The fox is in the hen-house. What many of us have warned about has come to fruition. Antisemitism has been institutionalized within the K12 public school system. Over the summer of 2023 a group of scholar-activists formed an “institute” whose mission is to “critically study” Zionism and disconnect Jewish identity from it. Although anti-zionist antisemitism is nothing new in academia, it is new in K12 education. Leaders of the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism hold positions of power and privilege within multiple university systems, including the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), which is at the forefront of pushing educators to adopt critical ethnic studies into all subjects in K12 classrooms.
Professor Christine Hong, Chair of the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) department and Director of the Center for Racial Justice at UCSC, is a founding member of the Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism (ICSZ). She is also a leading voice, advocating that antisemites like herself be in charge of ethnic studies in K12 schools across the Golden State. The University of California Santa Cruz department that Hong heads, CRES, is also one of the co-sponsors of ICSZ’s upcoming conference, Battling the IHRA definition: Theory & activism.
I strongly believe in academic freedom, where scholars and students explore multiple positions on issues . However, K12 students should not be subjected to radical indoctrination that has been promoted by a narrow band of ideologues from the University of California system. UC Santa Cruz’ CRES department is doing just that – indoctrinating future teachers to bring antisemitism into their K12 classrooms. In fact, in an informational video, the CRES department states, “Our focus spans the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the African Diaspora, Palestine, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the United States,” mentioning “Palestine” while not specifying other foreign nations.
If this were only occurring in one obscure academic department, perhaps I wouldn’t be so concerned. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The CRES department at UCSC boasts that it is the “…only department within the Humanities, Social Sciences or Arts to partner with Education (department) to offer 4+1… and after 5 years graduate with a BA in CRES, an MA in Education, and a teaching credential that prepares you to teach at the K12 level.” CRES’ entire mission is to produce educators who are fully indoctrinated in antisemitism, and the mandate to teach ethnic studies in California classrooms is providing them cover to do exactly that.
Radical Ethnic Studies activists are using their positions on the University of California Ethnic Studies Faculty Council to lobby California Governor Newsom to eliminate guardrails that were put in place in order to prevent antisemitism and discrimination from being normalized in the classroom. Recently, the Council penned a letter to Governor Newsom expressing their concern that the guardrails are preventing them from doing precisely what the guardrails were put in place to protect, claiming that they act as “censorship”. I agree that these protections act as censorship: they are censoring racists and bigots from teaching their hate and biases in K12 classrooms. Governor Newsom and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction should do exactly the opposite and reaffirm their commitment to keeping antisemitism and bigotry in all its forms out of California classrooms, including supporting and enforcing the ethnic studies guardrails.