Why Ethnic Studies should be mandatory


Celeste Casella, Editor-in-Chief

To many people in America, history is a touchy subject. Even though there shouldn’t be, there are many different versions of history and many ways that it has been told. In my observation, the history we are taught growing up in America seems whitewashed and tone-deaf. 


Gunderson is a very diverse school and this year I was lucky enough to be enrolled in an Ethnic Studies class that is held at San Jose City College. This class has opened my eyes and showed me a different point of view of history that I wouldn’t have gotten in a normal American history or world history class. 


As various as the cultures in San Jose are, our curriculum doesn’t necessarily reflect that. Besides some basic standards, there is no set curriculum in America for teaching history. This leads to history being taught in ways that can be skewed or misinformed because there is no federal standard. 


An article from InsideHigherEd.com that analyzed a study from San Francisco State Study stated, “The data compiled by the college’s Division of Institutional Analytics found that ethnic studies majors in general graduate at a rate about 20 percentage points higher than non-ethnic studies majors. In 2010, ethnic studies majors had a six-year graduation rate of 77.3 percent, compared to a rate of 52.3 percent for nonmajors. SF State is unique in having the country’s first and only freestanding college in ethnic studies.”

I believe that if Ethnic Studies were taught in high schools across America, it would prevent some major issues that we see across the country like racism and bigotry. Racism is not instinctual, it is learned—  and the current American educational system only promotes the learning of white supremacy. Ethnic Studies has been proven to improve students’ overall grades as well as create a better community for people in school and at home.


Something I’ve noticed among youth across America is that some students of color can feel a disconnect from school because they can’t relate to anything they’re being taught about. This can also lead to the development of identity issues because they don’t know enough about the history of their ancestors or people that came before them. 


Being taught that your ancestors’ history began before “Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue” when you’ve been taught the opposite your whole life is something that can change a student of color’s (or any young person’s) perspective on life. Telling students that their ancestors’ history began with them being taken over and subordinated can lower their self-esteem from the start. Being taught Ethnic Studies gives them that connection between school and their real lives, which makes them more engaged in school, boosting grades and learning overall. 


Much of history is sugarcoated to make colonizers not look as bad. This mindset of American nationalism promotes white supremacy because it is teaching that American “fore-fathers” should be celebrated rather than looked at for their flaws. This view disregards the lives of millions of people who were negatively affected by colonization. All of this results in people believing in white supremacy and being racist, whether they realize it or not. The teaching of ethnic studies would show us the view that hasn’t been taught before, removing the sense of white superiority.


American history was written for white people, and it shows. What we need is to undo the systems that were made to keep white people at the top from the beginning to finally bring hope to the future.