Northshore School District ethnic studies program aims to teach students to critique, resist, and transform ‘systems of oppression’


The Northshore School District started an Ethnic Studies Pilot Work Team in January of 2021. According to the pilot work team website, the team members “will be provided with resources to learn about transformative ethnic studies in schools that will aid in the development of an Ethnic Studies Framework, which will be used in lessons and courses focused on Ethnic Studies.”

In a presentation from Oct. 21, 2021, the work team defines the purpose of ethnic studies as “to transform student lives by promoting healing from historical trauma, humanizing and empowering all students, and promoting civic and community engagement through action in solidarity with others.” The slide continues by stating that ethnic studies “provides students with the opportunity to understand themselves and their intersectionality in relation to society.”

From a presentation in November, the slide titled “Talking and Listening” states that “When we talk about ‘ethnic studies’…We are talking about: Ethnic studies aim to eliminate racism by critiquing, resisting, and transforming systems of oppression.” According to the second half of the slide, what they are not “talking about” includes “NOT promoting the idea that any race is superior to any other,” and “NOT centered on blaming individuals or making anyone feel guilty about their racial identity.”

The Dec. 6, 2021, presentation features a draft of the “Framework Components” the work team was developing. The unit themes included “Identity” and “Oppression,” “History of Resistance and Liberation” and “Healing.” Sub-categories included “intersectionality,” “forms of oppression,” “Centering voices within oppressed communities,” “Working to undo forms of oppression” and “Working as a collective toward justice.”

The “Related Research & Reading Resources” page features “Rethinking Ethnic Studies” co-authored by ethnic studies consultant and activist R. Tolteka Cuauhtin and “Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Race: Ethnic Studies and Literacies of Power in High School Classrooms.”

The work group presentation notes that “Safe, brave spaces are growing” at the Jan. 20, 2022, meeting. Another slide states that the ethnic studies framework should consider taking into account “Decolonization through self-determination and cultural resurgence (connecting back to with homelands, cultures and communities)” adding the note “Resurgence rather than reconciliation.”

Students who are part of the work group are asked to read “This Book is Anti-Racist Guide.”

The March session covered a presentation on “Disability Justice,” and required team members to watch the video “Paulo Freire and the Development of Critical Pedagogy” for the next meeting.