Support Ethnic Studies Programs
Support Ethnic Studies Programs
Ethnic studies is the interdisciplinary study of race and ethnicity, as understood through the perspectives of major underrepresented racial groups. It draws upon many disciplines to foster cross-cultural understanding -- and help students to value their own cultural identity while appreciating the differences around them. From campaigns to require schools to offer ethnic studies courses, to efforts to change the names of schools honoring Confederate leaders, students and educators around the country are mobilizing to include voices and stories of the diverse ethnicities that have contributed to the history and culture of the United States.
Educator activism makes the promise of ethnic studies policy a reality
By Kate Snyder
One of the great opportunities in education is to find a way to challenge students to critically think about their own experiences and about the experiences of others. One of the main tenets of Ethnic Studies curriculum is to have students understand different systems of oppression, not just race.
“Ethnic Studies and social justice are a critical lens through which we can get a new perspective on history, so we are not doomed to repeat it,” said Ivan Viray Santos, who, with his colleagues from the New Haven Unified School District in California, was instrumental in developing high school curriculum for Ethnic Studies Departments, including an Ethnic Studies/Social Justice pathway with some classes available as early as the 7th grade.Read More
In July 2017, the State Board of Education approved inclusion of the role of Filipinos during WWII in the revised history curriculum framework for state schools, following passage of AB 199 in 2011. Santos and his colleagues have been part of a cohort working to develop this specific curriculum that they will present during the statewide conference of the Filipino American Educators Association of California on September 28-30 in San Diego.
“With passage of recent policy,” said Santos, “it’s an honor to be part of this historic moment as our units and lessons will be among the first to be shared with school districts as examples of how this history can be worked into the U.S. History courses.”
Santos’ colleagues and students shared their thoughts in a student directed video on the value of having an Ethnic Studies department.
“Know Your Roots” video produced by Santos’ former student, Karl Mena
Mexican American student:
Ethnic Studies taught me how to put theory into practice on the days when the world reminds me why Ethnic Studies is so necessary, I know how to navigate through all the rage or hurt in order to heal and build because of what I learned from Ethnic Studies.
Ethnic Studies means learning about the world – the his/herstory of our people and how it has shaped my experiences and identity. It has given me hope and taught me that my narrative matters. I also learned that it takes action in our communities to transform it, and helped me find agency to struggle alongside people in the fight for liberation.
African American student:
Ethnic Studies has taught me selflessness, willingness to give back to my ancestors, my people. It has always grounded me in my actions, it has led me to organize more people and teach more people the root causes of the world. Ethnic Studies has led me to my community, it has made me learn that my identity is bound to the people/collective I serve.
Santos concludes, “Ethnic Studies is a means of critical analysis on the basis of race, gender, sexuality and class. It allows students to see how all these identities shape our lives and teaches students to identify problems, analyze roots causes, and take a critical look at historical and current issues as a means to create solutions for their communities and put them into action. I look forward to sharing our curriculum because I think this approach is exactly what we need to see more of in the world today.”
This article was originally posted on September 22, 2017.
- ‘Teaching for Black Lives’ — a handbook to help all educators fight racism
Washington Post, July 10, 2018
- San Francisco State finds evidence that ethnic studies students do better
InsideHigherEd.com, July 9, 2018
- Stanford study suggests academic benefits to ethnic studies courses
Stanford University, January 12, 2016
- The Value of Ethnic Studies—For All Students
TeachingTolerance.org, January 15, 2015
Students, educators mobilize in support of ethnic studies programs
Irregardless of geography, state-level politics, or opponents who seek to stoke race-based fears, educators and students around the country are finding ways to organize, build strong coalitions, and help establish new ethnic studies programs, or pass legislation requiring schools to offer some ethnic studies courses.
In Arizona, years of hard work by faculty, staff, students and community members paid off in 2017 when Pima Community College launched its Department of Ethnic, Gender & Transborder Studies. The opening of the department coincided with the reversal of a 2012 court ruling which essentially banned as unconstitutional the teaching of Mexican-American Studies in Arizona K-12 classrooms. The federal judge who reversed the ruling found that it violated students’ constitutional rights and that those who worked to end Mexican American Studies were “motivated by racial animus” and “by a desire to advance a political agenda by capitalizing on race-based fears.”Read More
In Indiana, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) worked closely with the NAACP in supporting a law requiring Indiana high schools to offer ethnic and racial studies as an elective course at least once a year. Its surprising passage by the very conservative Indiana state legislatures was the culmination of a four-year, multi-racial campaign.
In California, social studies teacher and NEA member Jose Lara and a coalition of activists spearheaded the fight for the state’s game-changing ethnic studies bill. The first of its kind in the country, the landmark bill ordered the creation of a model ethnic studies course for high school students statewide.
And in Seattle, the NAACP, inspired by the adoption of ethnic studies programs for the city of Portland and the entire state of California, worked closely with students and a broad coalition of Washington educators to craft a similar resolution for Seattle’s schools. The proposal aims to make ethnic studies a mandatory part of curriculum by 2020.
Advocates point to a Stanford University study which found that attendance increased by 21%, GPA by 1.4 grade points, and earned credits by 23 for San Francisco high school students enrolled in ethnic studies courses.
