Denver Public Schools has mandatory ethnic studies curriculum for ninth grade students that teaches them to embrace collectivism over individualism; teaches students that gender exists on a spectrum; teaches students to “dismantle systems of power”


Parents Defending Education obtained the curriculum to a ninth grade “Introduction to Ethnic Studies” course for the 2023-2024 school year at Denver Public Schools. PDE was told by a concerned community member that this curriculum is mandatory for all students at least in the school where it is taught. The “Course Overview” document of this curriculum shows that lessons cover topics on racial equity and gender ideology, as well as other subjects often associated with left-wing activism. Lesson titles include “Building a Collective Society,” “Intersectionality in Action,” “Mapping Identity Through Poetry,” “Beyond the Binary,” “The Intersectionality Lens,” and “Systemic Change.”

In the first unit of the curriculum, the lesson “Building a Collective Society” explicitly teaches students to adopt collectivist mindsets instead of the perceived individualistic mindsets of the 20th century: “In this lesson, students analyze and critique dominant individualist ideologies in the United States. They reflect on the 20th century American concepts of the American Dream and the Self-Made Man and write a logline that captures the essence of the American Dream through an individualist perspective. Then, students learn about collectivist values from Indigenous Plant Teachings and rewrite their loglines to integrate collective values.”

Students are also given text to read and asked: “How can we use the message behind this text to build a more collective society?” Students are also told that individualism can “encourage selfishness and loneliness.”

In the lesson “Intersectionality in Action,” students will “analyze a video on intersectionality to understand the overlapping nature of oppression and to consider how intersectionality as a framework has the power to challenge dominant narratives and encourage multiple perspectives.” Students are taught to “work as a group and create community agreements for the course that promote a respective and inclusive space for all.”

In the second unit, the lesson “Art as a Pathway to Consciousness” states that students “will explore the origins of the term anti-racism through a quote by Angela Davis and an interview with Ibram Kendi.” Angela Davis is an activist often described as a “Marxist” in the media. Ibram X. Kendi is a known political activist who pushes for schools to adopt racial equity into their curricula. In this lesson, students will also “consider how art can be a form of anti-racism and begin creating an art piece that explores and celebrates identity, builds consciousness of racial bias, and fosters individual and collective healing.”

This lesson has students “analyze the concept of race as a social construct,” “define anti-racism and allyship,” and “consider the role of art in advancing racial equity and healing.” The lesson also includes the following quote for students to learn from Angela Davis: “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist; we must be anti-racist.”

Students are additionally provided with an assignment that has them “create an artist proposal for the conceptual art project exploring your racial identity or building consciousness of racial bias.”

In the lesson “Beyond the Binary,” students will “learn about gender diverse cultures around the world and become an expert on one gender-diverse culture.” This lesson also appears blatantly biased against policies viewed as “anti-trans.” The lesson will have students “learn about the rise in anti-trans politics and discuss the consequences on their local community.” Students will additionally “take inspiration from artists and fashion designers to conceptualize how they might use the human body to advocate for gender equity and celebrate the complexities of gender expression.”

This lesson has students “define important terms related to gender and sexuality,” “learn about gender fluid cultures,” “analyze statistics on anti-trans politics,” and “conceptualize an art piece that challenges gender stereotypes.” The lesson includes students watching “a short video from Bill Nye to help you define vocabulary related to gender and sexuality.” The video features Bill Nye attempting to tell people that gender is on a spectrum. The video is very mature themed. Students are further taught to support “gender affirming care,” which often involves children taking hormone replacement therapy or even having surgeries in an attempt to change gender.

The lesson links to a page from the Human Rights Campaign that attacks states on a map for outlawing sex changes for minors. These states include Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Indiana. Students are asked: “How can we build a society that celebrates and embraces the fluidity of gender and sexuality, creating open spaces where all individuals can express themselves authentically and be fully accepted?”

In the fourth unit, the lesson “The Power of Normal” teaches students about “normalization and implicit bias in society by evaluating your personal experiences and then by analyzing a short vignette.” Students will also “explore the process through which inequitable systems of power and oppression become widely accepted.” The goal is for students to learn to “dismantle systems of power.”

The lesson defines “implicit bias” as an “implicit prejudice or implicit attitude, is a negative attitude, of which one is not consciously aware, against a specific social group.” Students are also taught to define “hegemony” as “leadership, authority, or dominance, especially by one country or social group over others.” A graph of hegemony is shown that appears to attack the idea of “white men” in leadership positions.

In the fifth unit, the lesson “The Intersectionality Lens” teaches students about “effectiveness of the intersectionality lens to gain understanding and insight into cultural and historical movements they have studied in the course.” The lesson has students “evaluate the role of intersectionality in building social movements.” Students will also “apply intersectionality to historical and cultural movements covered in the course and to their own lived experiences and identity.” The lesson further states: “Race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality and language are all examples of components that can intersect to form someone’s identity.”

The lesson “Systemic Change” will have students “learn about how social movements use systemic change as a framework to build collaboration and advocate for transformative change in society.” This includes “a source exploration of the Black Panther Party Ten-Point Program as an example of radical imagination and systemic change.” Students will “identify how the Black Panther Party developed a counter narrative of freedom and systemic change approach that transformed society.”

This “Ten-Point Program” from the Black Panther Party includes that the “federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income,” “an end to the robbery by the capitalist of our black and oppressed communities,” and “completely free health care for all black and oppressed people.”