They Teach Third Graders To 'Decolonize' Themselves. They Also Advise a Prominent California Public School District.

Ethnic studies group seeks to cultivate opposition to ‘white settler states’ like the US and Israel

Enikia Ford Morthel, superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District, testifies before the House Education and the Workforce Committee (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
May 16, 2024

For most kids, third grade is spent learning concepts such as fractions, long multiplication, and telling time to the nearest minute. For the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium, an education consulting group, it's spent pursuing a different topic: decolonization.

That's according to a Liberated Ethnic Studies lesson plan titled, "Who are my people?" The plan calls on third graders—typically between the ages of eight and nine—to embrace their "racialized self" and "honor the labor and knowledge of an Indigenous person or person of color who fought for racial justice." It also presses students to "understand that we are on a journey to decolonize ourselves as holistic human beings, through critical consciousness, radical hope and self-love."

Such lesson plans are common for Liberated Ethnic Studies, a group of "expert educational practitioners" working to bring "educational equity" to K-12 schools in California. While the group does not publicly list its partners, at least one prominent Golden State district, Berkeley Unified, counts Liberated Ethnic Studies as a "thought partner," superintendent Enikia Ford Morthel said during a congressional hearing last week. The district has worked with Liberated Ethnic Studies for more than a year to implement a "model ethnic studies program for elementary through high school" at a cost of more than $111,000, records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show.

The revelation reflects the extent to which K-12 public schools around the country have become infused with left-wing ideas on race and gender. Pittsburgh Public Schools, for example, has pushed its teachers to infuse critical race theory into classrooms through "racial equity learning resources" that argue America is systemically racist and condemn merit-based policies as "rooted in whiteness," as the Free Beacon previously reported. And in New York City, middle schoolers were tasked with surveilling their friends and family for "microaggressions," as first reported by the Free Beacon.

Liberated Ethnic Studies’s website includes a sample lesson plan for kindergarten through second grade, in which students create butterflies to symbolize migrant children in detention centers. Another sample lesson plan, for students as young as third grade, teaches them about "intersectionality" and "gender expression."

A now-deleted toolkit on how to "teach Palestine," previously on the consulting group’s website, guides educators on how to cultivate an adversarial view toward "white settler states," like the United States and Israel, among their students. The toolkit rails against "Zionism," claiming it seeks to expand the state of Israel "by any means necessary," while blaming "right-wing myths" and "Zionist organizations" for stunting the development of an "authentic anti-racist curriculum." It also suggests hiding lesson plans from uncooperative administrators and warns of the troubles associated with having to navigate the "treacherous waters of white supremacy" that seek to "prevent teachers and students from making connections between the U.S. and Israel as white settler states."

"Teaching the truth about the history of the U.S. is a liberatory act, for teachers and for students" the consulting group stated in its "teach Palestine" toolkit. "Teaching the truth about Palestine is also a liberatory act, for teachers and for students. It’s a political decision."

Other elements of the curriculum instruct educators to help students identify their "people" but include no mention of any white or Jewish ethnicities. Rather, it says that "the stories of people of color are not written in history books," and refers to articles that invoke the hashtag "#OscarsSoWhite" to discuss a lack of diversity in Hollywood.

Curriculum outlines tell teachers to foster "oppositional behaviors that challenge inequality" and help students connect to "past and contemporary resistance movements."

Another outline instructs teachers to help students understand "that we are on a journey to decolonize ourselves." That outline also wants students to learn about their "racialized self, the complexities, the intersectionality and beauty associated with it."

Superintendent Ford Morthel, the consortium, and Berkeley Unified School District did not respond to the Free Beacon’s requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the district is facing a federal civil rights complaint over "unchecked" anti-Semitic bullying, as well as a civil lawsuit that centers around an allegedly biased ethnic studies lesson about Israel.

Ford Morthel said during last week’s hearing that the district’s ethnic studies lessons are created "in-house," adding that it was incorrect to say the district had "contracted" with the Liberated Ethnic Studies because it had not purchased any materials from them. She did, however, concede that "they are a resource that we use" and described them as a "thought partner."

"Once she said, ‘No, no. We didn’t contract with Liberated Ethnic Studies for our curriculum.’ That was a true statement," Lori Lowenthal Marcus, attorney for the plaintiff suing the district over its biased ethnic studies lesson on Israel, told the Free Beacon. "But it doesn’t mean anything like what people assume it does. … What they do is either call it professional development, or teacher training, so it isn’t like handing over a box with the documents in it," she added. "But of course the district is using the same material."

California Republican Rep. Kevin Kiley made a similar point during the hearing.

"I don’t understand what the difference between a thought partner and working with them on curriculum is," Kiley told Ford Morthel. "You specifically chose to work with a group whose work product was rejected by political leaders throughout California as anti-Semitic, and so I don’t think it’s any wonder then that you see anti-Semitism suddenly become rampant in the halls of your school."