On Monday, the California Department of Education announced new anti-racism classes and instructor training called “Education to End Hate,” only days after President Donald Trump said that he would sign an Executive Order to establish an educational commission to develop patriotic education.
The “Education to End Hate” program
The “Education to End Hate” program will have three distinct components: Educator training grants, Virtual Classroom Series, and Roundtable with Leaders.
Under the grant component, the CDE will give small grants of up to $200,000 to local education agencies to develop and fund classes that cover anti-racism and bias. Many civil rights groups, such as the LGBT civil rights group Equality California, the anti-bigotry Museum of Tolerance, and the National Equity Project, an economic equity organization, have already agreed to help develop resources and training.
The virtual classroom series, which would begin in October, would have virtual classroom lesson be broadcast statewide to teach kids about bias and ending discrimination.
And the leader roundtables will have the State Superintendent host public discussion with political, educational, and Civil Rights leaders on how to make school learning environments inclusive to all students. Many prominent state leaders such as Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Assemblywoman Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara) have already signed on to contribute.
Program formed following year of racial justice incidents
During Monday’s online conference, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said that many incidents this year, including the death of George Floyd, bullying of Chinese-Americans over COVID-19, increased anti-immigration feelings nationwide, and the weeks of protests during the summer all played a part in creating the new program.
“We have continued to watch unspeakable acts of racism play out on our television screens, whether it be police brutality or those who want to hold on to symbols that represent hate against African Americans that go back to slavery,” said Superintendent Thurmond on Monday. “At times, it just is so heartbreaking. Sometimes I’m not sure what to do. But in those moments, I’m reminded education continues to be one of our most powerful tools to countering hate.”
Many lawmakers supported the move on Monday, specifically echoing Thurmond’s reasoning to start the Education to End Hate program.
“We know that racism and hate are taught,” noted Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) on Monday. “We know that children are born loving everyone. You learn what you live, and unfortunately racism and hate are still being taught in living rooms across the state of California and across this country.”
“Sometimes in our darkest hour is when we do our best work. We know that racism and hate are taught, and we know that children are born loving everyone. You learn what you live, and unfortunately racism and hate are still being taught in living rooms across the state of California and across this country. If we learn about each other, the hope is that we won’t hate each other. The hope is that we will know that we have more in common than not.”
Opposition builds against new program, 1619 project
However, many opponents have noted the timing of the announcement, only days after President Trump announced his own education plan, the 1776 Commission. The 1776 Commission, which aims at greater patriotic education in the run-up to the United States Semiquincentennial in 2026, was itself an answer to the 1619 Project, which focuses on teaching slavery as a cause of racism in the U.S.
While California has been receptive to the 1619 Project and has begun to implement it in schools, the CDE has been hostile to the 1776 Commission, especially after President Trump has said that he would pull education funding from the state for implementation of the 1619 Project.
Department of Education is looking at this. If so, they will not be funded! https://t.co/dHsw6Y6Y3M
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2020
“I don’t know how else to say it, I thought that the president’s tweet was just ridiculous and reckless and irresponsible to in any way suggest that schools would somehow have their funding threatened for simply teaching the history and the facts that racism has existed in this country and that there are deep impacts from slavery,” said Thurmond earlier this month.
However, the CDE’s announcement on Monday could have further effects coming soon.
Possible new effects in the coming months
“Thurmond is right in saying that the U.S. Government can’t set in stone state education choices,” explained former educational policy consultant Barbara Shipman. “But they have ways through federal funding to change it. Look at past programs like ‘No Child Left Behind.’ That changed policies at virtually every state system simply by saying that if they didn’t pass certain tests they wouldn’t get any funding.”
“That’s what Trump is trying to do now. It’s a policy that the Department of Education doesn’t support, and for not agreeing to what the federal government wants, they can pull funding. California and other states can still teach it, but they wouldn’t get any federal money, which, if you know anything about school funding, isn’t all that much – only around 10% of the entire budget on average. But that is 10% they would no longer have, and that is huge for many districts hanging on to their funding situation by a thread.”
“The announcement said that the new program would be for every child K-12 in California, so that’s a lot of districts that may have questions arise soon if Trump does indeed pull funding, or tries a compromise move with his program being included alongside 1619.”
“A lot of politicians are against this new California program, but no one wants to say anything as they don’t want to be called certain names or be seen as a bigot, even though their reasons are based more on educational value and the bias of having only Democratic leaders be a part of these roundtables.”
“This isn’t over. Not by a long shot. And we may see this project be done with by the end of the year even, especially if the election goes a certain way. It’s not on stable ground right now.”
The “Education to End Hate” program is expected to begin soon in California schools, with the first virtual classrooms to begin next month.