Parents Defending Education obtained materials from a public records request for Sequoia Union High School District’s Ethnic Studies curriculum.
Proponents of Ethnic Studies as a required course for district 9th graders define Ethnic Studies as “an academic field with existing methodologies to question dominant narratives, systems, and their creation and reestablish new ones” and explains that it focuses on “center[ing] indigeneity, Blackness, race, ethnicity and its intersections to other social categories such as gender and class.”
Addressing complaints that adding a required social studies course for 9th graders would not allow for schedule space and preparedness for students to take AP European History later on, proponents suggested “Up to individual school sites, but we propose AP World and AP Human Geograpy—getting rid of eurocentric in accordance to standards.” Further, they claimed that “teachers cannot teach these critical skills and content in the existing eurocentric framework.”
The curriculum framers also suggested that the course include “restorative justice circles” and “weekly socio-emotional check-ins” to combat concerns about students feeling unsafe or ostracized.
The curriculum approval form provides more details on the focuses of the class. The curriculum identifies that two of its core goals are to “Critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society; challenge imperialist/hegemonic beliefs and practices on the ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized levels.” The proposal also intends for students to learn “how race and gender are socially constructed, and how colonial powers leveraged these constructed categories to justify colonization and patriarchal systems.”
Lessons in the curriculum explore how “Privilege + Power = Racism” and “Dominant Narrative and Counternarrative: Heteronormativity and patriarchy.” The curriculum’s second unit includes lessons on the “4 I’s of Oppression (Ideological, Internalized, Interpersonal, and Institutionalized Oppression” and gives examples like “heterosexism,” “capitalism,” and “assimilation and acculturation.”
The curriculum also promotes student activism, with the culminating project of the course—the “Youth Power Action Project”– requiring students to propose an action plan for addressing a “local issue in their community” to an acceptable “authentic audience” of teachers, school board members, or administrators.
The curriculum has already been approved, and Ethnic Studies is a graduation requirement throughout the Sequoia Union High School District beginning with the class of 2025.