Make Ethnic Studies a Requirement for all High School Students in New Jersey

Make Ethnic Studies a Requirement for all High School Students in New Jersey

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As upheld by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Despite the longevity of that document and its patriotic ideals, as well as how popular of a reference it has become from “Hamilton,” it remains an uneasy question as to whom “equality,” as well as relevant principles of justice, really applies to. Even in contemporary America, where is equality found? Is it found within the Hispanic community, who are belittled every day and put in concentration camps where women and children are raped and mistreated for being “illegal”? Is it found within the African American community, where the police, who should symbolize safety and protection for all individuals, are the people that are the most feared? Is it found within the Asian community, who are ridiculed for their looks, called racist and derogatory names, and then blamed for the coronavirus? Is it found within anyone who practices Islam, who are called terrorists and told to go back to their country despite being born or raised in this “free” nation? Is it found within the LGBTQ+ community, who are still shamed, kicked out of their homes, shot at, and discriminated against? Is it found within the Native American community, whose land was stolen and were subsequently forced to leave and abandon their own beautiful culture and traditions, instead of having Christian values imposed on them? If America fails to uphold its expectations of freedom and equality everyone makes it out to be, in whom is this equality found?

To this day, Americans continue to encompass unremitting racism and discrimination in their history, showing lackluster progression in their dissipation of oppression. In order to contribute to a resolution for this issue on an educational level, Amnesty Monroe, a chapter of a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for human rights and social justice, proposes an ethnic studies bill, which aims to make an ethnic studies course a requirement for all high school students, specifically seniors. The purpose of this course is to teach students about different cultures, races, ethnicities, sexualities, etc. and their traditions and the oppression faced by each one. Our goal is to raise a new generation of students who are less prejudiced in the real world when interacting with different backgrounds, allowing students to appreciate their differences and also embrace their similarities. Not only will it establish a vital social skill for students to use outside of the classroom, but it also allows them to think outside the dangerous eurocentric views that overlook the beauty of many minorities.

While ethnic studies remains an underrepresented course in high schools nationwide, it could have a significant impact on how students enter the political, social, and economic realms of their future, which have heavy historical and cultural dimensions. We are looking for support from our community to present a proposal to the Monroe Township Board of Education. The ethnic studies bill will consist of a comprehensive curriculum encompassing:

  • Identity and religion 
  • Cultures that build our nation including (but not limited to): African American, American Indian, Latino American, and Asian American
  • Themes of social justice, social change, and social responsibility 
  • The importance of being informed and respectful to other cultures 
  • How to support our future as a society and raise a new generation of individuals who embrace cultural differences 

In the wake of tragedies like George Floyd’s death as well as others impacted by police brutality and racial hatred, we are particularly interested in the African American experience leading up to contemporary issues. While we touch on topics related to black culture, history has been whitewashed and written from a one-sided point of view. This part of the curriculum’s main focus should be to emphasize the prevalence of black culture in all aspects of today’s world. We request that the final curriculum incorporates ideas and suggestions directly brought forward from a community review board and the African American community, as well as using textbooks, history books, and other forms of literature told from a black person’s perspective. Similar to the LA Unified School District, Amnesty Monroe proposes a curriculum adapted from UC Berkeley's Department of Studies and other researched sources that cover sociocultural experiences of African, Asian, Latino, Native, and other stereotyped Americans. Although the purpose of such coursework in a high school setting is not to prime students to major in any particular ethnic studies field, such course has strong implications of at least fostering consciousness in any student as they inevitably become more aware of the political, social, and economic climates of their nation and how they have deep roots and patterns. 

We understand that it is difficult to have funds readily available to implement this bill. In order for this class to be established, we must purchase the necessary textbooks and materials for the class, along with finding teachers who are well accustomed to the curriculum. Although the entire cost of this course may not be covered, Amnesty Monroe will take necessary action to raise funds and help with the expenses. Amnesty Monroe will hold yearly events and fundraisers solely dedicated to helping fund this bill. 

To pass this bill, in first Monroe Township High School, and then eventually statewide, would be a step in the right direction to end oppression. While an ambitious goal, if we effectively educate the youth, our future generations, they will pave the way for an open-minded society, exercising their power to end the deleterious impacts of racism and discrimination.

Join us in educating our society and making prominent changes in hopes of creating a better future by signing our petition.