Proponents Continue to Push for Ethnic Studies

Anoosh Jarjorian of Creating Inclusive Davis Schools spoke about ethnic studies in the current curriculum

Another group of community members came forward Thursday night during public comment, pushing for the DJUSD School Board to adopt a resolution by July that would create a Cultural Awareness and Ethnic Studies graduation requirement.

According to the group’s timeline, they would have the course implementations and offerings ready by August 2020, which would enable the district to offer the programming for the upcoming school year.

Anoosh Jarjorian, representing a group called Creating Inclusive Davis Schools, spoke, pushing for inclusion of ethnic studies in the current curriculum.

She indicated that the group wanted to partner with the district in order to get the program implemented for an upcoming school year.

“What we are proposing is primarily professional development because we want to see ethnic studies integrated in the curricula from pre-K through grade 12,” she said.  “That means professional development for all teachers.”

She noted that some current classes could be “re-done with an ethnic studies focus.”

She said, “What we’re trying to propose is not burdensome.  We’re trying to integrate with what already is in place so we can help you bring ethnic studies into the program and basically fill the primary buckets that LCAP aim ameliorate – in terms of having a 21st Century education, ethnic studies helps with that.

“In terms of closing the achievement gap, we have studies that demonstrate that ethnic studies accomplishes that.  And in terns of developing the social and emotional learning of students, ethnic studies addresses that as well.”

One of the group’s calls is the allocation of $15,000 to $20,000 specifically for professional development, with the first step being to pass a resolution.

Provided to the Vanguard on Thursday, the resolution calls for the district to “have a graduation requirement that students can fulfill in history, English, social studies, arts, or math courses that use the Ethnic Studies framework.”

The resolution notes that “the District seeks to provide a well-rounded and quality education that exposes students to cultures that are crucial to understanding our nation, past and present, and helps our students to appreciate the rich histories and cultural contributions of their own communities.”

The group notes: “[T]here is substantial research evidence that well designed, and well taught ethnic studies curricula have positive academic and social outcomes for students.”

During public comment, many citizens emphasized the benefits of such a program.

Steve Nylom speaks, holding the hands of his daughters

Tracy Tomasky told the board that they’ve been given a lot of research about the benefits of ethnic studies, in that it specifically supports all three LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) goals: 21st century learning, closing the achievement gap and having safe and inclusive environments.

She noted the importance of going from offering such a program in a few classes that would check off a box to “including it across the board in an inclusive curriculum.”

She said, “It really makes a foundational impact to all students and to all learning.”

Joanna Friesner noted that, as a molecular biology undergrad at Berkeley, “ethnic studies or diversity courses were not on my radar, however UC Berkeley had initiated an American Cultures requirement just before I arrived which was for all students.  The intent was to introduce all students to the diverse cultures of our country.”

She called the education received “eye opening” and noted that at the time she was “intrigued” and “perplexed” about the education she had previously received, specifically omissions about indigenous people and people of color in our history.

“As a suburban white kid in college, what I learned felt a little bit like a movie I was watching rather than a life I personally experience,” she said.  “But over the last twenty years I have come to appreciate deeply that my experiences are not universally shared by everyone.”

A teacher in the school district noted the district’s budget constraints and suggested that it was not necessary to add another program for ethnic studies specifically.

Instead, she recommended “what we could do as teachers is embed ethnic studies into every day teaching into our classroom.”

She also said that having professional development to bring “awareness and teaching strategies” would be beneficial.  She noted that she originally taught in San Francisco so “when I came here to teach I was in culture shock for five years.  I hadn’t seen so many white people in a long long time.”

As a result of that experience, however, she constantly embeds ethnic teaching into her concepts every day.

Steve Nylom utilized his work with Native American families to share important concepts with the board.  The first point he made was “how the kids are treated in school.”  He said Native families and families of color “feel like they’re not being treated as well.”

Second is “the curricula that is being taught.”  Third, “opportunities for people of the group to get together.”

Eva Dopico has worked at the district for 15 years, including the last 13 as a 2nd grade teacher at Cesar Chavez elementary.  She called on the district to increase the amount of money for ethnic studies and asked them to embed it in all grades.

She said, “As a teacher we have to wear a lot of different hats and glasses…  I need the glasses, the glasses to see the invisible” in terms of groups in society that we might not have awareness about their emotional and cultural and educational needs.

