Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB-2016—a landmark bill aimed at ensuring all California high school students have an opportunity to learn about their own and other cultures, including not only their history and the importance it had in shaping California’s past; but also, their role in shaping the present and future.
Nearly eight years ago, the San Francisco Unified School District implemented a pilot ethnic studies program that has proved successful. In addition to San Francisco, approximately twenty California school districts already teach a version of ethnic studies or are considering the addition of such courses.
With the passage of AB 2016, for the next two years, a committee of teachers, professors, community members and students will work to develop an ethnic studies curriculum for student across the state.
The issue of ethnic studies has remained controversial around the nation; however, with the rash of racial slurs and discriminatory affronts unleased with the election of Donald Trump, the need for a greater understanding of the value of diversity is needed now more than ever before.
A recent report by Stanford University showed how ethnic study courses have expanded benefits for students that include better grades and enhanced graduation rates. One of the reports most interesting findings was that the greatest measure of improvements occurred among boys of all groups and Hispanics in general.
Over the next two years, as the committee works out the specifics of the state’s ethnic studies curriculum, much remains to be reconciled on this issue—most specifically, how the program will be funded and whether the course will be a requirement for graduation.
AB2016 was sponsored by Assemblymember Luis A. Alejo (D-Salinas) and passed with bi-partisan support in both houses. "The development of a comprehensive ethnic studies curriculum acknowledges the diversity of California, which has the most ethnically diverse public school student body in the nation," Alejo said in a statement when the legislation was signed by Governor Brown. "Ethnic studies are not just for students of color. We should give all students the opportunity to prepare for a diverse global economy, diverse university campuses and diverse workplaces."
The Voice will continue to follow this story.