Three cheers for Ethnic Studies. Now comes the hard part.

California is having a hard time developing an ethnic studies curriculum for both high schools and the California State University system. That does not make it “propaganda.” That does not delegitimize it. Though it’s apparent that’s what you’ll hear.[1]

I’m inferring that they’re trying to develop two courses to add to general education requirements, one at the high school level and another probably in the first or second year of college. This is a problem when you have to juxtaposition, for just one example (one I happen to know about), the issue of Palestine with anti-Semitism where too many take any opposition to Israeli policy as anti-Semitic.

Another example—and no, ethnicity is not just about race—that I happen to know about is Ireland: Historically, this is about colonization by England of Ireland. But in the present, the erstwhile colonizers who’ve now been there for hundreds of years,[2] may feel threatened by unification that would probably be essential in the wake of Brexit.[3]

I haven’t even gotten to large, ethnically complex countries like India.

This is hard, hard shit. It simply isn’t a Kumbaya topic. As noted, oppression comes in multiple forms,[4] including where oppressed groups oppress each other in various contexts. They’re going to be trying to teach a nuanced topic—kyriarchy—to kids, really, in too short a span of time in a neoliberal context that emphasizes job training and with a Leftist context that really wants it to be Kumbaya.

I’ll give them credit for trying. The intention is worthwhile. Really, it is. I just think they need more time, both for the curriculum itself and in terms of student maturity, than they’re likely to get. And I can’t say this loudly enough: That sucks.

  1. [1]Howard Blume and Nina Agrawal, “Ethnic studies may soon be mandatory. Can California get it right?” Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2019,; Steven Johnson, “Ethnic-Studies Scholars Hoped Their Curriculum Would Break Boundaries. Critics Are Calling It Propaganda,” Chronicle of Higher Education, August 13, 2019,
  2. [2]Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994).
  3. [3]Karla Adam and William Booth, “Could Boris Johnson’s ‘no-deal’ Brexit break up the United Kingdom?” Washington Post, July 29, 2019,; Daniel Boffey, “However you look at it, the logic of a Brexit backstop refuses to yield,” Guardian, June 24, 2019,; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Irish deputy PM Coveney: No deal Brexit would mean customs checks in Ireland,” July 21, 2019,; Amanda Ferguson and William Booth, “Northern Ireland’s politicians don’t agree on much. Except that Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit would be a disaster,” Washington Post, July 31, 2019,; Peter Foster and Camilla Tominey, “Boris Johnson warned that ‘no deal’ Brexit will require return of ‘direct rule’ in Northern Ireland,” Telegraph, July 26, 2019,; Conor Humphries, “Irish PM says hard Brexit would raise issue of Irish unification,” Telegraph, July 27, 2019,; Séamas O’Reilly, “Hard Brexiters’ stance on the Irish border is nonsense – I can tell you, I grew up there,” Guardian, August 7, 2019,
  4. [4]Steven Johnson, “Ethnic-Studies Scholars Hoped Their Curriculum Would Break Boundaries. Critics Are Calling It Propaganda,” Chronicle of Higher Education, August 13, 2019,

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