Los Angeles Unified School District’s Ethnic Studies courses promote student activism, focus on White supremacy, settler colonialism, systemic racism


Parents Defending Education has obtained documents detailing the curriculum for many of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Ethnic Studies courses, including Intro to Ethnic Studies, African American Studies, African American History, American Indian Studies, Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Studies, and Mexican American Studies. The documents were obtained via public records request, which was submitted by Zachor Legal Institute.

The curriculums for Intro to Ethnic Studies and African American Studies, state the goals and purpose of the discipline:

Ethnic Studies affirms the student identity, experience, and the building of empathy for others. This includes the self-determination of those who have ancestral roots and knowledge who have resisted and survived settler colonialism, racism, white supremacy, cultural erasure, as well as other patterns, structures, and systems of marginalization and oppression. The discipline uses culturally and community-responsive pedagogical practices to empower students to become anti-racist leaders.

African American Studies focuses on “essential questions” such as “How have concepts such as imperialism, colonialism, mercantilism, White supremacy, and hegemony influenced Black/African American culture and experience?” and “What is the way forward for Black liberation?” in the framework of its curriculum. It suggests texts like “The 1619 Project” and requires “civic engagement” projects. In one such project, students are asked to “Identify a pressing issue in the African American community” before “identifying a person in the community who possesses the power to address the issue, writing a business letter, and acting on the response they receive.”

The curriculum for American Indian Studies focuses on topics like “Settler Colonialism,” “’Americanizing’ the American Indian” and “Self-Determination and Sovereignty.” It aims for students to “Evaluate scholarly sources to consider the impact of US policy on the American Indian population and whether or not these policies had the intent of genocide on American Indian peoples, as defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide.”

Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Studies focuses on White supremacy, colonization, systemic racism, white-washing, and student activism. In the third unit of the course’s first theme, students are asked to “Define White supremacy” and “Describe the exoticizing and exploitation of APIDA communities for the purpose of White gaze, profit, U.S. imperialism, etc.” In the third unit of the second theme, focusing on U.S. Imperialism, they are asked to “Define settler colonialism and develop a framework for understanding oppression; Problematize conqueror narratives and develop counter-narratives.” Students are also given an assignment to “write their own op-ed addressing anti-Asian hate, with focus on the implications of the Page Act [which prohibited immigration of women for the purpose of prostitution]. Encourage students to seek publication in a local newspaper.”

Theme 3 of APIDA Studies focuses on “Anti-Asian Hate and Resistance.” The curriculum guide for this theme proclaims: “In this 4-week unit, students will learn that anti-Asian hate is an American tradition.” The fifth unit of this thing seeks to “Examine how race is a social construct that is imposed upon marginalized communities in order to maintain power for privileged classes.”

In the fifth theme of the class, focusing on solidarity, students are taught to “Define and analyze the problems of “oppression olympics” and to “Define performative activism; Describe the four levels of solidarity: symbolic solidarity, transactional solidarity, embodied solidarity, and transformative solidarity.” An extension activity for this unit suggests “Encourag[ing] students to participate in the protest [of Mauna Kea telescope or North Dakota Pipeline] in some way.

The “Intro to Ethnic Studies” curriculum also focuses on colonization and white supremacy. It includes a lesson on “Questioning “Common Sense,” Hegemony & Normalization” which requires them to “write an essay, produce a short skit, or a video presentation which addresses the following prompt: Describe the practices and policies reflecting hegemonic and normalized beliefs and articulate the negative impact on the racialized experiences of communities of color. Also, describe how communities of color have been able to retain their cultural practices, language(s), and beliefs in spite of attempts to assimilate them.”

Its second unit focuses on “the meaning of indigeneity, colonization/white supremacy/white supremacy culture, community cultural wealth, intersectionality, and deficit theories” while the third unit studies the “Four I’s of Oppression.” This third unit explains:

“Anti-racist and decolonial pedagogy requires that students study the positionality of their people in the social hierarchy of the United States. Students study the historical and contemporary effects of imperialism, racism, linguicism, sexism, heteropatriarchy, heterosexism and other forms of discrimination. In addition, students study forms of oppression, such as those contained in the seminal work of John Bell who stated, “oppression is a system, not a prejudice.” In this section, we not only engage students in understanding the various forms of oppression, but in developing critical consciousness, reclaiming hope and healing.”

The fourth unit, on social movements, proclaims that “We understand that white supremacy and related power structures concede nothing without demand and resistance.” It then quotes activist Audre Lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” The curriculum then encourages student participation in social movements, with sample assignments in the fifth unit suggesting that students simulate “creation of an advocacy organization and platform” or “design and implement a community responsive project” such as “creat[ing] a demographic profile of the neighborhood, conduct[ing] an oral history with an activist from a local community organization and participat[ing] in one event important to that organization.”

The state of California became the first state to include ethnic studies as a statewide graduation requirement in 2021. At LAUSD, least one semester of ethnic studies is required for the class of 2027 and beyond. The above-listed courses are available to 9th-12th graders throughout the district to satisfy this requirement.