New curriculum deepens old political divide in Alberta

Brings back memories of working on Discover Canada, the citizenship study guide introduced by former immigration and citizenship minister Kenney (my book, https://wordpress.com/page/multiculturalmeanderings.com/2507, has a chapter covering that):

When Alberta’s NDP government was still in power, the United Conservative Party campaigned on the idea that its political rival was trying to smuggle politics into Alberta classrooms. Once in office, UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said her own government’s plans for a sweeping curriculum revamp would be about getting away from any “ideological bent.”

But when everyone got the first official look at the UCP’s draft kindergarten-to-Grade 6 curriculum this week, it became clear that the governing party’s political stamp is on its own strategy. In social studies, in particular, it’s a prescriptive, details-heavy document with a take on history that’s not an easy sell to many parents, or the people who teach the stuff.

The document asks Grade 3 students – kids aged 8 or 9 – to explain items many grownups struggle with, including the clauses of Magna Carta, the First Nations’ claim to land beyond the settled area of New France and “why Alberta is a leading resource-producing region.”

There was never a chance that a large-scale blueprint that outlines the lessons that will mould young minds would be anything but political. Education is a fraught issue everywhere, but it’s especially so in the polarized landscape that is Alberta politics. Here, there’s no consensus on where the oil and gas-focused economy needs to go, and where it feels like the NDP and UCP are locked in a perpetual, election-like battle.

The government says the draft K-6 curriculum brings a renewed focus to literacy, numeracy, citizenship and practical skills. Everyone seems to agree that the addition of financial skills, computer coding and sexual consent are good things.

The government is asking for feedback from the public but intends to test the curriculum in some classrooms this fall, and all students are expected to be learning it in the 2022-23 school year. The quick turnaround for reimagining the curriculum is in step with the government’s focus on fulfilling campaign commitments, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Alberta has long had a strong, well-regarded public-education system with high student test scores in reading, math and science, compared with global peers. Ms. LaGrange, however, also notes that some parts of the curriculum are decades old, and raw scores are either flat or seeing a decline.

“This is actually very ambitious – to change all of the curriculum at one time,” said Ms. LaGrange in an interview this week with The Globe and Mail.

But already, the Métis Nation of Alberta has called for a redo. Edmonton Public Schools – which counts more than 100,000 students of all grades on its rolls – said Thursday that it will not participate in a pilot run of the draft elementary curriculum this fall. The decision is based on worries about bringing in a new program during the pandemic. But there’s also high public concern as to whether the curriculum is age-appropriate, whether it properly addresses the issues of residential schools and reconciliation, and whether an “us-versus-them mentality” is embedded in the document.

Elk Island Public Schools is also out, and Edmonton Catholic Schools has saidit “will not be committing to piloting the curriculum.”

All subjects are under intense scrutiny but social studies appears to be the major sticking point. Some parents and critics say the curriculum is far too dense for young students, mishandles issues of race and leaves out LGBTQ issues, is too American- and European-centric, or is focused on the three major Abrahamic religions.

There are seemingly gratuitous partisan jabs, like in Grade 6, where the curriculum notes that “the United States Congress, controlled by the Democratic party, ruled in the Fugitive Slave Act that escaped slaves must be returned to their owners.”

NDP critic Sarah Hoffman’s blunt assessment is “this is a mess of a curriculum.”

But the UCP is responding, in part, to broader concerns about the education system – which Ms. LaGrange notes helped her party win the 2019 election. A key part of this is what she has described as the political biases of some individual teachers.

Last year, Ms. LaGrange referred to an excerpt from an exam that she said was from a Grade 10 class in Calgary. She argued that it was an attack on the province’s responsible energy sector. A multiple-choice question asked students to identify “one of the valid arguments against oil sands development” being the destruction of tracts of forest.

“My main concern has always been to ensure that our curriculum is taught without bias,” the Education Minister said the interview. “And the fact that the new draft curriculum is really based on factual content – that will really leave little room for bias in our classrooms.”

