California bill will make Ethnic Studies mandatory if passed

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California is poised to become one of the few states that have made high school enrollment into an ethnic studies course a requirement for graduation.

In February, Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-61), introduced A.B. 2772. This bill a bill that would mandate all high school students in California take an ethnic studies course to receive a high school diploma. If the bill is passed, the change would take effect beginning the 2023-2024 school year.

If approved by state legislators, California’s public college school system must also mandate ethnic studies for admittance. In California, the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) systems have a uniform minimum set of courses required for admission as a freshman.

A repository of approved courses can be found on the Regents of California website. Currently, there are 2,190 history and social science courses that are approved by the UC and CSU systems. Thirty-one of them are “Ethnic Studies” courses followed by 10 African-American studies courses, one Chicano studies course, and one Asian American studies course.

The law already requires high school students to complete a 1-year course of  World History, Culture and Geography. Embedded in this requirement are content standards such as studying Judeo-Christian culture, Greco-Roman philosophy and the influence of Greek, Roman, English and leading European thinkers on America.

Mandating ethnic studies would mark progress in dismantling the history of racist curricula in the American education system and the growing movement of revisionist history.

Earlier this year, Wisconsin mother Trameka Brown-Berry posted her son’s fourth-grade school assignment to social media, in which he was asked to list three good things about slavery. In 2015, another mother from Texas, Roni Dean-Burren, challenged a McGraw-Hill geography textbook that described Africans who were brought to the United States involuntarily in a slave system as “workers.”

According to AB 2772, research from University of Arizona and San Francisco show that high school ethnic studies classes have reduced school violence, reduced the school dropout rate for pupils, raised high school graduation rates, reduced unexcused absences, boosted self-esteem, raised self-efficacy, increased academic engagement, and raised personal empowerment for all pupils.

Critics of the courses such as Republican Tom Horne, who in 2010 wrote Arizona’s HB 2881 to ban Mexican-Studies courses, deemed Ethnic Studies to “promote resentment toward a race or class of people” and “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular Ethnic Group.”

Eurocentric content in America’s high school academia is historic and is not without roots in white supremacy.

In 1892 the National Education Association commissioned a group of ten white men, known for their expertise in education, to create a standard course of study for America’s high schools. This group is known as the Committee of Ten. To determine what topics students should study in History, the Committee of Ten recruited a group of nine white men, who were professors or educators to standardize what History content students should know before they leave high school.

When looking at the proposal for the course of study in history put forth by the committee of ten and a current sample course sequence in California’s, the enduring influence of Eurocentric dominance remains.

In regards to topics the members of the Conference of History found to be essential, it was reported (by whom or what) that, “General European history has the advantages of offering subjects capable of detailed and intensive study, and of furnishing a contrast to that development of the Anglo-Saxon race which is the main thought of English and American history.”

A.B. 2772 has been amended twice and is currently sitting in the Assembly Education Committee to be referred to Appropriations.

Anthony Conwright has worked in education for 14 years. His experiences in education include teaching Humanities—domestic and abroad—and school administration. He is an essayist and teacher.

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