Parents Defending Education obtained materials from a public records request for Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District’s Ethnic Studies curriculum. Zachor Legal Institute submitted the request.
The curriculum describes its key outcomes as “critique[ing] empire-building in history and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, and other forms of power and oppression” and “connect[ing] ourselves to past and contemporary resistance movements that struggle for social justice on the global and local levels,” among other goals.
The Ethnic Studies curriculum draws upon a model curriculum developed by the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium, which designates its “Questioning Common Sense: Hegemony and Normalization” presentations for use in 7th-12th grade classrooms. The presentation tells students that “hegemony” is the way that “people with power make their ideas seem like common sense so others consent to their will (what they want) allowing those in power to keep their power” and calls upon students to question “common sense,” which they define as “the beliefs that many people around us think are true that we don’t question.” A slide describing examples of who decides “hegemonic normalization” asks “Who decided what is normal?” followed by the response “1. White men 2. White men 3. White men.”
The presentation also shows a clip from the film “Boyz N the Hood” that is laced with profanity and depicts a Black police officer holding a gun to the head of a Black teen while threatening him.
Another unit of the curriculum focuses on “decolonization” and “settler colonialism.” The unit uses the arrival of Christopher Columbus as an example the “creat[ion] of new systems of power in the Americas” based upon “White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, Economic Exploitation, and Slavery.” The final assessment for the unit is an essay response to the prompt “How did European conquest create a new system of power that harmed African or American societies?”
The curriculum also includes lessons on slavery. Students begin by looking at historical examples of slavery in Africa, medieval Europe, and Islamic empires, before being told that “by comparison to what happened to slaves in Europe and America, the people who were being handled as slaves in Africa were in heaven.” Other primary source documents in the lesson proclaim “Whiteness was born as a racist concept to prevent lower-class whites from joining people of color, especially Blacks, against their social class enemies…This is the origin of White Supremacy.”
Lessons focusing on the “elements of identity” focus not only on race and ethnicity but also gender and sexual orientation. The lesson includes a quote from journalist Alia Dastigir that proclaims “The stereotypical sense of masculinity goes against everything we know about what it means to be human.” The lesson also proclaims “there are many ways for a person to identify and express their sexuality, sex or gender” with a chart explaining different labels for sexuality.
Various assignments throughout the curriculum require student activism. One assignment requires students to write a “1-page formal letter to one of your school’s administrators” expressing their support for Ethnic Studies. Another assignment requires students to draft a social media post describing the history of and expressing support for a social movement, chosen from a pre-selected list of acceptable activist groups.
Ethnic Studies is a required course for ninth graders in the Mountain View-Los Altos Unified High School district as of the 2023-2024 school year.