- Ethnic Studies In Seattle: A look inside the classrooms of antiracist educators
IAmAnEducator.com, May 22, 2018
- Ethnic studies victories in Arizona come at critical time for the state and country
NEAEdjustice.org, October 12, 2017
- Educators and NAACP persuade Hoosiers ethnic studies benefit everyone
NEAEdjustice.org, June 19, 2017
- Resolution 2016-17/17, Supporting Ethnic Studies in Seattle Public Schools
Seattle Public Schools, June 5, 2017
- Students push Seattle school board to support ethnic studies as central to the American experience
NEAEdjustice.org, March 24, 2017
- It’s commonsense! Why California educators took ethnic studies mainstream
NEAEdjustice.org, December 3, 2016
- A Resolution of the Pima County Board of Supervisors in Support of Increasing Ethnic Studies Courses and Programs of Study in Arizona and in Support of the Creation of an Arizona Ethnic Studies Articulation Task Force
Pima County Board of Supervisors, March 23, 2016
- A Education activist expands students’ reach of ethnic studies of an Arizona Ethnic Studies Articulation Task Force
NEAEdjustice.org, January 27, 2016
What's in a school name?
More than 100 schools across the country are still named after Confederate leaders, and over a quarter of those have predominately African American student bodies. In many communities, students, educators, parents and community activists are increasingly challenging whether Americans should continue to honor in public places people who fought to perpetuate human slavery.
These efforts gained momentum in the summer of 2017, as pressure mounted in state after state to remove Confederate monuments. Many students and educators took inspiration from these efforts, and began to look at the names of their schools.
In Jackson, Mississippi, a mother and daughter sparked an effort to change a school name from honoring the president of the Confederacy; students voted overwhelmingly to name the school after Barack Obama. In Minneapolis, students are driving an effort to rename Patrick Henry High School, after learning that the school’s namesake and revolutionary leader was also a slave owner.Read More
In some instances, rather than re-naming an existing school, activists have organized to influence the process for naming a new school. In April 2018, the Montgomery County, Md., Board of Education voted to name a new elementary school after Bayard Rustin, a gay African-American activist who worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., making the school the first in the state to be named after an openly gay person.
- Maryland Names New School After Gay African-American Civil Rights Activist
NEAEdJustice.org, June 7, 2018
- Debate brewing over whether to change the name of Patrick Henry High in Minneapolis
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, April 27, 2018
- Inspired by national movement, student organizes school name change campaign
NEAEdJustice.org, January 25, 2018
- Daughter and mother spark change in Mississippi school’s name: The president of the Confederacy’s out and Barack Obama’s in
NEAEdJustice.org, November 3, 2017
- School honoring Confederate icon to be renamed after Barack Obama
CBS Evening News, October 19, 2017
- Whose heritage? A Report on public symbols of the Confederacy
Southern Poverty Law Center
Black Lives Matter at School
As racism and xenophobia become more prevalent and overt in our schools and communities, it is more important than ever to listen to and elevate the voices, experiences, and history of our fellow citizens and communities under attack.
The goal of Black Lives Matter at School is to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversation in school communities for people of all ages to engage with issues of racial justice.
At universities and K-12 schools around the country — from a majority white high school outside of Seattle, to a majority African-American school district in Philadelphia — students and educators are fostering intentional conversations about racism and its impact on classrooms, and standing up for racial equity in education.
View our main Black Lives Matter at School page.Read More
- Talking About Race
A collection of resources curated by NEA, including classroom appropriate lesson plans and guides on how to have tough conversations with peers and students.
- Art and Activism
Art, video, and ideas to engage classrooms and communities to support racial and social justice.
- OneBlair: Students organize for racial unity and end up winning award
NEAEdJustice.org, November 9, 2017
- The case for teaching Black Lives Matter in schools
NEAEdJustice.org, February 8, 2017
- Next for #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool – challenging systemic racism in Seattle schools
NEAEdJustice.org, October 31, 2016
- As racism rears its ugly head on college campuses, black students fight back by organizing
NEAEdJustice.org, October 6, 2017
Historical Inaccuracies Are Barriers To Racial Justice
James Baldwin wrote, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” We can teach it that way!
More than any other topic, history is about us. Our nation is more stratified than any other industrialized country. The average White household has twelve times the wealth of Black or Native households. Nationally, schools are as segregated now as in the 1970s. Our public schools are where students should think about how we got this way.
Textbooks rarely use the past to illuminate the present. Worse, they mystify important topics in our past.
Instead, textbooks rarely use the past to illuminate the present. Worse, they mystify important topics in our past, including the Civil War and Reconstruction, making it harder to think about race relations. Consequently, history courses that should help build community often instead widen gaps by race and class. When asked their favorite subject, students across the U.S. usually rank history last. Students of color typically view history with a special dislike.Read More
This series, Correct(ed), tackles problems in history that we often teach wrong. Hopefully, educators, parents, and communities will find them fascinating and useful, because we all need to be historically literate, so we can help students (and ourselves) make sense of the present.
I hope you will join me on this journey.
James W. Loewen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont, is the author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.” Each article in this series will come with a short annotated bibliography, often to items Loewen wrote, for educators seeking additional information. For more information and resources see: James W. Loewen’s official web page.
Loewen, James W. “Introduction,” Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 1-9.
Discusses why relying on textbooks won’t do.
Articles in This Series:
- Introducing the Series “Correct(ed)”
- Correct(ed): How To Teach Slavery
- Correct(ed): How To Teach Secession
- Correct(ed): The Confederacy and Race Relations
- Correct(ed): Confederate Public History
- Correct(ed): Reconstruction
- Correct(ed): How to Teach the Nadir of Race Relations
- Correct(ed): Teaching the Civil Rights Movement
Building Power in Our Communities
Ready to get active and be the superhero our students deserve in the fight for racial, social and economic justice in public education? Then join the NEA EdJustice League!
Ethnic Studies Toolkit
Check out the resource toolkit at EthnicStudiesNow.com that was helpful in campaigns to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement at two of the largest school districts in California.
A comprehensive review of research on ethnic studies programs by the NEA Research Department found that diversity courses boost critical thinking, academic achievement and problem-solving skills.
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