The LaFetra College of Education’s Center for Educational Equity and Intercultural Research held a conference about introducing more diversity into high school and higher education curricula Saturday in the Campus Center Ballroom.
Speakers included Peter McLaren, professor of critical studies at Chapman University, Jacqueline Ashley, researcher and scholar of Critical Race Theory, race-related trauma and black leadership, and a group of ethnic studies students from CSU Northridge.
The CSU Northridge students spoke about executive orders 1100 and 1110 issued by CSUN Chancellor Timothy White this past year. While the orders were cited to be aimed at equal opportunity for student success by setting more of an emphasis on hard sciences and math courses, the students also said that these new orders seek to remove social science classes – specifically the ethnic studies curriculum from CSU programs.
The students emphasized the importance of ethnic studies on college campuses, citing the history of the program’s development during the 1960s and 70s, when students of color on various campuses protested to add courses that represented their respective identities.
CSUN sophomore biology major Malik Campbell-Mack said their presentation served as a warning to other college campuses regarding what these executive orders could set precedent for in the future.
“I most definitely think that it’s important that other minority students at other institutions know what is happening and how it could very well affect their school,” Campbell-Mack said.
“The nation is watching what is happening at CSUN right now, it’s been documented on TV. So if this goes through, other schools are going to find the rights and ambition to do [this] to their students of color by taking out ethnic studies.”
Professor of Chicano/Chicana Studies at CSUN Martha Escobar explained what school boards look at when comparing different areas of curriculum.
“Across the nation, there are just subjects that are seen as more valuable while others are seen as less,” Escobar said.
“Humanities for example – questions of inequality and human existence – that’s not seen as valuable. We’re also told to go into fields that will get you jobs, so across the board we are seeing disinvestment in those other fields.”
Ashley’s presentation promoted introducing more theories and methods from diverse scholars, particularly those of color, into higher education curricula. Eurocentric theories are standard, but there are other scholars to consider, she said.
Ashley said the theories and methods W.E.B Dubois and Booker T. Washington used elevated people of color during the early 1900s.
“We should learn more about leadership from minority leaders who’ve had the same concepts and theories,” Ashley said. “We don’t hear about them enough.”
The seminar concluded with McLaren’s presentation, which pointed out students should be taught more about socialist and communist theories, such as those of Karl Marx.
However, McLaren pointed out that the United States has failed to differentiate socialist ideas from those of fascism and totalitarianism because of a history of animosity with countries that institute these ideas within their government structures.
“Capitalism is in crisis because of its logic and ideals,” McLaren said. “We need to find an alternative.”
Dean of the College of Education Kimberly White-Smith presented the Critical Consciousness and Praxis Award to McLaren for his participation.
In relation to addressing social issues in America, McLaren said different theories fail to explain the intersectionality of race and class.
“I think it’s wrong to take an either-or position when it comes to race and class,” McLaren said.
Dominic Honoré can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.