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Ethnic studies to address racism debated in US
By:China Daily Global
update:March 17,2022
The United States is undergoing an intense debate over how to teach school students about racism and its place in US history.
Ethnic studies, which focus on racial and ethnic groups that are not covered in the Eurocentric history courses, have been increasingly embraced by school districts as a way to address racism. But critics, largely conservative parents and lawmakers, say such studies will do more harm than good.
Starting in 2030, California will require all students to complete an ethnic studies course to graduate from high school. The San Francisco, Fresno and San Diego unified school districts already require their students to take ethnic studies to graduate.
Other states are looking at similar legislation. Utah's Senate introduced a bill this month to establish a committee to study the contributions of ethnic minorities to the state and make recommendations on how to incorporate this information into schools' educational material.
In Minnesota, a bill aims to incorporate ethnic studies into graduation requirements. "More than a third of students in Minnesota schools are students of color, but Minnesota classrooms have not kept pace with the growing diversity of our student population," state Representative Cedrick Frazier, sponsor of the bill, told the House Education Finance Committee last week.
There is also a push for teaching Asian American history in public schools. New Jersey and Illinois now require Asian American studies, and several other state legislatures are considering similar measures.
Nearly 11,000 hate incidents against Asians were reported to tracking platform Stop AAPI Hate between Mar 19, 2020 and Dec 31,2021.
Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, said research showed ethnic studies help all students. "For students of color, it helps their academic performance and helps at-risk students stay in school. For white students, it helps reduce prejudicial attitudes and learn how to become more supportive of civil rights," Jeung, also a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, told China Daily.
However, some parents have protested the curriculums, saying they could create tensions between students and make white students feel guilty. Jeung said such concerns are unfounded. "Ignoring racial issues will continue the racial bullying that one-third of our students face in the classroom. We need to tackle it head on, rather than avoiding it," he said.
The discussion of ethnic studies is also becoming increasingly political in the US. In some states, like Texas and Arizona, conservative parents have organized Facebook groups, calling for schools to remove ethnic studies curriculum and protesting against "critical race theory", a university-level discipline that examines how race and racism have been ingrained in US law and institutions.
Jeung said Republicans are using critical race theory as a boogeyman to inspire fear among their white constituents and to rally their base.

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco
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