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Minneapolis and St. Paul schools have taken important steps toward broadening curriculum and helping to improve student achievement. Beginning in 2025, ethnic studies — along with math, reading and other core courses — will be required for high school graduation.

District leaders have made the right choice to require that more be taught about America’s various cultures, races and ethnicities and their experiences and contributions.

Unlike what some opponents argue, the courses in Minneapolis and St. Paul do not represent so-called “cancel culture,” false rewrites of history or teaching kids to hate their country. They are not designed to make white students feel guilty or promote anger among students of color, nor will they replace long-taught lessons on American presidents and other aspects of the nation’s history.

Rather, when done properly, ethnic studies seek to be truthful — both about the negatives of racism and discrimination as well as about the positive contributions of many races and cultures.

In addition, studies have shown that this type of coursework helps improve attendance and achievement — particularly among students of color whose experiences had not been historically included in their classes. A Stanford study published in 2021, for example, showed a ninth-grade class pilot program in San Francisco (a class covering the histories and struggles of multiple ethnic groups) had improved student attendance, grades and graduation rates.

Minneapolis school leaders voted in 2020 to require ethnic studies for 2025 graduates, and St. Paul school board members took action in December 2021. At that time, then-board member John Brodrick, a retired district social studies teacher, rebutted point by point any potential link to critical race theory to establish a public record of the case for supporting the change. He then voted for the requirement.

There are seven elective courses currently offered in Minneapolis schools — African American, Asian American, Chicanx/Latinx, Hmong, First Nations, Somali and race and identity studies.

At a board meeting last October, Como Park Senior High teacher Chong Yang Thao helped differentiate what she’s teaching from CRT.

She said that far from being divisive, her pilot course is meant to build a sense of unity and community. She said she has talked in class about growing up as a refugee and how her family has done well. And she expects her students to tell their stories and ask tough questions.

Mouakong Vue, ethnic studies program manager for St. Paul Public Schools, told an editorial writer this week that there are a lot of “misconceptions” about ethnic studies. He said St. Paul’s course is focused on “lived experiences” and the assets of various communities. It’s about discussing sensitive issues and helping students of various backgrounds see, hear and understand their different and shared experiences.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are not alone in putting a renewed focus on ethnic studies. School districts across the country are wisely recognizing the value of offering an expanded picture of America to students.

Minnesota’s largest cities took this important step ahead of the state, which is poised to include ethnic studies as part of the revised state social studies standards now under consideration.

That process has been especially controversial, and we hope the state Department of Education will carefully consider the recommendation it will eventually send to an administrative law judge and the governor for final approval.

Students of all races and backgrounds will be well served by learning more about the struggles, contributions and victories of a multicultural range of Americans. And those lessons can be taught without discounting what has made this nation a beacon of freedom and opportunity.

This content was originally published here.

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