Incorporating ethnic studies into curriculum


Indiana lawmakers passed the Senate Enrolled Act 337 law on July 1, 2017, requiring all Indiana high schools to offer racial and ethnic studies courses at least once a year. A study  published in the American Educational Research Journal corroborates the findings on the benefits of ethnic studies curriculum, finding that participation led to increased graduation rates compared to students who did not take the course. 

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newson passed the AB 1460 Assembly Bill to address race and miseducation on Monday, Aug. 3. This bill requires all California State Universities (Cal States) to provide a three-unit GenEd course on ethnic studies by Fall 2021, which will be required for the Class of 2025. High schools should follow in the footsteps of the Cal States and implement ethnic studies.

Regulating diversity in schools’ curriculums not only empowers students of color but greatly engages students through cultural identity and boosts attendance rate. According to a 2016 Stanford University study done on The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence, a high school ethnic studies course examining the roles of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience engaged more students, thus boosting attendance by 21% and academic performance. With the limited amount of classes offered in our high school, students are not exposed to the diversity of other cultures as well as the societal contributions people of color have made. Therefore, schools should diversify not only the curriculum but the lessons taught as well as create a course where students are able to show off their identities. 

Altering the curriculum to incorporate a multitude of diverse historical topics, inclusivity and classes from a non-eurocentric perspective addresses the matter of representation and tackles the modern day issues of race. In January 2019, Korean American Young Leaders (KAYL) launched a petition on to incorporate Asian American/Ethnic studies courses in all IUSD schools which as of now has received over 1085 signatures. Regulating diversity in schools curriculums will allow students to interact within different perspectives as well as different stories. This is a chance to educate and raise awareness as well as allows many students to take pride in their dual cultural heritage. Diversity also validates the history and hardships of  people of color  which are often overlooked when it comes to the role they played in shaping the United States.  

Although some may say that a brief overview of cultural history provided in American textbooks is sufficient, students are able to acquire a basic understanding. However, in editing the curriculum to include diversity or lessons covering history from different races students can increase their understanding and gain respect towards other cultures. According to The National Education Association well-designed and well-taught ethnic studies curricula have positive academic and social outcomes for students. Inclusivity and covering a variety of topics can prepare students for the diverse work and school environments for the future as well as in the present.

High schools should start following in California State Universities footsteps and incorporate diversity into their curriculum which will provide inclusivity for students that attend not only IUSD but public schools in other districts as well.