Ethnic Studies: the class we need AND the one we deserve right now

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Learning about your own heritage and history is an important aspect of one’s education, and for communities where a large percentage of the population is Asian, providing an option for students to learn more about their own heritage is a necessity. Thus, the implementation of an Asian-American Studies course as an elective for students who wish to learn more about their culture and origin should be provided for and funded by the school district.

Asian Americans make up nearly 60% of the students in the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD), and the fact that there is no set curriculum for ethnic studies for an ethnicity that comprises the majority of their student body is unacceptable.

Throughout our high school history and literature classes, the majority of the curriculum is Eurocentric: revolving around European culture and imperialism. Students do not get a chance to delve into the details of other ethnicities, especially their own, with such a diverse student population.

By providing education on a diverse array of cultures and traditions in schools, students can also gain a better understanding of these different ethnicities, becoming more tolerant and respectful for those of a different race and/or background. Though Asian American studies should not be a required course, this course, and other possible courses on a plethora of different ethnicities, should be options for students in order to promote an understanding of Asian history and culture among both Asians and other races who hope to better understand the diversity of cultures in the context of a shared unity in America.

Despite the clear necessity to provide an option for ethnic studies in public schools, some might argue that schools should not get involved in cultural studies, as that can bring about controversial discussion. There might be stereotypes and discrepancies regarding a certain culture that could be brought up, making certain students uncomfortable. However, this is exactly why more classes regarding cultural backgrounds should be implemented: they will help break harmful prejudices. Understanding other ethnic cultures is essential to combating racism at its roots.

Furthermore, detailed ethnic studies has been scientifically supported to improve overall academic performance. The National Education Association found that “there is considerable research evidence that well-designed and well-taught ethnic studies curricula have positive academic and social outcomes for students.”

Other cities and states have already incorporated ethnic studies into their public high schools. Oregon is the first state to make ethnic studies mandatory for children from Kindergarten to 12th grade. School Boards in Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and Tucson have made ethnic studies a requirement.

In the Tucson Unified School District, students who previously had low grade point averages and took a Mexican American Studies course were significantly more likely to graduate and pass the state standardized tests. They were also more likely to interact confident with other races. As other schools have already taken this essential step in advancing racial equality and understanding, it is a critical time for our school district to do the same.

Although California proposed a measure entitled AB 2772 that would require all high school students to take an ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement starting the 2023-2024 year, the bill did not get passed. Therefore, as of right now, high schools are merely encouraged to offer these classes.

Northwood should start by offering an Asian American studies class, then add classes for other cultures and eventually work their way to an end goal of an individual ethnic studies class. Undertaking these actions are essential in promoting racial understanding and preventing racism, greatly improving students’ perspective on the world and the people around them.