“[Ethnic Studies] is necessary to bridge the growing divide, and counter the racial and ethnic fear and hatred being sowed by the forces of ignorance and inequality.” ~ 1969 Third World Liberation Front Strikers & Founders of Ethnic Studies
What is Ethnic Studies?
Fifty years ago, members of the Black Student Union (BSU) and Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) conducted the longest student strike in US history to open up educational institutions to the histories, cultures, and communities of indigenous and racially oppressed peoples. Out of this historic strike emerged Ethnic Studies, a pedagogy of educational self-determination.
As ethnic studies researchers Christine Sleeter and Miguel Zavala explain in an October 15, 2020, report for the National Education Association:
“An established body of research affirms what educators have long known intuitively: interdisciplinary ethnic studies, or the study of the social, political, economic and historical perspectives of our nation’s diverse racial and ethnic groups, help foster cross-cultural understanding among both students of color and white students and aids students in valuing their own cultural identity while appreciating the differences around them.These studies also confirm that students who participate in
ethnic studies are more academically engaged, develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy and personal empowerment, perform better academically and graduate at higher rates.”
As part of a rich ethnic studies curriculum, Arab American studies provides positive representation and empowers Arab and Muslim youth by teaching their histories and their communities’ struggles for social and economic justice. Arab American studies is also an important piece of building solidarity among communities of color. It is a critical intervention in our schools to combat the racism, Islamophobia, and discrimination that our communities face every day.
Why is the Curriculum Under Attack?
Right-wing forces and outside interest groups have challenged the integrity of the curriculum from the beginning. Topics such as the centrality of Palestine to continued struggles for justice have triggered backlash and now, they have succeeded in decimating Ethnic Studies. They have buried the values, principles and pedagogy of Ethnic Studies in an avalanche of vague and contradictory language. Essential Ethnic Studies terminology has been eliminated or moved to footnotes. For example, there are now several definitions of race, including one giving credence to race as based on biology rather than social construction. Sexism and patriarchy are conflated. In short, the ESMC is no longer Ethnic Studies.
Join The Fight to Save Arab American Studies
The Coalition to Save Arab American Studies is a group of educators, students, scholars, community based organizations, and advocates across the state who have come together to defend Ethnic Studies and save Arab American Studies in California.
The CDE is currently creating a fourth draft of the ESMC, which will be discussed at its March 2021 meeting before final approval by the California State Board of Education.
The Save Arab American Studies Coalition calls on educators, students, community members, and all progressive organizations to demand that the CDE:
• Re-empower experts in the field of Ethnic Studies to decide on revisions to the ESMC that align with the principles, values, and pedagogy of Ethnic Studies.
• Put Arab American Studies—including Palestine—back where it belongs, within the Asian American Studies section of the ESMC.
• Approve an ESMC that is anti-racist, decolonial and liberatory—that centers the voices and experiences of communities of color and their social justice movements.