But the other side of this argument is that the ability of teachers to adapt to circumstances is diminished. “The new curriculum turns education into a checklist and rote memorization,” said Alberta Party Leader Jacquie Fenske.

And a second, related theme for the UCP is that current teaching now is so focused on the many errors of history, and injustices, that it fails to note the accomplishments of modern civilization, in Alberta and elsewhere. Premier Jason Kenney says it’s possible to face up to historical racism, for instance, “while also teaching how we have increasingly managed to overcome those things, and how we’ve created this incredibly diverse, pluralistic society.”

This part of the revamp is very on-brand for the UCP. Part of it, however, feels incongruous in a week when Mr. Kenney talked about “hitting our stride in diversification.”

An overly political remaking of Alberta’s now-strong school system is galvanizing parent groups who are against the changes. A big fight over the base curriculum for the youngest kids is not only bad for the province, it could make potential newcomers – and even the companies and investors Mr. Kenney’s government has spent two years trying to entice – less enthusiastic about coming to the province.

Politics will be part of any new curriculum. But Mr. Kenney’s UCP is, as often, in danger of letting politics take over.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-new-curriculum-deepens-old-political-divide-in-alberta/

Stephens: California’s Ethnic Studies Follies: A proposed curriculum magnifies differences, encourages tribal loyalties and advances ideological group think.

Some exaggeration regarding divisiveness but valid points regarding over-reach and the risks in not using ethnic studies to look at both the commonalities and differences:

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 toward Jews. There was, however, an endorsement of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, which essentially calls for the 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 statementurging the California Department of Education to “completely redraft the curriculum.” In its original form, they said, the document was “replete with mischaracterizations and omissions of major California ethnoreligious groups.”

Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom 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 the view that, when it came to those revisions, it was better to be at the table than on it. Progressive Jews helped redraft a curriculum that included two sample lessons on the Jewish-American experience, along with testimonials about Jewishness from the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Dianne Feinstein.

A victory? One can still quarrel with the curriculum’s tendentiously racialized view of the American-Jewish experience. But at least the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist dog whistles have been taken out and the history of anti-Semitism has been put in.

Yet as the Board of Education is set to vote on the new curriculum this month, it is likelier than before to enthrone ethnic studies, an older relative to critical race theory, into the largest public school system in the United States. This is a big deal in America’s ongoing culture wars. And it’s a bad deal for California’s students, at least for those whose school districts decide to make the curriculum their own.

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.

Ethnic studies is less an academic discipline than it is the recruiting arm of a radical ideological movement masquerading as mainstream pedagogy. From the opening pages of the model curriculum, students are expected not just to “challenge racist, bigoted, discriminatory, imperialist/colonial beliefs,” but to “critique empire-building in history” and “connect ourselves to past and contemporary social movements that struggle for social justice.”

That would be fine if it appeared in the pages of, say, The Nation. It would be fine, too, if students were exposed to critical race theory the way they might be exposed to Marxist philosophy or some other ideology — as a subject to be examined, not a lens through which to do the examining. The former is education. The latter is indoctrination. 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 word “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 racializes 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 oppressive 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 an accident of pigmentation but as an ethnicity unto itself is what the 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.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/09/opinion/californias-ethnic-studies.html

ICYMI: Hong Kong to teach elementary students about subversion and foreign interference

Yet another sign of the Chinese regime’s crackdown on Hong Kong:

Hong Kong has unveiled controversial guidelines for schools that include teaching students as young as six about colluding with foreign forces and subversion, as part of a new national security curriculum.

Beijing imposed a security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 in response to months of often violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019 that put the global financial hub more firmly on an authoritarian path.

The Education Bureau’s guidelines, released late on Thursday, show that Beijing’s plans for the semi-autonomous Hong Kong go beyond quashing dissent, and aim for a societal overhaul to bring its most restive city more in line with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.

