April 22, 2024 12:05 pm

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Local push for K-12 ethnic studies curriculum

By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

Policymakers and educators across the state are pushing for academia to be inclusive of all racial and ethnic identities through the integration of ethnic studies curriculum across all grade levels.

In December, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) passed a bill sponsored by Lillian Ortiz-Self, Washington House of Representative member for District 21, for the legislative action of the integration of ethnic studies in 7-12 grade curriculum. The NHCSL recently passed another bill during its last session for legislative action to begin towards including ethnic studies in K-8 education. 

“It’s vital that we tell an accurate story, but it’s also accurate that all students see themselves in the curriculum; that all students have a sense of who went before them and the impact they provided,” said Ortiz-Self. “All students need that, not just some.”

According to the NHCSL, ethnic studies informs students about the intersection between systems, social and ethnic minorities status. The curriculum itself is intended to be inclusive of all students and the achievements, experiences, perspectives of the individual, and people of color in history that have been hidden behind Eurocentric curricula.

“Children need to learn about their world and everyone it encompasses,” said Ortiz-Self. “We need to learn from each other’s history.”

The adoption of the bills authorized the creation of task forces comprised of practitioners, educators, and affected communities to provide recommendations, develop frameworks and work toward creating outlines for the development or revision of curriculum to be inclusive of ethnic studies.

“We wanted to give school’s access and options to incorporate it,” explained Ortiz-Self. “It’s to eliminate the barriers when districts don’t have time to develop it on their own and make sure it’s done in a very intentional and conscious way.”

The passed bills have faced criticism, with concerns over unintentional consequences of some groups and histories being overlooked due to lack of scope in the curriculum.

“We heard that it was too hard to determine which ethnicities we incorporate and the histories we tell because there’s so much diversity in our schools,” said Ortiz-Self. “And because it is too hard, they don’t want to leave anybody out, so they leave everybody out.”

“This has been a consistent argument whenever we try to do anything for any community, it’s a very easy out to say it’s too hard to determine… it keeps us complacent,” added Ortiz-Self. “The reality is, we have to start somewhere.”

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