Students who want to attend any of the 10 campuses that make up the University of California system may be required soon to take approved “anti-racist” and “anti-colonial” courses in order to be admitted. The system’s Academic Senate voted on March 30 to enact “course content guidelines” for high school students planning to attend a UC school.
The new guidelines require courses in ethnic studies that will instruct high schoolers in the “impact of systems of power and oppression.” Required topics will include “white supremacy,” “patriarchy,” and “xenophobia.”
The vote is part of a fight over ethnic studies requirements that have been going on for years in California. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsome signed a bill into law last year that requires high schools to teach ethnic studies no later than 2025.
That follows his veto a year earlier of a bill establishing such a curriculum before revisions were made to the standards. The first version of the high school requirement vetoed by Newsom described Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs as “apartheid.” It also compared anti-Semitic Palestinian groups to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Conservatives in the state have stridently objected to the requirements. Their criticisms have centered on things like requiring students to perform chants to Aztec gods and excluding Jewish students from discussions about oppressed minorities.
The UC Academic Senate has now voted to add a one-semester ethnic studies course in high school as a requirement for admission. The standard applies to all public schools as well as private and charter schools whose students wish to apply to a UC system school. It is unclear from the guidelines how students from outside of California will be required to meet the new admission requirement.
A petition arguing that the new guidelines are the product of a group of activist faculty members has been signed by more than 1,200 UC students, faculty, and alumni. The petition states that the new course requirements are designed to “unleash hatred and bigotry, especially anti-Semitism” into California public high school and college education.
Even though the revised requirements approved by Newsom have removed the material promoting a Palestinian view of Israel, the new curriculum is described as anti-Semitic. One of the lessons in the model curriculum asks students to think about whether “light-skinned Jews” should be considered “conditionally” white because of their “safe encounters” with law enforcement.