Ethnic Studies as a Trojan Horse for Critical Race Theory
A Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum workshop on 'Demystifying CRT' discloses more than intended
The standard response from public school administrators to accusations of Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in K-12 schools is that not only is CRT not taught in the classroom, but that CRT is misunderstood -- that it is an esoteric legal theory taught only in law school and graduate school. As but one example from our community, La Cañada Unified School District (LCUSD) Superintendent Wendy Sinnette, in response to a community member’s email expressing concern about LCUSD encouraging the teaching of CRT in LCUSD schools, wrote the following:
“I appreciate your concerns but want to assure you that CRT is a legal theory and we are educational practitioners. Our plan for ensuring safe and inclusive school environments, along with empathetic school cultures which emphasize belonging, does not include the tenets of CRT.”
In opposition to these denials, incidents have begun to surface of public school teachers and administrators admitting that they are already using CRT principles in the teaching of regular classroom subjects. Most prominently, Indianapolis district science coordinator Tony Kinnett recently alleged that CRT is embedded in all subjects in Indianapolis public schools from math to science to history.
In a parallel development in the culture war in the United States, California recently enacted a law (AB-101) requiring all public school students in the state to take at least one semester of Ethnic Studies as a high school graduation requirement starting with the class of 2030, though districts must start offering Ethnic Studies courses in the 2025-26 school year. The effort to mandate Ethnic Studies for California’s public schools began in 2014, spearheaded by Union del Barrio, a neo-Marxist revolutionary group that promotes political revolution and the “fundamental liberation of la raza within US borders.” When investigative journalists revealed the radical roots of the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (see for example here and here) and the divisive ideologies to be taught in the classroom, state legislators began to distance themselves from the effort and the more egregious elements of the ESMC were removed. The first draft of the ESMC, released in June 2019, was rejected after concerned parents and legislators, notably those in the Jewish community, pointed out it was antisemitic, equated capitalism with racism, promoted the teaching about “revolutionary” warriors, and advocated for indoctrinating students in the “tactics of engagement” among other problems. In a response to questions from a Jewish news journal, California Governor Gavin Newsom said of the first draft of the ESMC, “And let me also apologize on behalf of the state for the anxiety that this produced. It was offensive in so many ways, particularly to the Jewish community.”
Angered that their model Ethnic Studies curriculum had been rejected by political leaders in Sacramento, the authors and supporters of the original ESMC first draft formed the “Save CA Ethnic Studies” coalition in 2019, and then the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (LESMC) Institute in 2020 to push the original vision of the ESMC. Since its inception, LESMC has worked to preempt the AB-101 Ethnic Studies mandate by approaching sympathetic public school districts in California and lobbying them to approve their more radical LESMC curriculum. The strategy has been successful as a number of California public school districts are using parts of the LESMC curriculum, including districts in Hayward, Santa Cruz, Jefferson, Salinas, San Francisco, and San Diego.
The promoters of the LESMC curriculum in public statements deny the lineage of LESMC with Critical Race Theory (CRT). However, seminars intended for internal audiences reveal Ethnic Studies is a Trojan horse meant to radicalize public school students through the lens of CRT and other ideologies. The most recent evidence of this is an LESMC workshop held on November 20, 2021 entitled “Demystifying Critical Race Theory: Teaching Critical Race Theory in K-12 Classrooms”:
As can be seen from the flyer promoting the event, the event invited public school educators to “join us for a workshop on how to incorporate Critical Race Theory in K-12 classrooms.” The event was held online via Zoom, but was webcast live on YouTube via a publicly available stream.
An anonymous Internet sleuth recorded the YouTube webcast and posted a recording of it in two parts on BitChute.com:
In the webinar, the presenters, all affiliated with the LESMC Institute, make some startlingly frank admissions, among them:
The Critical Race Theory (CRT) that they know and understand, and are using in the classroom is not just an obscure legal theory, rather it is a theoretical framework that is used in Ethnic Studies that has the following basic tenets:
CRT argues that race and racism are a part of everyday life for BIPOC communities of color.
Asserts that racism and injustice today directly relate to historical trajectory experienced by people of color in the U.S.
Maintains that historical and contemporary experiences of marginalized communities of color are also influenced by intersectionalities.
Uses experiential or lived experiences in the form of counternarrative for defying majoritarian supremacy.
