California Ethnic Studies Plan Undercuts Itself

Ethnic studies have been controversial since they were first conceived in the 1960s. The Cornell University professor Noliwe Rooks has noted that the Ford Foundation backed early university Black-studies programs at least in part to keep students from being “lured into more radical politics like that of the Black Panther Party.” In the 1970s and 1980s, budgetary crises weakened funding for ethnic-studies programs.

In extreme cases — notably in Arizona — a backlash against ethnic studies at the high-school level provoked a ban, later reversed, on any public-school courses that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of one ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity.”

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Professor Noliwe Rooks