Oregon lawmakers back education bill to stem antisemitism – Oregon Capital Chronicle:

State lawmakers want Oregon students to learn about Jewish history and their contributions to society.

House Bill 2905 would add people of Jewish descent to an existing requirement that schools teach the histories and contributions of marginalized or underserved people. That law, passed by the Legislature in 2019, requires schools to teach students the histories and contributions of people who are Native American, African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Chicano, Latino or of Middle Eastern descent, as well as women, people with disabilities, immigrants or refugees, or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.

It’s possible to oppose racism and antisemitism and still think this a terrible law. (And one that does nothing to arrest either racism or antisemitism.)

First, I’m not crazy about lawmakers, most of whom have no educational policy expertise, telling teachers how to do their jobs. Education policy rightly belongs in the Oregon Department of Education—and I have plenty of problems with them, I assure you—not the state legislature. 

Second, this type of educational guidance is the exact opposite of what we need. That is to say, it continues the rift created by Democratic identity politics by focusing on our differences rather than our shared humanity. There’s a time and place for such study, and it certainly can be beneficial. Given the current climate, I’m skeptical this is that time and place. For example, if we want to look at virtually anyone famous, what we’ll find is that he or she is famous not for their ethnicity (or gender or race) but for their activity. Oregon law turns this idea on its head. That is a the wrong way to focus one’s studies. 

Finally, is there a group who hasn’t been marginalized at one point or another? My original ancestor to the US was Scottish. He came to the US as an indentured servant. My wife’s family is Catholic and predominantly of Irish descent. Those groups, not included in the legislature’s list, suffered pervasive discrimination throughout much of the 20th century (and certainly earlier). 

This Oregon law is a bad idea, and I’m not sure it’s made better by adding more groups to the list. Better still would be repealing it.