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California high schools to require ethnic studies

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Sebastián Abdon Ibarra
LV Life Editor

High school students in California will be required to take a semester of ethnic studies as a requisite for graduation starting with the incoming freshman class of 2025-2026 in accordance with a new state law. 

“According to the state Department of Education, ethnic studies is the study of four groups: Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans,” said Assembly Member Jose Medina, D-Riverside, who authored the new law. 

“The classes study history, culture, and their contributions to California and the United States,” Medina said.

Medina, a former high school teacher, said he wrote the bill because students become engaged when they are able to learn about their histories and cultures. 

Medina originally aimed for this bill to be implemented a year earlier, but he ran into problems with forming the curriculum. He decided to give the Department of Education another year and to also give school districts enough time to prepare. 

Schools will have four different curriculum options to choose from.

There will be a course based on the model curriculum in ethnic studies developed by the Instructional Quality Commission, a group within the Department of Education, an existing ethnic studies course, an ethnic studies course taught as part of a course that has been approved as meeting the A-G requirements of the University of California and the California State University, or a locally developed ethnic studies course approved by the governing board of the school district or the governing body of the charter school, according to the text of the legislation, Assembly Bill 101.

Medina said the state Board of Education will vote next month on the model curriculum of ethnic studies, which has been developed over the last three years by the Department of Education. He said that it is 600 pages long and it will serve as a guide for school districts to model their classes after. 

As for the cost to the state, there has already been $5 million allocated in the Governor’s budget for the implementation of this new law. 

“That $5 million that is allocated now, would go to school districts for professional development, and creation of instructional materials,” Medina said. “The cost to the state of California will be in the several millions of dollars to implement it statewide.” 

“I think an ethnic studies class would be super helpful,” said Zack Kreines, a senior at Claremont High School. “I personally find it very interesting, aside from me personally I think ethnic studies is really important for students. Not just in California, but all across the U.S.”

Kreines said that students often graduate without the knowledge they need about what race is and how racism currently exists in America. 

“There is a lack of knowledge in the people currently graduating high school that could be hopefully remedied with an ethnic studies requirement,” Kreines said. 

Kreines said the only way he can see this bill go wrong is if the curriculum is not good enough or if the teachers are not qualified or effective enough. 

Maya Garcia, a senior at Claremont High School, said that it is essential for high school students, and even middle school students, to be exposed to ethnic studies courses. 

“As a high school student so far I have definitely noticed racial tension and discrimination on campus,” Garcia said. “I see it going on, I would say that it is everywhere from extracurriculars, to sports, and in the actual classroom. Having an ethnic studies requirement would mandate everyone be exposed to the issue.”

Sebastián Abdon Ibarra can be reached at sebastian.ibarra@laverne.edu.

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