Kersten: Divisive ethnic studies bill advancing at Capitol

Ethnic Studies’ agenda is to divide and embitter students on the basis of their skin color and group identity, and to dismantle and transform America’s fundamental institutions.

ethnic studies
Students gather in the Minnesota State Capitol in March in support of an ethnic studies bill. (Twitter)

(Center of the American Experiment) — DFL legislators and political activists are moving at the Capitol to entrench Ethnic Studies in Minnesota’s K-12 schools. This is one of the biggest stories out of the legislature, but it’s going largely unreported.

Many Minnesotans have heard about the DFL’s attempt to ban gas lawn mowers. But how many are aware of this far-reaching campaign to reshape our children’s identity around skin color, and convince them that America is a “racialized hierarchy” defined by oppression and injustice?

Ethnic Studies is the latest iteration of extremist “woke” ideology, out of California. Its advocates often describe it as a “welcoming,” inclusive way to ensure that “children see themselves in the curriculum.”

That’s the spin Rep. Samantha Sencer-Mura adopted in a tweet promoting “Ethnic Studies Day at the Capitol” — a rally of about 200 students on February 27 to support Ethnic Studies legislation. Sencer-Mura praised Ethnic Studies as “a curriculum that reflects all students,” and added, “I’m proud to play my part by being the author of H.F. 1502, the Ethnic Studies bill.”

But anyone who’s been paying attention knows the opposite is true. Ethnic Studies’ agenda is to divide and embitter students on the basis of their skin color and group identity, and to dismantle and transform America’s fundamental institutions. The logo of the Minnesota Ethnic Studies Coalition (MESC) — the Feb. 27 rally’s sponsor — is a student raising a defiant fist in a move reminiscent of a Black Power salute.

Jonathan Hamilton, MESC’s leader, has characterized Ethnic Studies as a “political struggle” to transform Minnesota’s K-12 public education system, which he has denounced as “a white supremacist puzzle that must be taken apart and exposed for the lie it is.”

MESC — through its “parent” organization, Education for Liberation Minnesota — advocates abolition of police, prisons and border controls and calls for “abolishing the social order and building a new society.” It views Ethnic Studies as means to that end.

The Walz administration has already injected Ethnic Studies into Minnesota’s proposed K-12 Social Studies standards, which now await approval by an administrative law judge. The committee that drafted those standards — selected by the Minnesota Department of Education — was dominated by Hamilton and other MESC leaders.

Now, DFL legislators are pushing bills at the Capitol to expand this extremist ideology’s influence in K-12 education across the state. This legislation would essentially hand power over what’s taught in Minnesota classrooms to the same cabal of ideological extremists who created the revised Social Studies standards. If it passes, local control of curriculum will become essentially meaningless.

The primary vehicle here is H.F. 1502 — “Ethnic Studies Requirements” — and its Senate companion bill, S.F. 1476.

This bill:

  • Defines Ethnic Studies in terms of “critical” race theory (“’Ethnic Studies’ means the critical” study “of race, ethnicity and indigeneity”), ensuring that schools teach only radical content.
  • Makes an Ethnic Studies course a state-wide high school graduation requirement and requires teaching Ethnic Studies in K-8 schools.
  • Establishes a “Working Group” — composed entirely of Ethnic Studies advocates (which MDE must appoint “with input from the Minnesota Ethnic Studies Coalition”) — to draft new Ethnic Studies standards and create a “model” state-wide Ethnic Studies curriculum.
  • Requires MDE to adopt these Ethnic Studies standards out of the public eye, using an “expedited” process (likely 60 days), with no opportunity for a public hearing.

Another bill, H.F. 1269, would require Ethnic Studies standards to be embedded in all academic subjects. If it passes, MDE’s “Working Group” will likely draft such standards for math and science as well.

What can we expect a new MDE-generated “model Ethnic Studies curriculum” to teach our state’s children?

MESC and its allies on MDE’s Working Group may well look to the “Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum,” which activists in California are promoting to schools there. MESC is a member of the organization that created this curriculum.

The “liberated” California model curriculum teaches students to view American social life in terms of race-and-class warfare. It appears to call openly for political revolution: “System changes occur when people unite, mobilize and organize in coordinated resistance to disrupt and dismantle inequitable systems.”

What if Minnesota school boards and parents don’t want ideas like these pushed on their children in their local, taxpayer-financed schools? Under H.F. 1502, they will have little choice.

The bill requires MDE to hire “ethnic studies staff” to “monitor” “implementation of Ethnic Studies courses” in all school districts and charter schools. For example, MDE’s bureaucratic enforcers will ensure that Ethnic Studies classes include a “power, race, class, and gender analysis,” and an “intersectional analysis of climate, health, food, housing, education and policy,” as H.F. 1502 requires.

The bill also gives Ethnic Studies advocates outside MDE power over what Minnesota students learn in the classroom. It requires school districts to “evaluate” their Ethnic Studies curricula every year, and to seek input from “community members,” i.e., local Ethnic Studies activists, as they do so.

The DFL is fast-tracking the hijacking of our state’s K-12 education system, providing little time for review and testimony on its sweeping proposed legislation. Many Minnesota children already lack the basics in history, reading, math and science. If Ethnic Studies legislation passes, time spent on fundamental knowledge will increasingly shift to indoctrination in extremist ideology.

 

Katherine Kersten
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Katherine Kersten, a writer and attorney, is a Senior Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment. She served as a Metro columnist for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) from 2005 to 2008 and as an opinion columnist for the paper for 15 years between 1996 and 2013. She was a founding director of the Center and served as its chair from 1996 to 1998.