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In This Moment (8/20): Ethnic Studies

August 20, 2020

This was a big week for ethnic studies in California. Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1460 (Weber), requiring an ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement for undergraduate students at California State University (CSU). (See our July 23 blog post for additional background information.) Additionally, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond expressed his support for the revised draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, as part of his comments to the state’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC). There is now a 30-day public review and comment period for the proposed changes to the Model Curriculum.

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Governor Newsom Signs Ethnic Studies Bill

On Tuesday, Governor Newsom announced that he signed AB 1460, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, into law. AB 1460 will require CSU schools to provide a course in ethnic studies as a three-unit undergraduate graduation requirement beginning with students graduating in the 2024-25 academic year.

CSU opposed AB 1460, citing Legislative overreach. CSU Trustees argued that graduation requirement decisions were under the purview of the Board of Trustees, and not the Legislature, and voted last month on their own version of an ethnic studies graduation requirement. (Our July 23 blog discussed the view of the CSU Trustees.) AB 1460 will override the ethnic studies requirement established by the CSU Board.

Draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Moves Forward

The revised draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum drew support Thursday from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and several high-profile California civil rights leaders. This draft will potentially put an end to the sharp public criticism, including that some of the content was prejudiced or one-sided, that promptly sent the first draft back to the drawing board last year. The recommended changes focus on four foundational disciplines of ethnic studies: African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Latino Studies, and Native American Studies.

Students, legislators, and labor leader Dolores Huerta and Dr. Karen Korematsu, daughter of the late civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, joined the Superintendent to express support for the recommended changes in a presentation before the IQC this week. The recommended changes and draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum will now be open for a 30-day public review and comment period from September 1 through September 30, 2020. In November the IQC will consider revisions to the document and depending on the outcome, will ultimately submit the curriculum to the State Board of Education for review and approval prior to the March 31, 2021, statutory deadline.