The Diversity of Ethnic Studies

Lesly Hernandez, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Being lost in a conversation can be a difficult experience, one that schools are now actively trying to rectify with new classes for students.

Assembly Bill 101, approved by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 8, 2021, attempts to create “existing law [that] requires the Instructional Quality Commission to develop, and the State Board of Education to adopt, modify, or revise, a model curriculum in ethnic studies.”

The bill also indicates that it “would add the completion of a one-semester course in ethnic studies, meeting specified requirements, to the graduation requirements commencing with pupils graduating in the 2029–30 school year, including for pupils enrolled in a charter school.”

What this means is starting the 2029-2030 school year, it will be required for all California high schools to implement an ethnic studies course for students to enroll in or they won’t be able to graduate.

2029 seems a long way to go, but Gunderson decided to offer a social science ethnic course starting last school year and even decided to go further by adding an ethnic studies literature course this year.

The social science ethnic studies class is taught by two teachers here: Joseph Miclette and Sonia Rebelo.

Rebelo shares how the course is meant to “highlight the historical contributions of certain groups to American history.”

The course covers many different topics that include groups that have been ignored or misrepresented in our history.

“I go unit by unit chronologically, so I start with the Native Americans and they do slavery and then move up from there,” Rebelo said. “Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Latino Americans, Vietnamese Americans, [and] Chinese. Then, we end with movements like Black Lives Matter and we do the Civil Rights Movement kind of throughout [and also] the Stop Asian Hate Movements at the very, very end.”

These groups are a major part of our history and many choose to ignore that fact.

Not only will this class help students get exposure to such groups and their contributions but it will also help them apply that knowledge to their own lives and to the real world.

“Our goal is to give students an opportunity to explore their identities and to give them an opportunity to really think about how they identify,” Rebelo said. “Do they identify as Latina or do they identify as Latinx? Do they identify as Hispanic, Hispanic American, Latino American, [and] how do they see themselves? So it’s really neat to see the students sort of really thinking about [that].”

Nicole Zaccheo teaches the new ethnic studies literature class that was added this year. The class is very similar to the social science class however this class focuses more on the literature area of ethnic studies.

Similar to the social science ethnic studies class, the syllabus for the ethnic studies literature states that “the year-long Ethnic Studies Literature course centers on the experiences of historically marginalized communities, voices, and identities.”

In doing so “students will be asked to analyze, critique and challenge narratives of power and privilege and will cultivate an understanding of the counternarrative. From their analysis of such readings, students will cultivate and strengthen their own agency.”

In other words, the syllabus says that students will learn about marginalized groups and analyze readings on these groups. The readings will give them an insight into the experience that the groups endured.

This course itself may cover the same topics as its social science counterpart yet students will learn through readings rather than through other assignments.

“One of the core principles of the class is to conceptualize social justice, social responsibility, and social change,” Zaccheo said. “It’s a program that should span across all disciplines to address Eurocentrism, oppression, and identity – whether that’s in history, literature, science, and even math.”

Ethnic studies is a very broad topic that can be shared in many different ways. It’s more than just a “history” class. And students at Gunderson have more than one way to learn how such topics.