The Ongoing Battle Over Ethnic Studies

 A new study suggests that such courses can dramatically elevate the achievement of at-risk students. But is that enough proof that they’re worth the investment?

A new study suggests that such courses can dramatically elevate the achievement of at-risk students. But is that enough proof that they’re worth the investment?

From Melinda D. Anderson at The Atlantic:

"In Tucson, Arizona, Che Guevara posters and Paulo Freire’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed are the spark that set off a heated conflict over ethnic studies that has made national headlines for years. For critics, including two former state schools superintendents, the Mexican American studies program in the Tucson Unified School District is little more than divisive propaganda: “ethnic chauvinism” with a “very toxic effect … in an educational setting.” For supporters, reading literature on Chicano history in America and critical race theory is intended to close cultural gaps in the curriculum—and to close academic gaps for the district’s Hispanic students.

The intense controversy in Tucson over ethnic studies—best described as the study of the social, political, economic, and historical perspectives of America’s diverse racial and ethnic groups—might seem like a new debate, but it’s over a century in the making. The educator and historian W.E.B. DuBois as early as the 1900s called for teaching black history in U.S. schools to challenge the prevailing narrative of black inferiority. More than half a century later, Freedom Schoolsemerged out of the 1960s civil-rights movement as alternative schools with a curriculum steeped in black culture and lessons drawn from black students’ lived experiences. About the same time the discipline of ethnic studies ignited on college campuses, as students of color considered the Eurocentric dominance in textbooks and lessons, and demanded multicultural courses."  Continue reading