California Is Making An Ethnic Studies Course A Requirement For High School Graduation

Ethnic studies will soon become a graduation requirement for all California public high school students. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a historic bill on Friday to authorize the legislation, KTLA 5 reports

Assemblyman Jose Medina, who authored the bill, said it’s a huge step for the state.

“It’s been a long wait,” the Democrat from Riverside said of the legislation that’s been in the making for years. “I think schools are ready now to make curriculum that is more equitable and more reflective of social justice.”

According to the new law, all California public schools must offer at least one ethnic studies course beginning in the 2025-26 academic year. For students graduating in 2029-30 and beyond, they will be required to complete a one-semester course in the subject.

The curriculum aims to teach students about the history and culture of various racial and ethnic groups. Ethnic studies courses, according to the bill, will encourage discussions on “institutionalized systems of advantage” and the “causes of racism and other forms of bigotry.”

“America is shaped by our shared history, much of it painful and etched with woeful injustice,” Newsom wrote, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. “Students deserve to see themselves in their studies, and they must understand our nation’s full history if we expect them to one day build a more just society.”

The courses will largely center African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Native Americans while also including lessons on Jews, Armenians and Sikhs.

Students at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley inspired the push for ethnic studies in the 1960s when they led strikes to demand courses about marginalized groups. 

“The inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is long overdue,” Medina said in a statement. “The signing of AB101 today is one step in the long struggle for equal education for all students.”

Although California has been attempting to write an ethnic studies curriculum since 2018, the process faced pushback from Republican legislators who said the course is inappropriate for high school students.

AB101 finally passed after some modifications, including a provision that discourages discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. School are also instructed to prohibit materials that promote bias or discrimination toward any group.

“I appreciate that the legislation provides a number of guardrails to ensure that courses will be free from bias or bigotry and appropriate for all students,” Newsom wrote.

While California made history with the legislation, Republican lawmakers around the country continue to push back against the teaching of systemic racism in schools. Earlier this year, Idaho banned the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and universities, making it the first state to implement such a law, as Blavity previously reported

Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona and South Carolina have also followed Idaho’s lead. At least 22 other states plan to introduce similar legislation. 

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