May 13, 2022 5:55 pm ET
A group of Jewish public-school parents and teachers filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the adoption of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist curricular materials in Los Angeles public schools.
Last year California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law requiring public-school students in the state to complete a course in ethnic studies to graduate from high school. He said it was needed because “students deserve to see themselves in their studies, and they must understand our nation’s full history if we expect them to one day build a more just society.” But the ethnic-studies movement has never been about representation or justice. A creature of 1960s radical left-wing activism, ethnic studies was from the start about attacking the U.S., capitalism and Zionism.
Advocates—including teachers union officials, public-school teachers and other ideologues—have formed the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium, through which they hope to influence the teaching of ethnic studies in the state. The consortium, which disseminates teaching materials lifted directly from radical anti-Israel websites, rejects the idea that all cultures should be studied. It asserts that ethnic studies is about only four groups: Native Americans, black Americans, Chicanos/Latinos, and Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders. That last group includes Arabs from the Middle East—but not Jews, who’ve lived in that same region for millennia.
The consortium’s materials—many of which have been taken offline in recent months—are filled with attacks on Jews and the Jewish state. They deny that Jews are indigenous to the Middle East and teach that Israel is a “colonialist” and “settler state” founded through “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid.” They falsely define Judaism, teaching that “Zionism is distinct from Judaism” and that Zionism isn’t a Jewish religious belief but an invention of the “late 19th century.”
Tell that to the millions of Jews who end their Passover Seders with “next year in Jerusalem,” or end every Jewish wedding by breaking a glass to mourn Jerusalem’s destruction, or pray each day facing Jerusalem—or whose bible, prayer book and calendar have for thousands of years been filled with the yearning for a return of the people of Israel to sovereignty in the land of Israel.
The consortium’s materials describe Zionism as a “nationalist colonial ideology” that seeks the “expansion of the Jewish state into historic Palestine by any means necessary,” and says Israel and the U.S. are “white settler states,” even though Israel’s Jewish population is more than half “people of color”—including people whose ancestors lived in Africa and India and more three million Israelis descended from Jews who’ve lived in the Middle East since before the Babylonian exile 2,600 years ago.
California law requires that publicly funded teaching materials be public, so that parents and taxpayers know what’s going on in the schools they use and pay for. But the consortium instructs teachers to violate that mandate. Classes instructing teachers about the curriculum are by invitation only. The consortium urges sympathetic teachers to “fly under the radar” and advises that it may be best to “shut their doors” before teaching the “liberatory curriculum”—including the denunciation of Jewish beliefs and the Jewish state—so parents can’t find out what’s going on.
The lawsuit has two aims: removal of teaching materials denouncing the plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs, and public disclosure of all ethnic-studies materials in Los Angeles public schools. The parents and teachers we represent seek public disclosure of what is actually being taught with public money in public schools and an end to the use of taxpayer-funded anti-Semitic teaching materials. Jewish teachers have the right to a workplace, and Jewish parents to a public school for their children, where government-paid teachers don’t denounce their homeland, characterize their people as genocidal criminals, or disparage their religious beliefs.
If the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium prevails in California, it is likely to be deployed elsewhere. Israel and the Jews are only the first of the left’s perceived ideological enemies to be denounced on the public dime. If proponents of the curriculum aren’t stopped, other enemies—and their denunciations—are likely to follow.
Ms. Marcus is legal director of the Deborah Project and lead counsel in Concerned Jewish Parents and Teachers of LA v. Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium. Mr. Fried is a professor at Harvard Law School and chairman of the Deborah Project’s board of directors.