Letter: Ethnic studies off course with unbalanced textbook

The Sun-Gazette

To the Editor,

We support Visalia Unified’s new introduction of an ethnic studies course for their students. However, we believe their current textbook is unbalanced and should be replaced.

The core message in this book is that all citizens of color are victims of oppression and exploitation by the descendants of white Europeans. That approach is divisive and should be replaced with a book that not only discusses America’s faults, but also the positive changes that have been made, and are still ongoing, to fix the acknowledged injustices of the past.

Authored by Ronald Takaki, the title is “A Different Mirror for Young People: a History of Multicultural America.” The back cover of the book states “The ‘mirror’ that Ronald Takaki holds up to the United States reflects a multicultural history of oppression and exploitation…”

Page 6 states “The Master Narrative says that our country was settled by European immigrants, and that Americans are white. People of other races, people not of European ancestry have been pushed to the sidelines…” Only 19% of VUSD students are white. Thus, the book declares the other 81% are “victims.”

Do we want our kids to go through life perceiving themselves as oppressed exploited victims? Or, do we want them to graduate with a sense of personal responsibility and that with a quality education and determination they can achieve great success—regardless of race or gender—in today’s America?

The VUSD Board approved this class in their July 28, 2020, meeting where it was buried on page 237 of their agenda. The board does have a specific approval policy titled “Instruction BP 6161.1(a) Selection and Evaluation of Instructional Materials.” It includes the statement, “The review process shall involve teachers in a substantial manner and shall encourage the participation of parents/guardians and community members.”

Did district leaders take rushed shortcuts in their own written approval policy during local protests over the killing of George Floyd? The State Department of Education is already studying an “ethnic studies” program for the graduating class of 2029, but the governor has already vetoed two proposed bills because they lack “balance.” VUSD’s current textbook already lacks “balance.”

Only two pages mention our 1860s’ civil war, which only discuss the numbers of Black men who fought. The untold story—an estimated 620,000 soldiers died—most were descendants of the “racist” white Europeans vilified in this textbook. Union soldiers shed their blood to obtain freedom for the Black slaves in the South.

Similarly, discussing World War II, “The violent conflict in the Pacific was a war of racial hatreds.” This insults the sacrifice of the 407,000 U.S. military members killed (worldwide). The untold story—if there had not been a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on a peaceful Sunday morning there would not have been a subsequent Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Six months after approving the textbook, VUSD board members are now reading it. They now have an opportunity to review their previous decision by rigorously applying their own written policy. Three newly elected board members, Ms. Casebeer, Mrs. Gaebe and Mr. Pope, will thus be able join the evaluation.

Any subsequent public debate should focus only on the current textbook. Again, we support a balanced ethnic studies course.

Concerned Visalia residents:
Jerrold Jensen, Bob Line, David Allen, Harold Myers, Bill Whitlatch, Mark Fulmer and Carl Switzer

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