Draft of Fresno Unified School District’s ethnic studies course teaches students that ‘decolonization’ requires ‘a change in the world order’


According to documents obtained by a public records request submitted by Zachor Legal Institute, Fresno Unified School District’s draft scope and sequence for a high school Comprehensive Ethnic Studies course includes lessons on “Decolonization Strategies” in a unit on Native Americans. One of the three lessons, titled “Incommensurability,” states that the term “is an acknowledgement that decolonization will require a change in the order of the world.” 

The second “Decolonization Strategies” lesson, “Ethic of Resurgence,” states “people must transcend the controlling power of the many and varied fears that colonial powers use to dominate and manipulate us into complacency and cooperation with its authorities.” An article included in the third lesson, titled “Give Back the Land,” states that “land back” chants used during protests “can mean the literal restoration of land ownership,” or “more stewardship or protection of mother earth.” 

Fresno Unified School District’s website describes ethnic studies as a “critical and interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity focused on the experiences and perspectives of people of color within and beyond the United States.” The six-unit course for high schoolers discusses the history of various racial and ethnic groups in the United States. “Collective Liberation” and “Solidarity” are two of six course principles outlined in Fresno Unified School District’s ethnic studies lesson plans.

Questions on power, privilege, and oppression are weaved into lessons throughout the scope and sequence. “Essential Questions” for Unit 1, the “Foundations of Ethnic Studies,” ask students: “What is power? Who is privileged by power? Who is oppressed by lack of power? How can we resist misuses of power? How do we empower others also?” A lesson outline for the Latino and Hispanic communities unit ask “What is Settler Colonialism? Who/what is a settler? How does Settler Colonialism influence/affect society? How do Chicanos try to challenge Settler Colonialism?”

The outline for Unit 1 includes a slideshow from the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium (LESMCC), which advocates for teaching critical race theory in schools. One of LESMCC’s guiding principles for ethnic studies is “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, and cisheteropatriarchy.” Fresno Unified School District’s ethnic studies lessons list “outcomes,” which appear to be modeled after LESMCC’s guiding principles.

California became the first state to include ethnic studies as a high school graduation requirement in 2021.