Ethnic Studies Required for California High School Students
Experts and educators expect long-term benefits for students, but some groups remain critical of the mandate as they continue to mistakenly confuse the program with critical race theory.
After a years-long battle reignited in recent months by controversies over misunderstandings over critical race theory, California students will soon be required to pursue ethnic studies to graduate from high school.
Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted AB 101 on Friday afternoon, requiring California high school students to take ethnic studies to graduate, starting with the Class of 2030. Educators and recent studies attest to benefits for college students. ” learn about the histories and cultures of marginalized communities. , but some parents are still worried that this requirement does not create any more tension between the pupils.
âThe inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is long overdue,â said Assembly member Jose Medina, a Democrat from Riverside who wrote AB 101. âStudents cannot have a full understanding of the history of our state and nation without the inclusion of the contributions and struggles of Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans.
Last year, Newsom vetoed a similar bill, also drafted by Medina, citing the need for a review of the model curriculum.
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Previous versions of the program have been widely criticized for being anti-Semitic, too politically correct and filled with jargon. He used terms such as âcisheteropatriarchyâ and âhxrstory,â while describing capitalism as a system that exploits indigenous peoples and other communities of color.
But the latest version of the model curriculum, approved by the State Board of Education in March, garnered support from some who opposed the early drafts. Democratic Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco, vice-chair of the Jewish Legislative Caucus, was one of the lawmakers convinced by the changes.
“The program would not teach anti-Semitism or any form of hatred,” he said ahead of the Senate vote on September 9. “The final version adopted was a dramatic improvement and something we all rallied around and defended.”
The latest version of the program contains more neutral descriptions of capitalism and addresses various concerns of the Jewish Caucus.
Thirty-three sample lessons are organized into larger subsections of âGeneral Ethnic Studies,â âAfrican American Studies,â âChicana / o / x and Latina / o / x Studies,â âAsian American Studies, and of the Pacific Islands âandâ Native American Studies. Studies. “Lessons on anti-Semitism, American Jewish identity, Arab-American studies, and Armenian migration are included in a separate section titled,” In Search of Patterns of Interethnic Bridge Building.
Specific lessons include âMigration Stories and Oral Historyâ, â#BlackLivesMatter and Social Changeâ, âAfrofuturism: Reimagining Black Futures and Science Fictionâ, âUS Undocumented Immigrants from Mexico and Beyondâ, âThe Immigration Experience of Lao Americansâ and ââ This is Indian land: the purpose, policy and practice of land recognition. “
So far, the unified school districts of San Francisco, Fresno, and San Diego already require their students to attend ethnic studies to graduate. Fresno Unified began offering the class six years ago and will make it a graduation requirement for the Class of 2026.
“I think a lot of what we get is that they really like being able to have a class like this for the first time in their school careers where the content of their class matches their own education.” said Carlos Castillo, who oversees the program and instruction in the neighborhood. “It’s nice to hear that, but it’s also heartbreaking to hear that from grade 11 students.”
Castillo said he hasn’t heard much criticism of the district teaching ethnic studies, but he’s sure the criticisms are there. He said he is convinced that in the long run, the course will help students develop empathy towards their peers while understanding how those in power have marginalized other groups.
âI think there will be more understanding,â he said. âThose in power have always had an advantage over those who don’t. It is essential.
The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times opposed the bill because it provides too much flexibility for local districts to design their own curricula that may deviate from the state’s model curriculum. Thousands of members of the Jewish community in California have signed a petition opposing the bill because it would allow districts to use an earlier version of the model program that has been criticized for its anti-Semitic content.
Victoria Samper, a parent volunteer for Latinx for Quality Education, said she and her organization opposed the demand because she said these conversations about oppression cultivate a “victim mentality” for students. Samper said ethnic studies should focus primarily on historical figures who overcame adversity.
âThere are a lot of people, important historical figures who are positive role models,â she said. âYou have a lot of musicians and athletes who are good role models. Teaching students that they are oppressed is not the way to go.
But the model curriculum both highlight the achievements and teach the often violent stories of marginalized and oppressed communities.
A recent study found that teaching ethnic studies has had many benefits for San Francisco Unified students. Researchers found that GPAs increased among students enrolled in ethnic studies. Student attendance has also improved. Students with a GPA near 2.o have seen some of the biggest benefits, increasing their chances of graduating from high school.
âGraduating from high school has many long-term economic benefits: more civic engagement, better health outcomes, less criminal activity,â said Thomas Dee, professor of education at Stanford University and one of the study’s authors. âIt is a driving force for positive social results. “
Dee said this study was “the most surprising of my entire career.” He said he expected little to no measurable results for the students. But he warned that school leaders need to train their teachers before they have to teach ethnic studies so their students can get the most out of the course.
âI think it’s important for districts to use the time that AB 101 provides to step back from the controversy over the model curriculum and properly prepare their teachers,â Dee said. âImagine taking an unprepared teacher into the classroom. It can go sideways. “