Source: Hong Kong to teach elementary students about subversion and foreign interference

Alberta’s Little History War

From Chris Champion, the Conservative staffer I worked with developing the Canadian citizenship guide, Discover Canada, and who is playing a similar role with respect to the Alberta education curriculum, providing context for the controversies over the proposed approach:

JASON KENNEY, SWORN in as Alberta Premier on Apr. 30, should not only cancel the revised social studies curriculum drafted under Rachel Notley since 2016. He should scrap the extant 2005 curriculum too, and do what he can to shift the teaching philosophy behind it.

Kenney re-entered the History Wars with finely-calibrated counterattacks in 2016-17, renewed this year on Feb. 16, against “social engineering and pedagogical fads.” He should now bring forward the reserve guns.

Mandatory testing to the end of Grade 12 is laudable and should continue. The deeper problem lies in the current thematic approach to history and civics, in which a series of disjointed topics displaces sequential narrative. As against narrative history, too difficult for most academics, the teaching establishment prefers “‘issues-centred,’ interdisciplinary Social Studies courses,” beloved of two of Kenney’s antagonists, University of Alberta educationists Lindsay Gibson and Carla Peck. But even they admit that educators have been “over-privileging thematic approaches and disregarding chronology.”(1)

Thematic history is lazy, dispensing with the need to juggle sequence and analysis and put people and events in context. True understanding absolutely requires narrative, a discipline that forces teacher and student to interpret and explain, as they should be able to do both orally and in writing (but most of course cannot). A bundle of isolated topics — last week women’s suffrage, tomorrow divestment from Israel, next week Oka — half-fills the student’s head with random happenings, creating the illusion of insight, whose only glue is the social-justice temperament that left-wingers equate with good citizenship.

Just look at the “themes” of 2005. Grade 4 socials is about “analyzing various actions taken to address historical injustices.” Say again? This implies that current fads of the left are the engine of history, turning 9-year-olds into little SJW’s. In Grade 5 it’s “examining Canadian identity,” an inappropriate, post-secondary sociological approach. Grade 7 covers “origins, histories and movement of people” (dry social history). Grade 9 offers “a few isolated topics in Canadian history” such as the Indian Act and local Treaties. It gets worse, with “multidisciplinary investigations” of “globalization” in Grade 10, “nationalism” in Grade 11, and “ideology” in Grade 12. The problem is not that this stuff is, as Notley asserted, “out of date”; it is too up to date: it’s a curriculum designed by a committee, it would seem by some childless educratic clerisy.

It’s deadly stuff! When Kenney accused Notley’s experts of omitting military history, her minister countered that wars would continue to be studied in the context of “ideology.” But that’s the problem. To reduce war to a byproduct of ideology is reminiscent of Lenin’s deterministic “highest and last stage of capitalism.” 

Nor should “Nationalism” be taught as a tedious “-ism” with sermons about equality, discrimination, and the menace of ideology. Instead, tell the story of Cardinal Richelieu putting the state ahead of the church; of Napoleon, his wars, and the nations’ backlash. Tell the romance of Bolívar and the South American Republics; Garibaldi vs. the Pope in the Risorgimento; or, more ominously, Bismarck and German unification. Teach that ideas have consequences; that peace comes at a high price; that all of this lay in the background when Canada was cobbled together and mounted its own make-or-break colonial adventures in the West. “Ideology” be damned!

‘A.J.P. Taylor believed that if you sacrificed narrative, you opened the floodgates to laziness, for it was no longer necessary to take enormous pains organising a moving structure into which everything fitted’

— Paul Johnson

The ongoing fad is that we need “more” First Nations “perspectives.” Far from being new, this must date from at least the 1970s if my own repetitive West Vancouver experience with oolichan, cedar masks, and trickster stories is any guide. The plug must be pulled on the deplorable agitprop of the “KAIROS Blanket,” which brainwashes children into thinking  of themselves as “settlers” stealing the land — the kind of “truth and reconciliation” that is not evidence-based but relies on “knowledge keepers” to “foster truth.” The scientific tradition is that truth is discovered and authenticated. By contrast, the “truth” of Indigenous Elders sometimes contradicts the evidence.

