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MVLA looks to implement mandatory ethnic studies course for all freshmen

Pilot program expected next year, with a full rollout in fall 2023

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District board meets at the district office in Mountain View on Sept. 27, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District intends to require a yearlong ethnic studies course for all incoming freshmen starting in the 2023-2024 school year, according to a proposal to the school board this week.

The plan teachers and administrators laid out at a Sept. 27 board meeting represents the most detailed roadmap thus far of what the course could look like, although many elements are still being worked out.

"Today we are not proposing the curriculum for the course," Associate Superintendent Teri Faught told the board. "We are telling you that we are committed and that we are on the journey."

The intent is to bring a proposed curriculum to the board for review in the spring, administrators said. District staff are advocating for a two-year rollout, with an optional elective course offered next school year and then full implementation the following fall.

Board members appeared generally supportive of the proposal, although some had questions about the specifics of what the course would cover. No formal vote was taken.

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"I like the way this is going and I like the recommendation that you brought to us," board President Fiona Walter said.

Local activists, including current students, recent graduates and teachers, have been pushing the district to commit to offering a mandatory, yearlong ethnic studies course for freshmen. At the same time, some students and parents have spoken at past meetings raising concerns about whether the course will be balanced.

Those who spoke at Monday's meeting universally supported the proposal to offer ethnic studies, praising the district for moving ahead, while pushing for a concrete commitment from the board to follow through.

"I couldn't imagine how excited I would have been as a ninth grader if I had the opportunity to have taken that class," Los Altos High School graduate Kenan Moos said. "It will be really cool for those students who get to be able to do this."

Ethnic studies has been the subject of controversy at the state level. A first draft of a statewide ethnic studies model curriculum was rejected a few years ago amid heated debate, particularly over whether the content was anti-semetic. The State Board of Education adopted a revised ethnic studies model curriculum earlier this year, though its use is voluntary.

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The state legislature passed a bill this month that would make a one-semester ethnic studies course a graduation requirement starting in the 2029-2030 school year. The bill is currently on Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk.

High school district administrators stressed that the ethnic studies course they are proposing will be inclusive and benefit students of all racial backgrounds. By examining the struggles and contributions of all groups, particularly those that have been underrepresented, Faught said students can better see themselves in the story of the United States.

"The ethnic studies course dispels myths and builds connections, as opposed to divisions, amongst students," Faught said.

'I feel like I was indoctrinated going to Los Altos High School to tolerate racism and not feel like I could speak up about it.'

-Maya Acharya, Los Altos High School graduate

The idea of offering ethnic studies has been discussed among school staff for five to six years, Los Altos High social studies teacher Derek Miyahara said, adding that the effort was revitalized last summer. That's when leaders of local racial justice protests began calling for the district to implement ethnic studies.

"We started to ramp up our efforts and we started to talk together about what an ethnic studies course might be," Miyahara said.

According to Mountain View High social studies department coordinator Nate Bowen, teachers at both schools have been meeting to plan for the course and are starting to vet curriculum.

"Now's the time for action," Bowen said. "We really see this as an opportunity to build … a really important and impactful course that will benefit all of our students."

'It is one thing to teach students not to be racist and how to challenge racism. It's another to pressure them into participating in social activist activities.'

-Phil Faillace, board member, Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District

Speakers at Monday's meeting urged the district to consult with people of color in the local community, and particularly students, as they develop the course. One parent stressed to the board that there is community backing, even if some raise objections.

"The fact is that you have parent support," Christine Yum Lenz said. "You need to know that. We'll back you up."

Board member Phil Faillace said he wanted to see a detailed curriculum in the spring, with enough time for board and community feedback, adding that there's the potential for the course to "risk treading into the area where it stops being education and starts being indoctrination."

"It is one thing to teach students not to be racist and how to challenge racism," Faillace said. "It's another to pressure them into participating in social activist activities."

Los Altos High School graduate Maya Acharya pushed back on Faillace's comments.

"To the point of indoctrination that was brought up earlier, I feel like I was indoctrinated going to Los Altos High School to tolerate racism and not feel like I could speak up about it," Acharya said, adding that offering ethnic studies would better set students up for success.

Mountain View High social studies teacher Julie Yick, who is helping to develop the district's ethnic studies course and is completing a dissertation on high school ethnic studies curriculums, told the board that teachers are committed to examining diverse perspectives.

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MVLA looks to implement mandatory ethnic studies course for all freshmen

Pilot program expected next year, with a full rollout in fall 2023

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 1, 2021, 9:46 am

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District intends to require a yearlong ethnic studies course for all incoming freshmen starting in the 2023-2024 school year, according to a proposal to the school board this week.

The plan teachers and administrators laid out at a Sept. 27 board meeting represents the most detailed roadmap thus far of what the course could look like, although many elements are still being worked out.

"Today we are not proposing the curriculum for the course," Associate Superintendent Teri Faught told the board. "We are telling you that we are committed and that we are on the journey."

