America’s Indian community hails California’s requirement for ethnic studies

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High school students in California will need to take ethnic studies classes to graduate.

Ritu Jha-

Gavin Newsom, the state’s governor, promulgated a bill on Oct. 8 that provides for the completion of a semester-long course on the subject. The law, which comes into force on January 1, concerns students graduating from the school year 2029-2030 and beyond.

Critics argue that the controversial bill, AB 101, opens the door to teaching critical race theory in the classroom. Critical Race Theory addresses the role of racial factors influencing the American justice system. The Sikh community warmly welcomed the new law. The American Hindu Foundation, while supportive, had problems with some aspects of the program.

The law allows all local education agencies, including charter schools, to require a one-year ethnic studies course at their discretion.

“No, it’s not like an elective course. Rather, it is a prerequisite for graduation, ”said Jonathan Mendick, information officer at the California Department of Education. Indica news. He said under the new law, the money will be divided on a per-student basis among school districts, county education offices, charters and special schools in the state serving grades 9-12. Neither his department nor any other agency needs to manage the program.

He said the course would not reflect or promote any bias or discrimination against anyone. Mendick was clear that he “would neither teach nor promote religious doctrine”.

The version of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum approved this spring includes an exploration of anti-Semitism and offers lessons about Arab, Armenian, Jewish, and Sikh American communities that were missing from previous versions.

Samir Kalra, CEO of the American Hindu Foundation said Indica news that HAF supports an ethnic studies program that shares the many contributions made by Hindu Americans with other communities. It would also include South Asian Americans in the United States and American Indians, how they created community and established an identity in California.

“The HAF participated in the public review process of the Ethnic Studies curriculum of the Ministry of Education,” he said. “While we do not agree with all aspects of the program, we are happy to see the contributions made by Hindu Americans included.” Overall, the program could have been broader and more inclusive of all various ethnic groups in California, in order to better foster respect for cultural diversity in our pluralistic society. ”

Deep Singh, executive director of the California-based Jakara Movement, said indica New, “Ethnic studies give students the opportunity to see themselves in class. While there is still a lot of work to be done, this step in the state of California is an important moment for Sikhs in the Punjabi and other marginalized communities towards equitable education.

In a statement, the Sikh Coalition said: “Through advocacy by the sangat in March 2021, California approved a model ethnic studies curriculum, which included Sikh stories and positive contributions from the Sikh community. American from California through a lesson plan submitted by the Sikh. Coalition and the Jakara Movement.

In addition to making ethnic studies a condition of graduation and enabling the use of ESMC, AB101 will provide millions of dollars for the implementation and professional development of educators.

Calmatters, an independent news site on California politics and politics, said the Los Angeles Times editorial board “opposed the bill because it gives local districts too much flexibility to design their own programs. which could deviate from the model program of the State “.

However, Pritpal Kaur, education director of the Sikh Coalition, said in a press release: “The requirement of the Ethnic Studies course will provide an even greater opportunity for the important stories and contributions of the Sikh community. to be taught across California.

She said the group “will continue to push to ensure that ethnic studies classes including Sikh stories appear in California classrooms.”

In a signed statement, Governor Newsom said: “Ethnic studies classes allow students to learn their own stories – and those of their classmates.” Ethnic studies “will help expand educational opportunities in schools, teach students about the diverse communities that make up California, and boost student engagement and academic performance,” according to a press release from her office.

The passage of the law was welcomed by MP Jose Medina (D-Riverside), who drafted the bill. Medina called the new requirement “a long time ago” and “a step in the long struggle for equal education for all students”.

While the matter can be resolved at the state level, schools and school districts may soon have some weight. Some districts may hold public hearings on the courses they plan to offer.

This law was heavily dependent on the support of the Californian sangat. In March 2020, the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement submitted comprehensive recommendations for improving the curriculum, including a draft lesson plan. It has worked with 52 gurdwaras and has been endorsed by over 1,200 petitioners.

[Photo courtesy: Jakara.org]


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