The Ethnic Studies Movement Is Making Big Inroads in America's High SchoolsBreaking News
tags: teaching, education, history, secondary education
Like growing numbers of public high school students across the country, many California kids are receiving classroom instruction in how race, class, gender, sexuality and citizenship status are tools of oppression, power and privilege. They are taught about colonialism, state violence, racism, intergenerational trauma, heteropatriarchy and the common thread that links them: “whiteness.” Students are then graded on how well they apply these concepts in writing assignments, performances and community organizing projects.
At Santa Monica High School, for example, students organize and carry out “a systematized campaign” for social justice that can take the form of a protest, a leaflet, a workshop, play or research project. They demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter by teaching about social justice to middle school students.
Students at Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale are assigned to write a “breakup letter with a form of oppression,” such as toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, the Eurocentric curriculum or the Dakota Access Pipeline. Students are asked to “persuade their audience of the dehumanizing and damaging effects of their chosen topic.”
Students at schools in Anaheim, San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco are taught how to write a manifesto to school administrators listing “demands” for reforms. Some conduct a grand jury investigation to determine who was responsible for the genocide of the state’s Native Americans. And one classholds a mock trial to determine which party is most responsible for the deaths of millions of native Tainos: Christopher Columbus, the soldiers, the king and queen of Spain, or the entire European system of colonialism.
These are just a few examples of the ethnic studies courses taught at 253 California schools, nearly 20% of the state’s high schools, according to 2017-18 data. California is now looking at expanding this approach in a proposed statewide curriculum. The expansion could affect up to 1.7 million high school students if a second bill, making ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement, is approved.
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