Wednesday, September 14, 2016

California schools mandated to teach ethnic studies

By Louis Chan

WITH LITTLE FANFARE, Governor Jerry Brown of California has signed a bill requiring every school district and charter school to offer an ethnic studies class in high school.

The bill becomes effective in the 2020-21 school year, giving school districts time to develop their curriculum.

It was authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas Valley) who is chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. The course would teach about the historic contributions and struggles of Asian/Americans, African/Americans, Latinos and other minorities in the United States. It’s a counterweight to the Eurocentric courses currently offered in most schools.

“AB 2016 will give California public high school districts and charter schools a comprehensive ethnic studies curriculum that will be available to all students as an elective,” Alejo said. 

“The development of a comprehensive ethnic studies curriculum acknowledges the diversity of California, which has the most ethnically diverse public school student body in the nation. After recent studies, we now have conclusive evidence that ethnic studies courses have helped students of color remain academically engaged and have improved test scores and graduation rates.”

The bill puts the rest of the state closer in line with the Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco Unified School Districts which have both added ethnic studies courses in recent years. The cities of Oakland and San Diego are in the process of doing the same.

The governor’s signature comes a year after he vetoed a similar bill by Alejo. At the time, Brown said Alejo’s bill was redundant because another state panel was already looking into revising curriculum standards.

The move was roundly criticized at the time.

“Ethnic studies are not just for students of color,” Alejo said this year. “We should give all students the opportunity to prepare for a diverse global economy, diverse university campuses and diverse workplaces.”