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Ethnic Studies to be Considered as Graduation Requirement – Parallels Black Lives Matter Movement

Almost two years ago State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond pitched an ethnic studies curriculum as a high school graduation requirement. The California Department of Education revisited the proposal July 7 with a series of four webinars highlighting ethnic studies and their importance to education and society.

The webinar featured guest speaker Shirley Weber, California State assemblymember. Tony Thurmond introduced Weber as a renowned speaker and ethnic studies expert. She has created ethnic studies divisions at multiple universities and spear-headed organizations like Diamonds in the Rough and student outreach programs.

Weber came to work for San Diego State University due to protests advancing ethnic studies programs across the country during the ’60s. She then went to work creating San Diego’s first ethnic studies curriculum.

In 2020, Weber is back at it again – this time with the California Department of Education Board of Trustees.

The ethnic studies course is a three unit class that would be integrated into the graduate curriculum for high schools and Cal State Universities starting with the class of 2024. This curriculum will focus on teaching the true history of different ethnicities and allowing students to learn about themselves and their surroundings.

“Society is not equipped to help African Americans develop and succeed, Weber said. “It’s not in their best interest, but it’s in our best interest.” 

“The board of trustees did not want Africano studies at universities for a graduate qualification,” she said. “It’s only three credits.”

Participants in the webinar chimed in from all over the country with a strong opening remark from an attendee identified as Jonathan. 

“We don’t need to wait to be free to liberate ourselves,” he said.

The timing for these webinars has not gone unnoticed by members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“With one class all these socioeconomic problems can be shifted through giving information,” Amin, a student and participant in the webinar said.

According to the California Policy Center, only 23% of K-12 public school enrollment is “white – not Hispanic.”

These students are not receiving education on Ethnic Studies beyond their Eurocentric schooling. 

“Ethnic studies is an intro to ethnicity outside of the Eurocentric narrative,” Kingmakers Media Coordinator and Youth Educator Kahlil Chapman said. “Traditionally educating them from Eurocentric perspectives becomes secondary when life is a balancing act between multiple worlds. We can’t have space for Eurocentricity in these classrooms. School has to become more meaningful in an equitable space.”

Integrating ethnic studies as part of education has resulted in focus groups created by The California Department of Education  to work with existing ethnic studies teachers on Assembly Bill 2016. 

According to a California Department of Education press release these groups created a model curriculum to “ensure that the curriculum is written to encourage cultural understanding of how different groups have struggled and worked together, as well as highlight core ethnic studies concepts such as equality, justice, race, ethnicity and indigeneity.”

A common thread between participants and Weber was the eagerness for students to learn about themselves, their history and their place in this world and that the institutions that should be initiating this are schools.

 “We all know about these other types of history embedded in education and society already, Amin said. “Why is it that when we want to learn about ourselves it’s not history itself, it is ethnic studies,” Amin said. “To learn about ourselves is such a big hoop to jump through. The historical stigma around education and black people is still around today. It makes us hard to identify with history until we hopefully one day get into an ethnic studies class.”

The webinars will continue every Wednesday at 3 p.m. and are available to the public on the California Department of Educations Facebook.

Ethnic Studies to be Considered as Graduation Requirement - Parallels Black Lives Matter Movement