Thematic history seems ideally suited to transmitting left-wing dogma. Is this fair to students? Better to equip them with the great stories and give them a key life-skill by the end of high school: the capacity to think critically about men and ideas and their place in history, as opposed to imposing sterile doctrines of race and “gender.” As my old Latin teacher was fond of saying, “He who marries the Spirit of the Age will be a widower in the next.”

If more proof were needed that educational approaches are in crisis, it is that today’s publicly-schooled millennials have negative impressions of the role of capitalism in history. They seem never to have been exposed to the idea that markets are probably the only system that has ever lifted the mass of people out of poverty. Instead the kids accord high notional support to — of all things — socialism.

Talk about turning the clock back! Oddly that is what CBC Edmonton reporter Alexandra Zabjek now accuses Kenney of doing in Alberta Views magazine. She sees a conspiracy to “grow the privatization movement … to encourage more Albertans to educate outside the traditional public system.”(2) But surely it’s an overly-powerful public monopoly that should be made a thing of the past.

The CBC fired a dud rocket when they called for a “focus on competencies” and “inquiry and discovery — not just the dissemination of information and recall of facts.”(3) Yet contrary to the CBC, one has the impression that facts and recall have been passé for decades.

They shouldn’t be. Elementary-age minds are sponges for memorizing poetry, stories, songs — and yes, dates. Canadian children have a right to know our stories, and by heart. Elementary graduates should also take home with them their own compendious time-line of European and North American history with hand-coloured maps and drawings, from something like 2500 BC to 2000 AD. This could be a project begun in Grade 4 and attentively improved and revised up to the end of Grade 7. Canadians especially need Classical, European, and US history because North American societies are offshoots of Europe’s, particularly those of Britain and France. Of course there is value in other cultures but we can never truly appreciate or evaluate foreign cultures without first knowing our own.

When it comes to content, part of the solution may be to film Ted Byfield’s Alberta in the Twentieth Century, an illustrated series of twelve oversize books, published between 1991 and 2006, that is already approved for use in schools. It’s a comprehensive analytic narrative of the Province in the context of historians’ debates and Canadian and world history. As Byfield told me when he recruited me in 1994 to work on Vol. 5, his dream was that the set would one day become a Ken Burns-style documentary like “The Civil War” on PBS. I’m sure the books could be spun into a few compelling Netflix dramas too, if competent directors can be found.

Once filmed, the documentary could be required for mandatory testing, perhaps in Grade 11. Watch Episode one at home, discuss with your peers, take a supervised test at school. Test the teachers while you’re at it. If you fail, you get to watch the video again and retake until you pass with 85%. Watch Episode 2, repeat. This alone would increase students’ knowledge of the past and provide counterbalance to the prevailing, politicizing social justice tendency that has already gone too far.

— C.P. Champion

Source: https://nuzzel.com/subscriptionstory/08282020/dorchesterreview/albertas_little_history_war?e=6707902&c=6ZpMrqxwRZjsQ21ty4Q3ZNz5DgUMIGhgcRJEW6skW9&u=davidakin&utm_campaign=newsletter_subscription&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nuzzel

Senator criticizes Alberta proposal to shield younger students from lessons on residential schools

One of the better articles soon the Alberta proposed revised curriculum, reminding me of some of the internal discussion regarding the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, steered by the same political staffer to Jason Kenney:

The former chair of the commission on residential schools says a proposal from government-appointed advisers in Alberta to shield younger children from that dark history would be a “terrible mistake” that would leave them with a distorted view of the mistreatment of Indigenous people in Canada.

Senator Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said children can handle information about the difficult topic of residential schools when it is presented in an appropriate way. If the education system waits until they are older, as contemplated in a leaked curriculum proposal, he said that will perpetuate a “wall of mythology” about Indigenous people and their history that will be next to impossible to undo.

“It’s not only a terrible mistake, but it would be an act of discrimination against the Indigenous people,” Mr. Sinclair told The Globe and Mail.

