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California reparations committee calls for statewide K-12 curriculum that teaches 'systemic racism'

The California Reparations Task Force, which was created by legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is pushing the state to adopt a K-12 curriculum that teaches kids about “systemic racism” and “advances the ideology of Black liberation.”

Last weekend, the task force formally approved its final recommendations to the California Legislature, which will then decide whether to implement the measures and send them to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The recommendations included several proposed reparations designed for California to make amends for slavery and anti-Black racism. Among them were a host of proposals concerning education, including a call to include the notion of “systemic racism” and the advancement of “Black liberation” ideology in a statewide curriculum for children in grade school.

“The task force recommends adoption of a K-12 Black Studies curriculum that introduces students to concepts of race and racial identity, teaches the more expansive history noted above, accurately depicts historic racial inequities and systemic racism, honors Black lives, fully represents contributions of Black people in society, advances the ideology of Black liberation, and highlights the particular contributions of those who are descendants of individuals who were enslaved in the United States,” the task force writes in a final report outlining its proposals.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom heads to a press conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Jan. 24, 2023. (Dai Sugano/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images)

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It’s unclear how exactly the task force wants California to make the teaching of systemic racism a part of the curriculum, or what it means by the “ideology of Black liberation.” Critics argue that Black liberation theology, which melds Christianity with the Black struggle for liberation from various forms of oppression, has Marxist roots. However, the task force didn’t respond to a request for clarification for this story.

Whatever the meaning, the report echoes a similar curriculum that was approved by the San Francisco Board of Education in 2020.

The task force’s proposed K-12 Black studies program is part of a broader proposal for the state legislature to ultimately fund a “reparations curriculum” for all grade levels and college students encompassing the contents of its final report. The curriculum should first be designed for high school students, according to the task force, which adds that the program should “include lessons on reparations that can be embedded in” existing required coursework.

The task force also recommends the establishment of a “Black Studies Fund” to bankroll this effort, which includes not just developing a curriculum but also administering and teaching it.

Cheryl Grills, right, and Lisa Holder, left, both members of the California Reparations Task Force

Cheryl Grills, right, and Lisa Holder, left, both members of the California Reparations Task Force (Screenshot from Twitter account of California Black Media)

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Regarding teaching, the committee is similarly calling on California to adopt a separate curriculum for training teachers in order to be able to educate their students about anti-Black racism and reparations.

“The Task Force recommends the adoption of mandatory curriculum for teacher credentialing and trainings for school personnel that include culturally-responsive pedagogy, anti-bias training, and restorative practices that specifically address the unique needs of African American students, especially those who are descendants of an individual enslaved in the United States,” the report states. “The Task Force also recommends identifying and supporting teachers who provide culturally responsive instruction and adopting new models for teacher development to improve teacher habits in the classroom.”

The committee suggests the California Department of Education can accomplish this by issuing a “request for proposals for grants established by the legislature to fund teachers and schools to develop models based on best practices.”

At the collegiate level, meanwhile, the task force is pushing free tuition, but only for Black Californians who receive reparations.

UC Davis

The UC Davis logo with a soccer game and bike riders in the background. University of California at Davis. Davis, California. Taken February 2, 2015. (Getty Images)

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“The costs of attending college have grown exponentially over the last several decades, and that rising cost excludes many African Americans from the promise of higher education, reinforcing the ongoing history of discrimination in education,” the panel writes. “Thus, the task force recommends that the legislature fund California public colleges and universities to ensure free tuition for all California residents who the task force has determined to be eligible for monetary reparations,” the panel writes. 

The task force additionally calls for eliminating standardized testing for admission to the graduate programs within the University of California and California State University systems “until racial bias is eliminated in the administration of standardized testing for admission.” According to the reparations committee, standardizing testing has “racist origins” and reinforces “structural inequalities in education” that exclude Black students from degrees and careers.

California schools wouldn’t be the first to forgo standardized tests. In March, for example, Columbia University became the first Ivy League school to permanently drop testing requirements for undergraduate applicants.

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Beyond testing, the California task force recommended a host of other measures, such as initiatives to recruit more Black teachers and advancing the timeline for implementing mandatory ethnic studies classes. In October 2021, Newsom signed a bill requiring California high school students to take ethnic studies as a graduation requirement commencing in 2030. The task force wants those requirements in place as soon as possible.

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