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Should all CA high school students be required to take an ethnic studies class?

Instructor Blanca Claudio (C) teaches a history lesson at Franklin High School in Los Angeles, California, on May 25, 2017.
Instructor Blanca Claudio (C) teaches a history lesson at Franklin High School in Los Angeles, California, on May 25, 2017.

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California law mandates that high school students take courses such as U.S. History, economics and American government in order to graduate, but Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) wants to add one more requirement to the list: ethnic studies.

In his newly introduced Assembly Bill 2772, Medina proposes that any school that doesn’t already offer “standards-based ethnic studies curriculum” offer such a survey course by the 2021 school year, based on the model curriculum currently being developed by the Instructional Quality Commission and the State Board of Education. If the bill passes, taking this course would be a graduation requirement for students starting in the year 2023.

Proponents of mandatory ethnic studies courses say it’s important for the diverse students of California to see themselves reflected in their curriculum and that current history classes are biased towards a white, European and male perspective. That more in-depth study of race relations in the U.S. will be beneficial to building understanding and empathy.

Critics say these classes may end up being trite and unhelpful to students in an environment in which they’re already overloaded by graduation requirements.

If you’ve taken an ethnic studies course, whether in high school or college, did you find it beneficial? Do you think this should be a requirement for all high school students? What kind of material would you want such a class to cover?

Take Two talked with Assemblymember Jose Medina about this bill yesterday. To listen to the interview, click here.


José Lara, social studies teacher at Santee Education Complex High School in South Central L.A. and founder of the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition

David Lehrer, president of Community Advocates, Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates innovative approaches to human relations and race relations in Los Angeles city and county