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Future of Ethnic Studies in California

Posted by Sara Cooper | Jun 02, 2023 | 0 Comments

During my first year as an undergraduate student, I had an advisor mention taking a Chicano Studies arts course in the following semester. The first thought to myself was, “What would this class even teach me?” I decided to take their recommendation and enrolled, not knowing if this was going to be “a waste of my time” or I would have a high chance of failing. The time came for the course to start, and already, we talked as a class about Mexican-American artists in Los Angeles and their part in activism throughout the 90's.

Growing up in the Central Valley, I didn't even know the development of art in Southern California nor how their talents brought a lot of attention to important issues. We also got to learn the importance of art and how we probably already create art on our own without even knowing it. I informed the professor, typically after classes, about my family's history as farmworkers and activists in Kern County and how this course connected to the strengths of what my family has endured and built during difficult times. The professor was thankful to hear my story and my choice to try out an Ethnic Studies course, and that led me to take multiple courses throughout my time in university.

Now that Ethnic Studies has been declared by the state of California as a course requirement for not only the California State University system but K-12 districts throughout the state. Many teachers are already implementing a form of Ethnic Studies into their curriculum, whether it's for social sciences or math. However, it will soon be a requirement to have a Ethnic Studies teaching credential in order to make that part of daily lessons, and there are critiques around the board of this mandatory policy. It will be completely implemented by 2025, and there are already concerns for the lack of educators that are not only able to receive the credential but just be available to teach Ethnic Studies as a whole for K-12 districts.

Since the 1960's as the first Ethnic Studies department was approved at San Francisco State University thanks to student activists, there was always a fight to spread these programs at other universities, even today. This idea that Ethnic Studies was to shift everyone's thinking to go against the American agenda is not exactly the case. The purpose isn't to force students to have a certain type of learning but to give connection and recognition that there is so much potential and strength for yourself to be proud of. Along with overall complications, the framework to instruct the curriculum has not been challenged by many educators in order to make the components of Ethnic Studies as advanced. Watered down ethnic studies already instructed in the classroom before the implementation of the curriculum enforced in this decade is the reason why the credential is key to creating a crucial framework that makes learning a much more empowering value for all students. It would also bring in a new career force for those already in the education field and even for folks who might see this as an opportunity to support Ethnic Studies within their own role.

Updates will be announced as more information is notified.

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