The intent is to bring a proposed curriculum to the board for review in the spring, administrators said. District staff are advocating for a two-year rollout, with an optional elective course offered next school year and then full implementation the following fall.

Board members appeared generally supportive of the proposal, although some had questions about the specifics of what the course would cover. No formal vote was taken.

"I like the way this is going and I like the recommendation that you brought to us," board President Fiona Walter said.

Local activists, including current students, recent graduates and teachers, have been pushing the district to commit to offering a mandatory, yearlong ethnic studies course for freshmen. At the same time, some students and parents have spoken at past meetings raising concerns about whether the course will be balanced.

Those who spoke at Monday's meeting universally supported the proposal to offer ethnic studies, praising the district for moving ahead, while pushing for a concrete commitment from the board to follow through.

"I couldn't imagine how excited I would have been as a ninth grader if I had the opportunity to have taken that class," Los Altos High School graduate Kenan Moos said. "It will be really cool for those students who get to be able to do this."

Ethnic studies has been the subject of controversy at the state level. A first draft of a statewide ethnic studies model curriculum was rejected a few years ago amid heated debate, particularly over whether the content was anti-semetic. The State Board of Education adopted a revised ethnic studies model curriculum earlier this year, though its use is voluntary.

The state legislature passed a bill this month that would make a one-semester ethnic studies course a graduation requirement starting in the 2029-2030 school year. The bill is currently on Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk.

High school district administrators stressed that the ethnic studies course they are proposing will be inclusive and benefit students of all racial backgrounds. By examining the struggles and contributions of all groups, particularly those that have been underrepresented, Faught said students can better see themselves in the story of the United States.

"The ethnic studies course dispels myths and builds connections, as opposed to divisions, amongst students," Faught said.

The idea of offering ethnic studies has been discussed among school staff for five to six years, Los Altos High social studies teacher Derek Miyahara said, adding that the effort was revitalized last summer. That's when leaders of local racial justice protests began calling for the district to implement ethnic studies.

"We started to ramp up our efforts and we started to talk together about what an ethnic studies course might be," Miyahara said.

According to Mountain View High social studies department coordinator Nate Bowen, teachers at both schools have been meeting to plan for the course and are starting to vet curriculum.

"Now's the time for action," Bowen said. "We really see this as an opportunity to build … a really important and impactful course that will benefit all of our students."

Speakers at Monday's meeting urged the district to consult with people of color in the local community, and particularly students, as they develop the course. One parent stressed to the board that there is community backing, even if some raise objections.

"The fact is that you have parent support," Christine Yum Lenz said. "You need to know that. We'll back you up."

Board member Phil Faillace said he wanted to see a detailed curriculum in the spring, with enough time for board and community feedback, adding that there's the potential for the course to "risk treading into the area where it stops being education and starts being indoctrination."

"It is one thing to teach students not to be racist and how to challenge racism," Faillace said. "It's another to pressure them into participating in social activist activities."

Los Altos High School graduate Maya Acharya pushed back on Faillace's comments.

"To the point of indoctrination that was brought up earlier, I feel like I was indoctrinated going to Los Altos High School to tolerate racism and not feel like I could speak up about it," Acharya said, adding that offering ethnic studies would better set students up for success.

Mountain View High social studies teacher Julie Yick, who is helping to develop the district's ethnic studies course and is completing a dissertation on high school ethnic studies curriculums, told the board that teachers are committed to examining diverse perspectives.

Comments

Tal Shaya
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Oct 1, 2021 at 11:19 am
Tal Shaya, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Oct 1, 2021 at 11:19 am

"Offering a mandatory...?"

Something this is mandatory is not "offered," it's required.

Even the language they use to describe the program is weasel words.

Please leave your politics at home. It doesn't belong in public schools.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 1, 2021 at 12:11 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 1, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Tal, can you elaborate on what you mean here by "politics" with respect to this curriculum?


Brian
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Oct 1, 2021 at 12:57 pm
Brian, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Oct 1, 2021 at 12:57 pm

I do hope the proposed curriculum is made public and carefully reviewed by the community. AB 101, if signed by the Governor, would allow school districts to use any curriculum including the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli curriculum that was first proposed as the state standard.

(Web Link

I certainly hope during a time where we have seen a rise in antisemitism is on the rise and Jewish students in American colleges are under attack, figuratively and sometimes literally (Web Link that whatever curriculum is introduced doesn't further this trend.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2021 at 5:15 pm
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 1, 2021 at 5:15 pm

Brian, I think that's exactly what Phil Faillace meant in his comment.


Raymond
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Oct 1, 2021 at 10:16 pm
Raymond , Monta Loma
Registered user
on Oct 1, 2021 at 10:16 pm

Close attention by skeptical parents is definitely needed. The district would better attend to the relatively low numbers of students reaching grade level in Math & English before forcing students and staff to spend time on "ethnic studies". Maybe an extra Math or English course? Maybe an economics course?