“It would be, in fact, a continuation of the white supremacy which the residential schools and the public schools have historically perpetrated against the Indigenous people of this country. And we should call it what it is and we should fight it when we can.”

An advisory panel appointed by the United Conservative Party government has presented the Education Minister with a package of recommendations, published Wednesday by the CBC, for the kindergarten-to-Grade 4 social studies curriculum. The document argues that information about residential schools should not be taught to children in Grade 3.

Instead, the document says that material should wait until students are older, potentially in Grade 9, and with residential schools presented as one example of “harsh schooling.”

“The ugliness of Dickensian schooling, boarding schools, 19th-century discipline methods, and residential schooling that applied to some Indigenous kids can probably best be saved for later when learners are more mature and are less emotionally vulnerable to traumatic material,” the document says.

“For example, there could be a Grade 9 unit about benign vs. harsh schooling in the past, inclusive of all cultures not only Indigenous, but with regard to the particular problematic of residential schooling even if it applied only to a minority of Indigenous children.”

Mr. Sinclair rejected that idea, and said it is possible to present the history of residential schools in a way that that is appropriate for young children.

“We’re not asking them to start holding up bloody pictures and demanding that they cry,” he said. “What we’re saying is, talk about it from the perspective of children. Talk about it in ways that they can understand, that they can utilize. It can easily be done.”

Mr. Sinclair, who has called on provincial education ministries to ensure students learn about residential schools, said young children already learn about potentially upsetting topics, such as wars.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange stressed the ideas in the document are merely recommendations. She said residential schools would be taught in elementary school but she declined to say at what age that would start or how that information would be presented.

“We are absolutely committed to truth and reconciliation and to ensuring that the truth about residential schools is in our K-6 curriculum. That is non-negotiable,” she told reporters at the provincial legislature in Edmonton.

She noted that a larger working group that will include teachers will examine the curriculum this fall and a draft will be ready for public feedback next year.

Richard Feehan, the Opposition New Democrats’ critic for Indigenous relations, said teaching all students about residential schools should be non-negotiable.

“They worry that young children can’t hear that story, and yet here we are approaching Nov. 11, when we go into every grade in school and talk about the history of World War One and the history of World War Two,” he said.

“But somehow, when we talk about Indigenous children being harmed or being killed, it’s somehow too much for children to handle. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in 2015 described the Canadian government’s long-running policy of removing Indigenous children from their communities as cultural genocide.

The report also found that abuse was rampant within the residential school system.

“Child neglect was institutionalized, and the lack of supervision created situations where students were prey to sexual and physical abusers,” the report said.

The commission called on ministers of education across the country to include the history and legacy of residential schools in kindergarten-to-Grade 12 curriculums. In 2014, the Progressive Conservative government of the day publicly committed to ensure students at all grade levels learn about the legacy of residential schools.

When it comes to First Nations, the proposed curriculum document focuses on teaching young children about the life and customs of Indigenous people, particularly before contact with Europeans. Topics include the structure of First Nations leadership, farming, hunting, Arctic survival and “warfare.”

While the document argues lessons about residential schools would be traumatic, it also proposes that students in Grade 3 be taught about ancient Rome, battles of the Middle Ages and slavery in the Ottoman Empire.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-senator-criticizes-alberta-proposal-to-shield-younger-students-from/

‘Herstory’ is out as California revamps K-12 ethnic studies course guide

Hard to update curricula for ethnic studies and develop consensus and balance (as in the case of citizenship guides):

State officials unveiled their latest try at an ethnic studies curriculum for K-12 students Friday, and it’s clear their hope is that this time fewer people will be offended.

To appease critics of academic jargon, the new draft ditches terms such as “herstory” for the more traditional “history.” To better honor diversity, teachers are encouraged to let the ethnic composition of the class influence study topics.

Still, the new version retains a focus on the four groups long associated with ethnic studies: African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos/Latinos and Native American and Indigenous peoples. That aspect could reassure leaders in the field of ethnic studies, who shaped the first version but had less influence over the revision.

