Could ethnic studies help solve the problem of racism in the country? - Vida En El Valle by Maria G. Ortiz-Briones

Thursday, July 16, 2020

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement – when police have come under heavy criticism; statues viewed as celebrating racists have been toppled or destroyed; and, millions have taken to the streets to protest racism, white supremacy, white privilege and injustices to people of color – could ethnic studies in schools help diminish or solve racism in the country?

Assemblymember José Medina, who drafted legislation to make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement; and, Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers, think it can definitely make a difference in the right direction.

Medina and Huerta were the July 14 guest speakers of the second in a series of ethnic studies “virtual classrooms” that focused on Chicano Latino Studies. The series – which takes place weekly through July 28 – is hosted by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond as the state Department of Education prepares to submit a revised ethnic studies model curriculum for public review.

The series features lectures on Africana, Asian American, Chicano Latino, and, Native American studies, with prominent leaders and educators from each discipline.

Cindy Quiralte, policy advisor in Thurmond’s agency, said as she welcomed people to the webinar that as a former Chicano Latino Studies graduate herself, “I can tell you that the power of learning your history, the transformative experiences that it can bring to so many students is incredible.”

One of the goals of the virtual classroom sessions is to help students, educators, and families familiarize themselves with the core areas of ethnic studies, including how different groups have struggled and worked together, as well as key concepts such as equality, justice, race, ethnicity, and indigeneity.

“I had the opportunity of teaching ethnic studies and Chicano Studies as a teacher here in Riverside at Riverside Poly High School and I don’t think I could have said it any better than Cindy did on the power of ethnic studies and Chicano studies in transforming student’s lives when they see themselves reflected in the curriculum and they see how their family’s history is part of the larger history of the state of California and the United States,” said Medina, a Democrat who was elected in Nov. 2012.