(Image Courtesy of Celine Choi)
Cleveland Charter High School

Opinion: Implementing ethnic and gender studies into the high school graduation requirement has been long overdue

Race and Gender have a profound but often overlooked influence on our society. These social constructs made to categorize and discriminate against entire groups have shaped the foundation of America.

News headlines shout “Black and Latinx communities have been most affected by COVID-19” and ask “Will Roe V. Wade be repealed and how will it affect women?” Yet, many Americans fail to understand the history behind such racial discrimination and sexism and they then remove themselves from politics, failing to see that it is a privilege to not have their rights up for grabs every four years.

Oftentimes, the presence of racism and sexism is only addressed when it makes headlines and the rest seems minuscule but, from the pink-tax to red-lining, the effects of deep-rooted discrimination have yet to be broken. 

According to the LA Times, in September, California Governor Gavin Newsom wished to create an ethnic studies curriculum that “achieves balance, fairness and is inclusive of all communities.” However, Governor Newsom decided to veto the bill due to the controversy and criticism it sparked.

Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee and the California Legislative Jewish Caucus condemned the proposed ethnic studies curriculum for neglecting American Jewish history and some even accusing the curriculum itself of being anti-Semitic.

Additionally, with more than 5,000 ethnic groups in the world, others question where the “inclusivity” begins and ends while some criticize the jargon and vocabulary bring presented as too politically correct. 

Others such as Assembly Member Jose Medina and professor Theresa Montaño at Cal State Northridge, who have been pushing for an ethnic studies bill for over a year now, are disappointed that once again the needs of racially marginalized groups have been dismissed.

As officials continue to improve the proposed ethnic studies curriculum we must realize that this discussion and decision-making process has been long overdue. 

In addition to ethnic and race studies, the pressing need for mandatory gender studies is often neglected but just as urgent. The topic of gender goes beyond biology or reproductional function and although gender concepts have evolved to be more inclusive, there is still a continuous need for reform that can only be successful with an understanding of the history of the development of gender stereotypes and norms.

Often students believe that gender only applies to women and in fact, cis male students have often expressed discontent towards the idea of taking a gender studies course simply because they believe that such a course does not apply to them.

However, to avoid topics that go beyond one’s own realm of knowledge defeats the purpose of gender and ethnic studies which is to allow students to go outside of their own experiences and reflect on their roles in society. Students need to learn to understand that many of the issues we face are interrelated and caused by single larger issues that we must combat together.

Although some may argue that the three-Rs (reading, [w]riting, and [a]rithmetic) are the most necessary, or in fact the only necessary, topics students should be engaged in, many students sit through their classes learning about derivatives or euphemisms as a recurring question comes to mind: “where will I have to use this in the real world?”

Although the three-Rs are accepted as the foundation for the educational system, it is time that we go beyond the textbook and provide students with insight on issues that will pertain to them for the rest of their lives regardless of profession or position. 

Controversy over ethnic and gender studies being mandatory has been mainly based on the precedent that students do not need to be exposed to such information at young ages, creating this notion that the topic of race and gender are taboo and should be avoided.

However, this continuous dodging of discussions surrounding societal flaws is what causes the perpetuation of social issues and hinders progress. The purpose of ethnic and gender studies is to spark discourse about our history, how it affects our present lives and find ways to work towards a better more equitable society in the future and to limit students from this holistic education is problematic.

The flaws of our history cannot be ignored if we ever wish to improve our society. It is our duty as global citizens to question what is presented to us and expand our knowledge beyond our own bubble.

There must be an end to desensitization and politicization and the best solution is through education. We cannot wait for another bill to be proposed and passed.

Educators, parents and students alike should promote discussions on race and gender in the classroom and at home to break barriers that have for too long fueled stereotypes and injustice.