Moderated by Harriette Reed, five expert panelists gave opening and closing remarks, and answered questions from the board during the meeting.
“The motivation for ethnic studies is grounded in the idea that historically underserved communities don’t see themselves in the curriculum, which is a really important goal to address,” panelist Elina Kaplan, co-founder and president of the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies (ACES), said during the meeting.
Kaplan’s concern, along with most of the panelists, was the infiltration of CRT in ethnic studies. CRT is an ideology that divides society into oppressors and the oppressed based on racial characteristics. Kaplan said when she first looked at the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) a couple of years ago, it looked “familiar” and reminded her of the indoctrination she received growing up in the Soviet Union.
“What in the world is neo-Marxist dogma doing in a K-12 ethnic studies curriculum—a curriculum that’s supposed to be focusing on building bridges of understanding between ethnic groups, building mutual respect,” she said.
Kaplan said there are two forms of the ESMC that are being pushed in schools. One is liberation ethnic studies, which critiques “white supremacy, racism, patriarchy,” etc. The other is constructive ethnic studies, which focuses on the roles and experiences of different ethnic groups in American history.
“In one case, the emphasis is more on the oppressed versus oppressor, on the colonialism, and so on. The other one, the emphasis is much more on building bridges and discussing racism, but in a way that addresses all the causes of racism, not just focus on the colonialism aspect,” she said.
While ethnic studies can be valuable, she said, in the wrong hands—and taught through the lens of CRT— it can be “counterproductive.”
“We can agree that we want our kids to get an education that teaches them how to respect each other, how to honor their differences, how to confront racism honestly and with mutual respect,” Kaplan said.
“If the majority of California and America knew what critical race theory-based ethnic studies was, they would not want it and we would not be here having this conversation.”
Author and Mathematician James Lindsay said CRT stretches back to Herbert Marcuse, a critical theorist that was widely popularized in the 1960s.
“The point of [Marcuse’s] liberation critical theory is to induce psycho pathologies in activists so that they find the life that we live in our society intolerable and require liberation in order to survive, to function in day-to-day society,” Lindsay said during the discussion.
Lindsay said a “meaningful” debate about ethnic studies cannot take place since the subject has been “co-opted by critical theorists.”
“[Ethnic studies] has become a Trojan horse for a separate ideology, where the merits of ethnic studies may well be high enough to merit that being a program we want. Whereas the demerits—the horror of critical race theory—now makes it impossible to have that debate,” he said.
Lindsay pointed out that ethnic studies focuses on diversity of race (rather than diversity of perspectives) because it believes in a doctrine called structural determinism, defined as systemically racist systems of power determine the outcomes of different races.
Inclusion, Lindasy said, also has a “double meaning” within ethnic studies.
“Inclusion actually is biased based on these beliefs about power dynamics … Inclusion actually means that only certain people must be given inclusion and belonging. It becomes instead in practice for these people that are implementing it to give justification for purges, justification for censorship.”
Pastor D.A. Horton said ethnic studies allows students to “feel affirmed, noticed, valued, and heard from” regarding their cultural backgrounds.
“If we teach ethnic studies with transferrable skills, it teaches us how to reduce those inter-ethnic and cross-ethnic conflicts through shared experiences, communication, and interpersonal relationship building,” Horton said.
He continued: “If you can define your terms about what the curriculum says, and the parents communicate and not allow somebody to hijack terminology, then you can help set the record straight and keep it straight and then you pass the baton to your children.”
According to the University of California, the phrase “there is only one race, the human race” is considered a microaggression.
Cultural anthropologist Joe Nalven said viewing the idea of “there is only one race, the human race” as a microaggression is a “mistake” if accepted to reframe anthropology and biology, as these fields of study consider the idea to be “fundamentally true.”
“You are taking a psychological issue and you are projecting it onto a sociological, biological science to disrupt the way in which science is taught,” he said.
Psychiatrist Mark McDonald said that racism is no longer an obstacle to success in this country.
However, since the media and government are pushing the idea that American society is suffering from a “crisis” of racism and it necessitates CRT, “then you can justify really any sort of irrational policy,” he said.
“What will happen if you spent 12 years in critical race theory, indoctrination; where’s that going to lead? I don’t know. But it scares me.”
Jack Bradley is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California.