Ethnic Studies in High School


Photo Courtesy of: Melissa Minton (Wikimedia Commons) Holding a “No History No Self” sign in support as a part of the Third World Liberation Front to defend the San Francisco State College of Ethnic Studies during a press conference on May 9, 2016.

The State Board of Education voted on the acceptance of an ethnic studies course for high schools in California. 

After the vote on March 18, California became the first state to adopt a model ethnic studies curriculum for high schools. Schools across the state are now able to decide on if they want to have ethnic studies on their campus, using the model as a guide. 

Ethnic studies focuses on learning about race and ethnicity. It does so primarily through the perspective of the ethnic groups, allowing students to understand different views of the world they might not see themselves.

It is currently not mandatory to teach this course, but a bill is currently on its way to legislation to make the course mandatory for graduation.

Ethnic studies will be available for Segerstrom students in the coming 2022-2023 school year. It is undecided as of March 19 on the specifics, but various classes are being considered for pedagogy, or rather, include teachings dealing with the beliefs of ethnic studies. There are also talks for Ethnic Studies being an elective.

“I think it will be great for students to become critical thinkers and learn to understand the importance of all peoples, including LGBQT, in our history,” says Segerstrom principal David Casper.

The desire for ethnic studies first came up in the 1960s, at around the same time there were multiple movements for calling for social reform. University students wanted to have courses for Native American, African American, Asian American, and Chicano studies. According to the Conversation, the most notable student demand came from San Francisco State University, as the Third World Liberation Front–a coalition of various ethnicities– went on strike.

For California, the state government in 2016 passed a bill that had the Board of Education create a high school ethnic studies curriculum, requiring a submission before the start of 2021. In the bill, they believed that an ethnic studies course would boost academic focus for students and increase graduation rates.

According to the Guardian, the first Ethnic studies model curriculum gave rise to a lot of criticism from multiple ethnic groups who said their experiences were not being included. The final draft–which was about 894 pages long–in comparison was criticized by the original authors for being not up to their standards. 

Despite these criticisms, the model was accepted, but, if desired, can be modified depending on the preferences of each school.