Make Ethnic Studies a Graduation Requirement in AUHSD

Make Ethnic Studies a Graduation Requirement in AUHSD

July 4, 2020
Petition to
AUHSD Board of Trustees
Signatures: 1,381Next Goal: 1,500
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Why this petition matters

Started by Amreen Kaur

AUHSD is a minority-majority district with 67.8% Latino students and 13.1% Asian students as of 2017, yet most students don’t see themselves represented in their curriculum. 

As students, alumni, and community members of AUHSD, we believe AUHSD is doing an injustice to its students by not implementing Ethnic Studies as a graduation requirement for these reasons:

1. The mainstream education system in the U.S. is Eurocentric and focuses on the perspective of White/European historical figures disproportionately to Black, Asian, and Latino figures. The lack of diversity specifically in History and English classes can lead to a disconnect or lack of interest in students of color leading them to be disengaged in class. Examples of this lack of diversity are: authors of textbooks and reading materials being majority White, focusing mainly on the achievements and stories of White figures in history while only brushing the surface of POC figures and history. 

2. What we have been taught in United States history classes is misleading and inaccurate such as Christopher Columbus discovering North America, Slavery being abolished by the 13th Amendment, and Malcolm X being aggressive compared to Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights movement. These false narratives have led to many students believing that we live in a post-racial society in which we are past racism, which is far from true. In all classrooms, students should be taught a complete and correct version of the history of the diverse group of people who helped build and shape America past and present in well-written textbooks that revise false historical statements, include our blatant mistakes, and contain a more diverse representation to highlight voices of Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian, etc. groups. 

According to Edsource, fewer than 5,000 of California’s 1.7 million high school students (less than 1%) had access to an ethnic studies course in 2013. However, the Los Angeles Unified School District and Santa Ana Unified School District have already adopted ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Let’s keep up that momentum!

Ethnic Studies would help solve these problems by bringing a diversity of thought into classrooms and make students of color more engaged and successful in their classes as shown by countless studies. All statements and studies mentioned below are from The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies: A Research Review.

There is a relationship between academic achievement, high level of awareness of race and racism, and positive identification with one’s own racial group.                                  

Altschul, Oyserman, and Bybee (2008) surveyed 185 Latino/a eighth-graders in three low-income middle schools. Students with higher grades tended to have bicultural identities, identifying with their ethnic origin as well as focusing on overcoming obstacles within mainstream society. Students who identified little with their ethnic origin tended to achieve poorly, as did the relatively fewer students who identified exclusively with their culture of origin and not at all with mainstream society.                                                       

There is a relationship between using a culturally relevant literacy curriculum, student engagement, and student academic achievement.                 

Copenhaver (2001) analyzed 12 African American elementary school children’s responses to reading Malcolm X: A Fire in small groups. She found the children to bring a good deal more knowledge of the life of Malcolm X than their teachers were aware they had, and in groups composed of only African Americans, they drew readily on their shared knowledge of African American media, civil rights leaders, and everyday racial issues to follow the plot, make connections, and interpret the story.

An Ethnic Studies based curriculum is empowering and confidence-building. 

Halagao (2004, 2010) examined the impact of Pinoy Teach (curriculum that focuses on Phillippine and Filipino American history and Culture using a problem-posing pedagogy that encourages students to think critically through multiple perspectives on history) Through a series of interviews, Halagao (2004) examined the curriculum’s impact on six Filipino American college students at the end of the course. Like in Vasquez’s study, they moved from seeing other Filipinos through learned stereotypes to building a shared sense of community, and they developed a sense of confidence and empowerment to stand up to oppression and to work for their own communities. 

Even for Diverse Student Groups that include White Students:

Ethnic studies classes show an increase in empathy. 

In an experimental study, Carrell (1997) found that university students who completed an intercultural communication course that directly focused on cultural awareness and intercultural communication competence made significant gains in empathy. 

Lessons teaching about racism improve racial attitudes.

[Two] studies found that lessons teaching about racism and successful challenges to it improve racial attitudes among White children, allowing them to see how racism affects everybody and offering them a vision for addressing it. 

Participation in diversity experiences is “significantly and positively related to cognitive development.”

Bowman (2010b) reported a meta-analysis of 23 statistical studies of the relationship between college student participation in diversity experiences (courses, workshops, and/or interactions), and cognitive development (such as critical thinking, moral reasoning, problem-solving). He found that participation in diversity experiences is “significantly and positively related to cognitive development.” 

Diversity courses such as ethnic studies produce higher democracy outcomes (commitment to promoting racial understanding, sense of commonality in values with students from different racial/ethnic backgrounds, etc.)

The overwhelming and most consistent finding is that, in most studies, such courses have a positive impact on students’ development of democracy outcomes (Astin 1993, Denson 2009, Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, and Gurin 2002, Lopez 2004). Engberg’s (2004) review of 73 studies of the impact of a diversity course, a diversity workshop, a peer-facilitated invention, or a service intervention found that 52 of the studies reported positive gains, 14 reported mixed gains, and only 7 reported no change.

As some might believe, Ethnic Studies courses are not divisive nor are they non-academic.
Rather, Ethnic Studies help students to bridge differences that already exist in experiences and perspectives. Ethnic Studies curricula are academically based, usually designed to improve students’ academic performance, and may explicitly focus on university preparation.

It is absolutely CRUCIAL to adjust our current curriculum to be representative of the student body and add an Ethnic Studies class. Students will be surrounded by people from a variety of backgrounds as they pursue higher education and to be career-ready, we must implement anti-racist, not just non-racist curriculum to ensure that our future authors, doctors, social workers, teachers, etc. in the workforce will understand and be well educated to properly respond to issues pertaining to POC both on and under the surface level. Dismantling racism begins in the classroom where students are educated and prepared to be proactive in the world they live in.

For AUHSD to truly adopt the 5 C’s and vision statement: AUHSD will graduate socially aware, civic-minded students who are college and career ready for the 21st century, Ethnic Studies must be implemented. Please sign and share this petition to make our goal possible. Feel free to comment your thoughts and experiences on the reason you’re signing. Thank you.


AUHSD Demographic:,school%20districts%20in%20the%20state.&text=Our%20students%2C%20who%20speak%2049,from%20five%20feeder%20elementary%20districts. 

Edsource (Ethnic Studies Should be a High School Requirement):

All Studies (The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies A Research Review):

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Decision Makers

  • AUHSD Board of Trustees