Critical Media Literacy Rooted in Ethnic Studies Curriculum Toolkit


A recently released curriculum toolkit for K-12 educators features content that advocates for teaching anti-Zionism, liberation, anti-capitalism, collectivism, “A Free Palestine,” ending the “occupation,” as well as a vast array of organizing and protesting documents. Eighteen school districts and one state department of education have been documented having contracts with the organizations behind the toolkit or have worked with individuals connected to the coalition.

On November 27, 2023, the Coalition for Liberated Ethnic Studies and Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium (LESMC) posted on X (formerly Twitter) a link to its Critical Media Literacy Rooted in Ethnic Studies Curriculum Toolkit for teachers and students. The document includes links to lesson plans and additional resources for teachers.

The document states that in an effort to “create spaces where students, and all of us, have the freedom to engage in genuine dialogue to make sense of what is happening,” it is “both difficult and critical because the mainstream media, as well as our local, state, and national governments, are almost completely dominated by the Israeli narrative, and any mention of Palestine, liberation, anti-zionism, occupation, or stopping the genocide is immediately marked as anti-semitic.”

It continues: “Created by educators, we present a critical media literacy curriculum with links to additional resources that can be used by teachers, families, and community organizations to foster critical, humanizing, and liberatory conversations about what is happening in our world today.”

According to the document, Critical Media Literacy (CML) begins with the following beliefs including “all media is political,” “all media is subjective. No media is neutral,” and “all media has a purpose and serves who owns and creates the media.”

It adds that CML “rooted in Ethnic Studies (CMLES)” centers “voices of indigenous peoples,” “voices of racially marginalized people along with those experiencing intersectional oppression,” and “voices rooted in solidarity and collective liberation movements.”

The toolkit provides teachers with a set of questions “to explore media in a critical way.” Critical questions include “who created and/or presented the media/text and what are their credentials or expertise?” and “are there words that are used to amplify meaning or incite?” It also poses the question of “who owns the platform that the media/text is being published on?”

It also includes “focus” questions such as “what is the media/text’s point of view about Palestinians,” “is what is being presented a fact or opinion about Palestinians,” “how are Palestinians portrayed in this media/text,” and “what is the potential impact that the media/text has on Palestinians?”

A subsection titled “Action” asks: “Based on what you viewed, analyzed, and learned, what do you want to do to respond?”

The Coalition for Liberated Ethnic Studies consists of over 30 organizations and over 100 individual members. Its guiding principles include “critique empire [sic] and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cis heteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society” and “Challenge imperialist/colonial hegemonic beliefs and practices on the ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized levels.”


The resources provided in the document include how to support the Palestinian cause, history, curriculum and lessons, and additional resources.

Solidarity & Ways to Support Now

Links provided in the “Solidarity & Ways to Support Now” section include “Stop Gaza Genocide Action Toolkit” from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) that calls for another organized “Holiday Disruption” such as the “White House Christmas tree lighting in DC.”

The USCPR toolkit also advocates for Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS).

Other documents linked in the USCPR toolkit include a Strategies to SHUT IT DOWN Toolkit and resources for “Queer communities” including Queer Palestine Solidarity Resource List of Organizers.

A Council on American-Islamic Relations California (CAIR-CA) document titled “How to respond when your school or employer releases a biased statement about Israel and Palestine” was also included in the toolkit. The page hosts form letters for parents and employees to use to send to schools. CAIR-CA also provides a Palestine Resource Guide to families that states that the “staff and board express their heartfelt condolences and mourn with the families who have lost loved ones in the Israeli assault on Gaza.”

History & Context

Under the “History & Context” section, the document lists “‘Gaza on the 8th Day of Israeli Aggression‘” which “tells the story of the destruction of Gaza and the loss of life through numbers and statistics (as of October 14, 2023).” One of the pages states “the number of martyrs reached 2215.”


The toolkit curriculum includes resources such as Palestine is Ethnic Studies: The Struggle for Arab American Studies in K-12 Ethnic Studies Curriculum produced by Arab Resource and Organizing Center director Lara Kiswani, LESMC and CRE consultant Samia Shoman, and Nadine Naber. It also links to the Teach Palestine Project which was produced by Samia Shoman and the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), Resources for Teaching Palestine from Black Lives Matter at School, and model lesson plans from LESMC.

One of the model lesson plans includes a “Land Acknowledgement” that mentions “Palestine land.” The lesson also includes an “Ancestor Acknowledgement” to Palestinian Postcolonialist Edward Said. Said’s principal influences include neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci, Postcolonial-Marxist Frantz Fanon, and Critical Theorists Michel Foucault and Theodor Adorno.

Additional Resources

Also included in the toolkit are additional resources in which teachers should “discern” which would be appropriate for students and which are more appropriate for educators and adults.

A document from the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN) titled ATN Resources to Support a Free Palestine includes information and templates for contacting Congress, legal tips, links to organizing toolkits, and mental health and teaching resources.

Teaching resources in the ATN toolkit include Teach Palestine, the Zinn Education Project (which features a lesson from Samia Shoman), Rethinking Schools: Teaching Palestine Through Multiple Perspectives (which links again to a Samia Shoman lesson), Teaching About Palestine: Teacher-Created Lesson Plans from Teaching While Muslim, the Critical Media Literacy Rooted in Ethnic Studies Curriculum Toolkit, Woke Kindergarten, and Black for Palestine.

The Black Palestinian Solidarity Organizing Toolkit, created by Dream Defenders, features ways to organize rallies and protests for the Palestinian cause. The toolkit calls for “Ceasefire Now” and states that “once folks understand the history of apartheid and settler colonialism, and [sic] see the current waves of violence in that context, it is hard not to be moved to action.”

Dream Defenders is a “national Black-led [sic] freedom organization fighting for safety and a good life for all.” According to its ideology, they are “Abolitionists,” “Black Feminists,” and “Socialists.”

Dream Defenders is a fiscal project of the Tides Foundation.


The following school districts and education agencies have a connection to the Coalition for Liberated Ethnic Studies (CLES), either through contracts with groups such as Acosta Educational Partnership/ Acosta Latino Learning Partnership, Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium (LESMC), or Community Responsive Education (CRE), or have teaching staff who work with a CLES member, have worked with coalition staff members, or draw resources and curriculum from the affiliated organizations.

Many coalition individuals and organizations often coordinate together, including sharing staff and resources.


Tucson Unified School District


Berkeley Unified School District

Castro Valley Unified School District

Davis Joint Unified School District

Fresno Unified School District

Hayward Unified School District

Jefferson Elementary School District

Jefferson Union High School District

Lynwood Unified School District

Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District

New Haven Unified School District – Ethnic Studies & Social Justice Academy at James Logan HS

Pajaro Valley Unified School District

San Francisco Unified School District

San Mateo Union High School District

Santa Ana Unified School District

Santa Cruz County Board of Education

Santa Rosa City Schools

Social Justice Academy of San Leandro High School


Boston Public Schools

Vermont State Board of Education

State Ethnic Studies Standards Framework

The CRE team that worked with the committee included Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales and Samia Shoman.


An October 23, 2021, Northwest Teaching for Social Justice Conference titled “Rethinking Our Classrooms, Organizing for Better Schools” featured a session run by Samia Shoman (consultant with LESMC and CRE) and Jody Sokolower from Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA). They are co-creators of the Teach Palestine curriculum.

The conference was sponsored by the Seattle Education Association, Washington Education Association, and Portland Association of Teachers.