Should Ethnic Studies be a High School Requirement?
This fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District voted on measures to make it mandatory for high school students to take an Ethnic Studies course before graduation. The El Rancho Unified school district in Pico Rivera was the first to present such a requirement, and now it looks like San Francisco may follow suit. If school board President Sandra Fewer is successful, a law requiring students to take an Ethnic Studies course would be mandatory for graduation no later than 2016.
In all three districts, these courses call for discussions about racial oppression and the way Euro-centric stories have dominated American academic history textbooks for centuries. Critics of the Ethnic Studies requirements believe the text could be racially divisive, not to mention the cost of buying the new books and hiring the teachers who are qualified to teach the course.
Proponents believe the courses are necessary to give students the opportunity to see true American history, and beyond. The critical thinking skills that are so often cited as being lacking in today’s students could be strengthened through comparisons of traditional and alternative histories. It also goes without saying that classrooms today are not as Euro-centric as they were even a decade ago — so perhaps the way that history is taught should catch up with the times.
I personally would like to see more Ethnic Studies courses offered throughout the country, even if they are only presented as electives. Students should have the option to learn more about all of the people who formed America, and continue to shape it.