Overall the group is calling for the board to establish and direct “Ethnic Studies Committee to be comprised of Administrators, Teachers, Students, Parents, and Community Members to develop curriculum and implementation strategies that include professional development to ensure the quality of the Ethnic Studies courses aligns to agreement of the resolution through partnerships with universities and ethnic studies and/or culturally relevant programs.”

And they are asking that “the funding for this program and each of its elements shall be incorporated into the budget and LCAP for the 2019-20 school year, and every year thereafter until fully implemented.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 thoughts on “Proponents Continue to Push for Ethnic Studies”

  1. Alan Miller

    Again — as WM likes to say “serious question” — is this an incorporation of more points of view into current programs, or a separate program?  i.e. will there be “ethnic” points of view on history, or will we have “white” history classes taught alongside/competing-with “ethnic” history classes?  And for s—‘s and grins, is “white”, “ethnic”?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Actually, Alan, if I am your WM referent, the correct quote is, “meant as a fair question”, but fair enough…

      I share all of Alan’s questions… in US history, JHS, taught by a Black teacher, I got a better appreciation for Crispus Attucks, Fredrick Douglass, Booker T Washington, and how their lives/views intertwined with George Washington, Sam Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and various presidents who contributed to US history… seamless… 1967-68 (he also taught me to love the ’68 St Louis Cardinals , as we listened to games @ lunch time…  )

      Note the ethnicities of the top players that year… one of the first hall of fame black pitcher, etc.

      The team and the performance/contributions of the players were much more important than ethnicities… always realized that applied not just to sports, but history, medicine, agriculture, etc.

      The Cards lost the World Series to Detroit that year, but they had a great run, and many of the players are ‘Hall of Famers’…

      I see not the compelling need for “ethnic studies” per se… but recognizing the contributions of all, even in spite of factors (also a good conversation) is very important… a class on WWII would not be complete without discussion of the Tuskegee Airmen nor the 442nd Infantry (the “go for broke!” folk), for instance…

      But as a white male, guess I’m clueless and my words should be dismissed in this matter…

  2. Ron Glick

    This isn’t that big a lift at the secondary level. You could ask for volunteers from people already on staff at various sites to develop and teach age appropriate  courses at the junior high and high school levels.  You could offer the classes, see how many people sign up and allow the number of sections to meet demand. Since these people are already teaching it doesn’t cost much, if anything at all, to shift from what they are doing now.

    When I was in high school I took an African American History elective. These classes were popular in the late 60’s and 70’s throughout California. It opened my eyes to a history I knew nothing about. It was a class definitely worth taking and I’m glad I did.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Juxtaposing two threads… this one, and the municipal broadband discussion…

        By ample material, do you mean “inter-net”?  Can the content there be trusted?  Accessibility?

        David, do you have an opinion on the drive for ‘ethnic studies’?

        To juxtapose even further… depending on how ‘ethnic studies’ is pursued, how does that become a driver for # of DJUSD teacher/staff positions, and how does that relate to an additional assessment for additional teacher compensation?

        Just questions, which I do not expect to be answered… but, I opine there is an inter-relationship to the questions/issues… not conflating, but juxtapositioning…

        Just saying…

        1. David Greenwald

          When you are asking about the material, I’m talking about actual scholarship.  I think as someone who was going to school primarily in the 80s, what I read today in terms of a host of subjects does a far better job of moving away from the great white man’s theory of history.  I think there is ample, quality, academically based material that could supplement existing curriculum.

          In terms of teachers, the way I understand it – we are not talking about creating new courses, but rather talking about the integration of additional material into existing courses.  After all, there are a finite number of students and course times any way.

          I hope that answers your questions.

        2. Alan Miller

          – we are not talking about creating new courses, but rather talking about the integration of additional material into existing courses.

          Then I am 100% in favor.  Quite agree the schooling I was given was quite white-Christian-male centric.

  3. Bill Marshall

    Semi-sidebar… one neglected area, over many years, as evident in many aspects of life, is the need for “ETHICS studies”… and please, no one point out I left out the “n” letter…

    As to Alan’s 3:42 post, je d’accord, but I did have other influences in school…

    1. Bill Marshall

      Not all all white, male, nor Christian “-centric” influence/information… guess I was either lucky, or asked a lot of good questions in school… or, I ‘read between the lines’… not sure, but that was ages ago…

      Also had real good parents…

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