic virtues explains why Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on hope are relevant today.
From covering spirituality in Silicon Valley to writing an online newsletter about her own journey to Judaism, reporter Nellie Bowles keeps finding innovative ways to reflect on religion and technology.
Six ways religious and spiritual leaders can help the internet serve their communities right now.
At the request of his editors at Religion News Service, Omar Suleiman writes about waiting with hostages’ families.
Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, the PNBC leaders said they plan to lobby Congress in March and register voters weekly in their congregations and communities.
King’s exasperation at self-satisfied white Christians holds up a mirror that is still painfully accurate today.
A day before the U.S. Senate was expected to take up significant legislation on voting rights that is looking likely to fail, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eldest son condemned federal lawmakers over their inaction.
The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, is particularly well connected to the larger interfaith community and on good terms with many Muslim leaders.
For Martin Luther King Day, an interfaith panel reflects on the sacredness of the vote and the legacy of Reverend King.
In his new book, Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer reexamines the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel and finds lessons for interfaith political activism today.
King drew criticism from Billy Graham, who told journalists that he thought King was wrong to link anti-war efforts with the civil rights movement.
Some are calling out historical injustices the church has carried out against Native Americans, even as others find their faith empowering.
IFYC’s Vote is Sacred campaign launched on January 13. Faith leaders, public intellectuals, activists, and organizers are joining to advocate for an inclusive, nonpartisan interfaith approach to restoring and protecting our democracy.
One out of five Muslims is in an interfaith relationship, surveys suggest. But few imams are willing to conform the traditional Muslim wedding ceremony to their needs, couples say.
In her popular podcast series, Corrigan invites guests to wonder about 'the elephant in America's living room': belief and religion. 'I hope I have a hundred more conversations like these in 2022 and beyond,' she says.
In his annual address to the Vatican's diplomatic corps, the pope stressed the individual's responsibility 'to care for ourself and our health, and this translates into respect for the health of those around us.'
The very people who have been subject to the worst of the United States have embodied its best.
The Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol drew recent attention to the phenomenon of Christian nationalism, but religious and spiritual leaders acknowledge its existence long before that.
A new interfaith curriculum designed for Christian universities and seminaries recently got a test run. One professor who tried it says it's opened hearts and minds: "The desire is very much there."

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.