All told, the latest draft represents an attempt at compromise among strong, difficult-to-resolve passions. Ethnic studies is innately and even intentionally political in challenging established norms. All the same, it embodies widely supported goals that include empowering students of color, nurturing empathy among white students and developing critical thinking and historical perspective among all.

The push for ethnic studies in California has recently gained momentum, buoyed by Black Lives Matter protests that followed the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Ethnic studies, supporters say, has the potential to dismantle systemic and unconscious racism through the education of the citizens of tomorrow.

“Our schools have not always been a place where students can gain a full understanding of the contributions of people of color and the many ways throughout history — and present day — that our country has exploited, marginalized, and oppressed them,” state Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a statement Friday. “At a time when people across the nation are calling for a fairer, more just society, we must empower and equip students and educators to have these courageous conversations in the classroom.”

Expect the reviews — positive and negative — to trickle in for weeks.

The debate is not merely for academics. This model curriculum is expected to guide teaching in K-12 public schools across California. The state Board of Education is scheduled to approve a final version by the end of March. And pending legislation would make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement.

The latest version attempts to tone down references that some regarded as overly political or ideologically one-sided. There had been particular criticism of elements seen as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, although there were Jews on both sides of the debate.

Among those with reservations about the original curriculum were members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, which had contended that the guide intentionally excluded Jews. The lawmakers faulted the first version for failing to explain anti-Semitism while providing an overly positive representation of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“There were 14 forms of bigotry and racism in the glossary,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), who called the exclusion of anti-Semitism glaring, obvious and offensive.

Anti-Semitism is now noted more clearly in the curriculum as a form of bigotry.

Critics are not entirely satisfied.

The draft has improved, but not enough, said Sarah Levin, executive director of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.

“These supplemental materials ignore the stories of all our coalition members — who together represent an estimated 60% of Californians who hail from the Middle East and North Africa — while portraying the Arab American experience as a monolith to represent the region,” she said.

Another critic, Williamson Evers, also felt the improvement was inadequate.

“The proposed model curriculum is still full of left-wing ideological propaganda and indoctrination,” said Evers, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, an Oakland think tank. “It still force feeds our children the socialist dogma that capitalism is oppression. It’s almost all Berkeley and little Bakersfield.”

The new draft arrived nearly a year after the California Department of Education shelved the original.

Officials arrived at the latest iteration after reviewing thousands of public comments, convening experts and conducting teacher focus groups.

At its core, supporters say, ethnic studies teaches students how to think critically about the world around them, “tell their own stories,” develop “a deep appreciation for cultural diversity and inclusion” and engage “socially and politically” to eradicate bigotry, hate and racism, according to the earlier draft of the model curriculum.

The model curriculum is meant to serve as a guideline rather than a mandate for schools that choose to offer ethnic studies classes. In California, as nationwide, these courses are increasing in number, with grade-school enrollment nearly doubling from 8,678 in 2013-14 to 17,354 in 2016-17, according to the state Department of Education.

There appears to be broad legislative support for making ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement. Some school systems already have taken that step.

Supporters of the original curriculum include 25,000 people who have signed a “Defend Ethnic Studies” petition, ethnic studies faculty from the California State University and University of California, and many Jewish groups.

R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, a Los Angeles teacher and co-chair of the advisory committee that created the original draft curriculum, said ethnic studies courses can be responsive to all students in a class and integrate other ethnic groups “without de-centering communities of color.”

Cuauhtin said ethnic studies terminology should remain in the curriculum. “Students of color need to also be respected as young intellectuals and given access to academic concepts and disciplinary language,” he said. “Every academic field has its own language, and yes, so does ethnic studies — let’s uplift that and ensure it’s accessible, not erase it.”

“Herstory,” for example, is a term used to describe history written from a feminist or women’s perspective. The term is also deployed when referring to counter-narratives within history.

Assemblyman Jose Medina, the author of the bill that would mandate ethnic studies, is optimistic about how the final product will turn out.

