No matter their race, creed, or religion, every student should learn the important histories and cultures of marginalized communities.
These communities deserve to be studied by society at large, and every student should take the time to learn about them. Ethnic studies courses are a step marginalized groups have taken to inform others about their past and continued struggles.
“A lot of people don’t know our history,” said third-year finance major Jenny Tomasino when describing why she thinks it’s important for students to take ethnic studies courses.
In February 2019, the California State Assembly introduced Assembly Bill 1460. The bill was passed and has moved on to consideration in the California State Senate.
This controversial bill mandates all students in the California State University system must take an ethnic studies course starting in the 2020-21 academic year.
The bill specifically lays out that this new requirement wouldn’t add any extra units students would need to graduate. Instead, an ethnic studies course would replace three of the elective units students would have needed to take before.
This alleviates worries that the bill is an attempt to waste students’ money, as some critics of the bill claim, because it doesn’t require students to stay in school any longer than they would have in the past.
Some students believe that because ethnic studies courses don’t pertain specifically to their major that they aren’t important to a well-rounded education.
“I think its a waste of time,” said third-year biology major Shawn Vazana.
Many students, including myself, disagree. Some students at California State University, Northridge support the bill so strongly that they started a petition.
The petition demands that Chancellor Timothy White also support the passing of the bill, and claim he “demonstrates [a] lack of respect for ethnic studies.”
Disrespect for these classes is nothing new. Education in the United States is eurocentric and almost exclusively focuses on the history and culture of wealthy white men.
Expanding curriculums to cover marginalized communities could help heal racial tensions in the country. The more students learn about different cultures, the easier it is for them to accept each other.
Opposing the enforcement of education helps breed ignorance, and ignorance can lead to violence against minority communities.
Long Beach State already knows the value of teaching classes that cover these unorthodox narratives. Since 2015, CSULB has had a program called the Ethnic Studies Initiative Project that teaches such courses to high schoolers.
The program encourages students to take these classes by offering both high school and college credit while also providing them college experience.
They offer several courses aimed at teaching the struggles of different communities.
“Special attention is given to the formation and transformation of each ethnic group and their individual and collective roles in the development of the United States,” according to the program’s website.
Programs like these are helpful on a local basis, but the passage of the bill is necessary for ethnic studies to be properly incorporated into the curriculum on a CSU-wide scale.