‘Does Not Promote Open-Mindedness; Independent Thought’ –A CA Educator on BDS

In an effort to address the ethnic diversity and associated clash of cultures in America’s public schools, the California Department of Education is the first state in the nation to have proposed an ethnic studies curriculum for high school students. However, when the first draft of the curriculum was released last month, it revealed highly disturbing content.

The California Jewish Legislative Caucus, working with leaders of various Jewish community organizations, noted that the curriculum failed to mention any societal contributions made by American Jews or their historical and contemporary oppression, while simultaneously reinforcing Jewish stereotypes. Additionally, Jewish leaders identified the inclusion of inappropriate political content, namely that the curriculum draft presented Israel in a negative light while endorsing the BDS campaign.

As a result of effective collaboration among concerned stakeholders, the California Department of Education reviewed the curriculum, and on August 14, Department of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond issued a strong statement. It read: “A model curriculum should be accurate, free of bias, appropriate for all learners in our diverse state, and align with Governor Newsom’s vision of a California for all. The current draft model curriculum falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned.”

I read Dr. Darling-Hammond’s statement with great pleasure, not only due to my commitment to defeat the BDS campaign, but because I have for many years been a passionate student of Darling-Hammond’s work on democratic teaching and on teaching students from diverse backgrounds. In fact, when I was a doctoral student, I had the great fortune to meet and interview Dr. Darling-Hammond at an educational conference in San Diego, where she articulated the responsibility that teachers have to create a sense of belonging for each and every student in the school.

I am, therefore, certain that Darling-Hammond did not put the brakes on the ethnic studies curriculum in response to her personal views on Israel or on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—whatever they may be. Quite appropriately, nowhere has Darling-Hammond commented on the conflict or on the BDS campaign. She put the brakes on the curriculum because of her commitment to improving teaching and learning in America’s public schools and because as she knows, excellence in teaching and learning cannot be achieved with a biased, culturally insensitive and historically inaccurate curriculum.

Darling-Hammond has also made it clear that she will not support a curriculum that will be used by public school teachers to politically indoctrinate their students. She expressed these views in an August 9 letter to the editor of the L.A. Times, in which she wrote, “We will not accept a curriculum that fails to address difficult issues or does not promote open-mindedness and independent thought.”

Indeed, as pernicious as BDS is for demonizing the Jewish state and the Jewish people, it is also shameful in its efforts to prevent American students from learning about complex ideas and from thinking and reasoning and analyzing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict independently.  Simply put, the BDS campaign is attempting to undo what progressive democratic educators like Linda Darling-Hammond have been striving to create for decades: a system of education that prepares children to be leaders and innovators in an increasingly competitive and challenging world, rather than leaving them behind to be followers and workers.

As a result of this attempted sabotage, I believe that when Linda Darling-Hammond has had her say on behalf of all of California’s children and on behalf of American public education,  a new light will shine on the corruption and abuses inherent in the BDS campaign and a new and formidable group of BDS challengers will emerge.

The challengers will be public school educators like Darling-Hammond, who will—as she has done— expose the ways that irresponsible BDS proponents are exploiting their positions to indoctrinate rather than educate the children in their classrooms. They will be educators who will expose the ways in which those irresponsible BDS proponents are contributing to the continued low performance of many students in America’s public schools where they are being taught what to think, not how to think. And they will be educators who will reveal the ways in which the BDS campaign is making victims of American students in the name of their own political agenda and personal power.

About the Author
Melissa Landa Ph.D has been addressing the tactics and goals of the BDS campaign for four years. Most recently, she founded the new organization, Alliance for Israel. The diverse leadership and membership of Alliance for Israel reflects Melissa's teaching and research on cultural competence and anti-bias education as a former Assistant Clinical Professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Melissa taught courses about music as a form of social protest in apartheid South Africa (where she grew up) and about attitudes and beliefs about the "Other". She also created and led a University of Maryland short-term education abroad program in Israel that explored the immigration and acculturation experiences of Ethiopian Jews. Melissa earned her B.A from Oberlin College, her M.A. from Tufts University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and is the author of two books, articles in peer-reviewed journals, and numerous op-eds. You can contact Melissa by email: Melissa@alliance4israel.org
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