“The model curriculum is still a draft and in the early stages of the input process,” said Medina (D-Riverside). “I trust this process and believe we will end up with a strong ethnic studies framework that will provide a solid structure for educators to build off as they bring ethnic studies to life in their classrooms.”

In a related development, last month the Cal State Board of Trustees revised its general education curriculum for the first time in 40 years to create an ethnic studies and social justice requirement of all undergraduate students.

Ethnic studies faculty and some trustees criticized the requirement as being too broad and diluting the mission of ethnic studies, advocating instead for a narrower requirement proposed in a bill that is currently making its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

Source: ‘Herstory’ is out as California revamps K-12 ethnic studies course guide

BC Asia-Pacific curriculum aims to bring international perspective to high schools

Good initiative and will be interesting to see how it develops and how it deals with more controversial historical issues in the region:

B.C. schools will be the first in Canada to get Asia-related curriculum material to teach in history and socials classes through a new program that may eventually be rolled out nationwide.

The Asia-Pacific Curriculum, a $500,000 pilot program funded by the Asia Pacific Foundation and the province, launched Thursday with a website that contains teaching material to be incorporated into classes for Grades 6 through 12.

The program will also provide workshops for educators to help them teach children more effectively about understanding cultures and issues in various countries across the Pacific.

“There is very little that’s more important to the future well-being of British Columbians over the next 10 to 20 years than our people’s ability to deal with Asia,” said Asia Pacific Foundation chairman David Emerson. “You can see from recent and historic events that our relationship with the United States will always be very important, but it’s volatile. And when you think long-term, inter-generational benefits and the need for B.C. to economically diversify, there’s no market that’s going to be more important than the Asian market.”

Currently, the asiapacificcurriculum.ca website features profiles on South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and India, as well as two key topics — China’s one-child policy and a history of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The topics were chosen after consultation with the B.C. Social Studies Teachers Association, said Eva Busza, vice-president of research and programs at the Asia Pacific Foundation.

Busza noted that teachers want topics with a link to current events — China’s one-child policy was recently loosened after decades of strict enforcement, while the Khmer Rouge issue highlights how to deal with reconciliation, a topical point of discussion for Canadians.

Engaging teachers on what to include in the curriculum is crucial, she added, because the program is voluntary.

“Teachers have indicated to us that they want this information, and that they see this as a gap (in the current curriculum),” Busza said. “We wanted to make sure they own this work, so we’ll be doing a lot of work with the teachers in the summer, before these modules are launched in the classroom, so that their comfort level with the material is high.”

Future topics will include a history of the ongoing territorial disputes over certain islands in Northeast Asia, as well as recent controversies around South Korean textbooks. Program officials said they hope to extend the program beyond high school, and across Canada.

Brenda Ball, senior school director at North Vancouver’s Brockton School and a social studies teacher, noted that there had been a gap in Asia-Pacific studies in B.C.’s high school curriculum, but much of that has been addressed with the new provincial curriculum being implemented now.

The key for the success of the new program, Ball said, is accessibility for the teachers who want it.

“I grew up in an era where I was being taught history that was predominantly Euro-centric, and some of the publications used are still fairly Euro-centric. The only way we can make that change is if we have access to the new material.

“I think the more material, the better. And having access to free material is always welcomed by teachers, because money isn’t always endlessly available.”

Surrey Muslim School principal (and former social studies teacher) Ebrahim Bawa said his school has already begun adopting portions of the material appropriate for younger students at the K-7 institution. He urged organizers to expand the program to elementary schools as early as possible.

“If you can adapt it down to the elementary level, it is something that — especially in the Lower Mainland — a lot of kids will be able to relate to, because of the large Asia-Pacific population,” Bawa said. “If the program is marked well — if you notify the individual school principals, because they will be the ones setting the direction for the schools — this would have a higher uptake than if you leave it to individual teachers.”

Source: BC Asia-Pacific curriculum aims to bring international perspective to high schools | Vancouver Sun