Sunday, March 3, 2024

After Years of Debate, California Adopts Ethnic Studies in their Curriculum

After years of debate and thousands of public comments, California finally approved an ethnic studies model curriculum for k-12 students. The 900-page curriculum was approved by the state Board of Education last week. The curriculum has been under development for nearly four years and the version approved was the fourth draft.

Though the curriculum has been approved, it is voluntary and not yet a statewide requirement. Supporters have argued that it’s a necessary effort to teach students about different groups people, particularly following last week’s multiple attacks on Asian Americans.

Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers Association stated, “We cannot endure the horrific acts of the past against people of color that unfortunately still continue today as we saw this week in Georgia. But what we do have to do is take steps to start preventing these horrific acts. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said racism is a sickness, and we have to become the healers. There is no other place that has the greatest responsibility than our educational system. So we have to support this and have ethnic studies.”

The statewide curriculum is the first of its kind in the country. The curriculum focuses on four ethnic groups: African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islands, Latino Americans, and Native Americans. The histories and experiences of Jewish Americans and Arab Americans are also included in the curriculum.

Last September, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have made ethnic studies a requirement for high school graduation stated that the curriculum proposed was “insufficiently balanced and inclusive.” Earlier in the year, though Newsom made ethnic studies mandatory for students in the California State University system.

Across the country, aspects of ethnic studies have become increasingly incorporated into k-12 curriculums. Last year, Connecticut announced it will require high schools to offer African American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies, becoming the first state in the nation to do so. Also, last year, the San Francisco school board approved the development of a k-12 curriculum in Black studies.