Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Add Ethnic Studies as a Grad. Requirement?

One interesting, education-related development in all this civil unrest has been the potential addition of Ethnic Studies curriculum to CA public schools. Though I am not considered an ethnic minority, I made the choice to major in Ethnic Studies as an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley. To this day, people look at me crooked when I try to explain that choice. Perhaps now more people will be able to stretch their imaginations to understand what I was seeking to understand: What is racism? How/why am I/am I not racist? How can I help to fix things?

My choice of major ended up leading me down a path to a career in public education, where I felt I could make a huge difference in the world. And I would like to note that even though I studied these issues in college, I don’t really consider myself the number one choice of staff member to teach a hypothetical Ethnic Studies course. In my opinion, it is a subject best led by an instructor who has a lived experience that informs their knowledge of what is, ultimately, an “alternative” history class. I am half Yemini, which I do feel allows me to reflect and relate to certain issues on a deeper level. But since I am not part of a colonized group, my family has not been discriminated against and held back in the same way as the groups that Ethnic Studies focuses on.

For me, the Ethnic Studies major was majorly eye opening on a lot of issues. Issues that extended beyond social studies/colonialism and into questions about what literature we study and consider “classic” in English class. Questions of what kind of information is presented throughout the curriculum. Where does it come from? What other voices and perspectives are out there, not being heard?

I think I could write a short pamphlet on this, but to sum it all up:

An Ethnic Studies class for all public school students is definitely a GOOD idea. It would help people understand how we got “here.”

And while we’re at it, lets make Ethnic Studies training mandatory for all staff, who didn’t get to benefit from this requirement while they were still in school.

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