There is an explicit commitment to social justice in thought and action.
That they do not call CRT by name in the classroom, but that they use it in everything they teach:
“In a K-12 education (environment) what we've seen in our work is that, except for now because it’s such a hot topic in education, K-12 teachers didn’t usually get up and say, ‘well today we are going to do a lesson on Critical Race Theory.’ What they did is they took those tenets of Critical Race Theory — the pedagogy or the methodology — and create pedagogical models, many that you are going to see today. They took ideas in Critical Race Theory and made it come alive in the classroom so that students could engage in an anti-racist project.”
Liberated Ethnic Studies educators have been using CRT in the classroom for years. Lupe Carrasco Cardona, co-founder of the LESMC Institute says, “In the twenty-two years I’ve been an educator, I think students had never heard of Critical Race Theory per se until the 1,300 times it was mentioned on FoxNews -- and spread all these misinformations were spread online and what not. And so absolutely Critical Race Theory is one of the philosophical, but also very real and concrete ways I create my lessons.”
The purpose of Ethnic Studies curriculum is not to just teach to foster “an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures” and California’s diverse students, rather it is to inculcate CRT in those students and make activists out of them to build an anti-racist society. As Theresa Montaño, LESMC Lead and Professor of Chicana/o Studies at California State University of Northridge, says in the video:
“One of the most important parts of Critical Race Theory for K-12 educators is that it’s not just about how we feel and how we speak and how we craft our stories and what we write and what we read, but that we make an explicit commitment to changing this society in thought and in action...”
Carrasco Cardona admits, “...what you will see in the lessons that follow are how classroom teachers begin to use Critical Race Theory connected to Ethnic Studies in a way to empower and to create social justice activists out of our students.”
LESMC views resistance to CRT and Ethnic Studies as violence against people of color. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Professor in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, answers the moderator’s question “why are we experiencing pushback and what can be done?” with the following reply:
“These attacks on CRT and on Ethnic Studies are attacks on us, are attacks on people, are attacks on our communities, are attacks on our legacies, and that’s me. ... These attacks on CRT and ethnic studies are not just symbolic. They are not just acts of xenophobia and hate. It really is about people of color being attacked for being people of color. We are grieving as a community.
“It’s really important that we acknowledge that what we are experiencing are seeded and founded on ideologies of white supremacy that has plagued this nation since its inception. This is not new. We must acknowledge that's our responsibility to teach that as educators, but if we are being censored and silenced as educators to talk about ‘evidence and history’, then that is unconstitutional. ... For many of us people of color, anti people of color violence started way before we came to the United States. Colonialism and imperialism are acts of violence that have happened to indigenous people on these lands, and then also in the lands of those of us who are immigrants or those of us who are settlers here. The supremacy and domination that have been imposed on our lands and on our bodies, the bodies of our ancestors, is really where the story begins. So it doesn’t begin with the CRT or anti-CRT policy, it begins with history, it begins with the root cause of all of this, which is white supremacy.”
LESMC teaches that capitalism is evil and intertwined with structural racism. Theresa Montaño in part two of the video says the following:
“I want to respond to Arlene (Inouye)'s question about how we address capitalism and how it connects to structural racism. I think we do it in terms of the intersectionality between race and class — lessons on gentrification and profit, as a means of privatization of schooling. We also address it in our lessons on incarceration, on decolonizing our diet. There are several ways to show what capitalism has done to our communities and to our people. So again like Critical Race Theory, we don’t develop lesson plans that are quote unquote going to discuss ‘the evils of capitalism.’ But we do have lessons that raise questions and critiques and ideas about what profit motives, what gentrification, and what capitalism has done to our communities.”
As California public school administrators and school boards attempt to implement the Ethnic Studies mandate ushered in by the signing of AB-101, they should be aware that Ethnic Studies since its inception was a Trojan horse designed by political activists to inject Critical Race Theory and other political ideologies into the K-12 classroom to indoctrinate students and turn them into activists. Fortunately, AB-101 included an amendment that allows Local Educational Agencies (the state’s euphemism for local school boards) to adopt or develop any Ethnic Studies curriculum it likes as long as it meets the requirements specified in AB-101. This can allow local school boards to do their due diligence and create or adopt Ethnic Studies courses that are free from politically divisive and racist ideologies.