Letter: The value of teaching ethnic studies

Source: The Davis Enterprise

Tom Elias (“Educate, don’t promote grudges,” Sept. 16) attacks the teaching of ethnic studies in the public schools. He distorts and misrepresents the facts. Elias ignores, for example, that, in adding an ethnic studies component to the public schools curriculum, the hope is to educate our children about our society’s full history. That history, of course, is relevant to fully understanding modern events, including but not limited to the power and sentiment behind the Black Lives Matter movement, blaming Asian Americans for COVID-19, and the devastating impacts of the pandemic on low income essential Latinx workers in the fields.

Moreover, ethnic studies can serve as tools to promote full inclusion and belonging. By allowing each of the authors to understand where and how they fit into American society and its history, ethnic studies made our professional careers possible. Fully understanding the community benefits, activists pushed for ethnic studies. Better education benefits all of us and promotes the well-being of the public, which is especially needed in these tense and anxious times.

Social science research has found that ethnic studies is educationally effective. Ethnic studies teaches all students critical thinking and problem-solving, cross-cultural awareness and communication, civic engagement and leadership, creativity and innovation, as well as resilience. These skills are essential for college and career-based education. Ethnic studies provides all students an understanding of today’s national divisions and the desperate need for cooperation across ethnic groups.

Ethnic studies has been taught as a valued discipline at campuses of the University of California and California State University (CSU) system, as well as some community colleges, for fifty years. AB 1460 makes ethnic studies required at CSU. Over 25 school districts in the State have implemented ethnic studies, including some in Yolo County.

We hope that counties and districts continue establishing ethnic studies and seeking authentic ethnic studies curriculum. We should support restoring the timing and funding of AB 331 next year for all our students. Distortions of ethnic studies abound but should not distract us from the goal of a better education for all.