San Ramon Valley Unified School District ethnic studies course teaches students about systemic oppression and requires activism as final assessment, uses “Critical Race Theory: an introduction” as a core text.


A Freedom of Information Act request response provided to Parents Defending Education by Zachor Legal reveals that a San Ramon Valley Unified School District ethnic studies course teaches students about power, privilege, systemic oppression, reparations, and requires activism. The course includes the use of the book Critical Race Theory: An introduction as a core text.

According to the course overview, students will “engage in articulate discussions about the complexities of power, privilege, and agency in history and modern-day sociopolitical systems, through the lenses of race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, and religion.” It also states that students will “learn about liberatory social movements and culminate with a student designed action project, which leans into dismantling institutionalized oppression, and that authentically promotes students’ civic engagement, self-efficacy and collective empowerment in the local community setting.”

The first unit for the course features students engaging in “courageous conversations through empathy, vulnerability, and authenticity” and “prioritizes expectations around the human element that is central to both the content and pedagogy.” It states that this “level of introspection and collectivist mindsets are not the norm in a traditional classroom.”

The unit utilizes the Courageous Conversations Compass as part of an active listening practice which includes students “use a ‘WORKING DEFINITION’ for race” and “examine the presence and role of ‘WHITENESS.'”

The second unit summary states that students will “explore how multiple facets of identity are intersectional, how bias forms stereotypes, and define race as a social construct.” It will also “offer adequate time to study the science of bias and its role and origins in topics such as Eugenics, as well as the complexities of how microaggressions are perceived and received as either cultural appropriation or appreciation.”

The unit titled “Hegemony, Power, Privilege, Positionality” states that “systems of power control circumstances within economic, political, and sociocultural contexts.” The unit “aims to provide education on the reasons behind systems of power, and to dismantle misguided beliefs that these issues still exist purely as a result of prejudice by individuals, not as a result of the dire circumstances that systems and their policies perpetuate.” The unit will also have students “studying the systems of patriarchy and sexism” and “learn about how misogyny plays out in different communities.”

Unit four, titled “Systems of Oppression: Dehumanization, Humanization,” states that students will study “dehumanization in the form of objectification, alienation and exploitation, as well as the empowerment of humanization made possible by restoration of dignity and self-determination, and of the telling and retelling of stories and counter-narratives.” It will also have students “demonstrate how validating personal experiences and identities within the learning community can be a gateway to transformative change.”

Students will “shift from generating general questions or learnings around racial formation and personal ancestral legacies, to more complex inquiries, which connect those hxrstorical patterns and policies to current issues.” The unit assignment will focus on “Reparations for Native American Genocide” using the resource “Rethinking Columbus.”

The fifth unit titled “Resistance, Justice, and Agency” will focus on students recognizing the “positive work that has been accomplished through social movements that operate(d) to resist systemic inequities for all identities, and to understand the role that solidarity plays in building a movement.” It continues: “The gains achieved through agency and activism, as perpetuated by solidarity of members within and outside of like groups, offers hope and exemplifies the types of small and big actions that can be taken to disrupt oppression.”

The summary also states that “classrooms serve as(safe) spaces for authentic discussions which apply critical thinking skills and high level [sic] listening to solve complex problems about our humanity and the humanity of those around us.” A list of “examples of social movements” include Black Lives Matter and the Black Panthers.

The final unit is a “comprehensive final inquiry project and the culmination of the course” where “students experience the liberating process of praxis (turning theory into action).” The students are to “become change agents within their immediate scope of influence in the community, requiring them to effectively research multiple perspectives, organize, and communicate, all within the umbrella of understanding how systemic oppression plays out for marginalized communities, and how dominant culture may or may not be aware of these issues.”

The summary states that this “unit is critical because ‘it evaluates how determined students are to put in the necessary work for organizing.'”

Course materials include the use of Courageous Conversations About Race, Critical Race Theory: An introduction, and Rethinking Ethnic Studies.

A section titled “Mentor texts: primary sources/ novels/ periodical/ scholarly article” lists resources such as Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and accompanying student guide, “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” and “Rethinking Columbus The Next 500 Years.”