California becomes first state requiring Ethnic Studies

Courtesy+of+Pixabay

Courtesy of Pixabay

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 101 on Oct. 8 that made California the first state to require ethnic studies for high school graduation.

The ethnic studies curriculum draws attention to ethnic groups whose history have been traditionally overlooked, opening the discussion of ethnic heritage of students in their community. This semester-long course will take effect with the graduating class of 2030, although schools must start offering it at the start of the 2025-26 school year. This comes one year after Newsom vetoed a similar bill, urging for a revision—one that he said would be “inclusive of all communities.”

“America is shaped by our shared history, much of it painful and etched with woeful injustice,” Newsom wrote in a signing statement. “Students deserve to see themselves in their studies, and they must understand our nation’s full history if we expect them to one day build a more just society.”

The revised version, approved by the State Board of Education in March, has garnered more support. Advocates point to a Stanford research that found ethnic studies increased attendance by 21 percent and raised cumulative grade point averages by 1.4 points in San Francisco schools.

“I’m glad to see that our state is requiring students to take an ethnic studies class,” senior and president of the South Asian Student Association club Rehaan Mulik said. “It provides students with an opportunity to gauge into the diverse cultures of our society and hopefully give them a deeper understanding of our world’s history.”

Under AB 101, school districts will still be able to locally develop their own courses but are still expected to consider the state’s teaching guide; legislation has no authority to prescribe specific courses.

“No one is upset with the skills, but people will conflict over how to divide the content and what to emphasize,” social science teacher Jennifer Harrington said. “In our community we have a significantly higher percentage of Asian Americans, so I think we need to dedicate more time to the Asian American experience.”

Suggested lessons include “Migration Stories and Oral History,” “#BlackLivesMatter and Social Change,” “Afrofuturism: Reimagining Black Futures and Science Fiction,” “US Undocumented Immigrants from Mexico and Beyond,” “The Immigration Experience of Lao Americans” and “This is Indian Land: The Purpose, Politics, and Practice of Land Acknowledgment.”