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Oct 2, 2021 at 10:09 am
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Oct 2, 2021 at 10:09 am

Agree with Tal here. "Offering" and "opportunity" are not the right words to use when discussing a new mandatory requirement. The fact that these weasel words are being used are indicative of spin. Why is there spin? Because it is controversial to add requirements to the curriculum.

Even if one supports the idea of ethnic studies courses being offered (which I emphatically do), adding new any course *requirements* is a questionable move. High school students already have a heavy load of required courses. What is going to be dropped in order to accommodate this new requirement? How about allowing it to replace a required history course? I challenge the school board to put their curriculum where their mouth is, by finding another course to drop in favor of this important new class.


HAB
Registered user
Willowgate
on Oct 20, 2021 at 12:23 pm
HAB, Willowgate
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 12:23 pm

All curricula is political. It's been a political choice to teach US exceptionalism through the mainly white, male, straight, cisgendered lens for centuries. Ethnic studies expands history in an inclusive manner so we all have a better understanding of history as its impacts are felt today.

As Raymond suggested, "maybe an extra Math, or English course," Social Studies and History fulfill reading/writing requirements of English. And, if we only focus on Math/Science, we neglect having students who understand History, Culture, Ethics as well as Physics, Algebra, etc.

It angers me that my history curricula throughout a public school education in multiple states in the US neglected to provide a better understanding of events from all perspectives--not just the victors' perspectives. It doesn't harm me, as a white women, one bit to understand how history unfolded and oppressed, exploited, and excluded many people because of the power structures then. In fact, it's harmful to give a false impressions of historical events in order to maintain a certain order/power structure. If we don't understand history, we're doomed to repeat it--and we're seeing that play out in how white parents are pushing back against ethnic studies, culturally responsive teaching, and other inclusive measures. White flight was a response to desegregation and I see echoes of that in the current pushback against inclusive teaching and policies in education.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 23, 2021 at 5:02 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2021 at 5:02 pm

If your kid took History at MVHS, even as far back as 2010, you would have seen that the coursework covered A LOT of the problems of race/colonialism/slavery/ and some of the fallout that resulted from that [East Asian parent bitterness at opioids/pot - study The Opium Wars (Boxer Rebellion) in that HS curriculum].

But even an AP (Advance Placement / sometimes college credit /) course can't cover it all.

IMO ELECTIVE rollout would have been much better.

I had an interesting electve in De-Colonization in Africa where I (in early 1970's) learned a lot about SWAPO, ANC, Portugese racism, Boer War, - and The Western Thinking behind much of the problems. Elective - for an Astronomy major, required = some 'breath' our education'!


Amyra Patel
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 27, 2021 at 12:26 pm
Amyra Patel, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2021 at 12:26 pm

I question whether a course like this is really needed.

There will always be prejudice regardless of any efforts to curtail it.

As an individual of East Indian descent, I have simply chosen to avoid and ignore bigotry by not associating with those who are racist and uneducated.

Higher education and choice of occupation also plays a role.

One cannot expect an undereducated working class environment to be open-minded, especially among white people.




Ok
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 27, 2021 at 3:02 pm
Ok, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2021 at 3:02 pm

Most of the students in MVLA are not “white privileged”. Caucasians are 38.7% and among them there are a lot of immigrants of different ethnic backgrounds that had nothing to do with American exceptionalism.


Lei Ping
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 30, 2021 at 11:32 am
Lei Ping, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 30, 2021 at 11:32 am

As a recent immigrant to America (SF Bay Area), it is very difficult for my foreign-born children to fully comprehend the entire impact of the various historical and social issues that defines America today (i.e. repercussions from the Civil War, slavery etc.)

On the other hand, since we are relatively new arrivals to the United States (2005), I see no reason why established American citizen students need to be indoctrinated about the plight and culture of the countless newly arrived refugees and immigrants to the United States.

Full assimilation into American culture is paramount and ethnic culture is best reserved for family, church, and social gatherings.

I can fully understand why some Americans do not want ethnic diversity and education rammed down their throats.

No different than American expatriates in the PRC (if any) demanding that U.S. history and culture be a part of Chinese educational curriculum.


Joshua K.
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 31, 2021 at 12:21 pm
Joshua K., Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 31, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Are mandatory ethnic studies (aka sensitivity coursework) really necessary?

This leaves even less time for courses like math and science that really matter when it comes to attaining gainful employment that pays reasonably well.

Ethnic studies are best reserved as lower division college curriculum (for those so inclined) as over-focusing on the humanities offers minimal high-paying job prospects unless one opts to become yet another fly-by-night attorney




Consuelo DeLaCruz
Registered user
North Whisman
on Nov 8, 2021 at 11:04 am
Consuelo DeLaCruz, North Whisman
Registered user
on Nov 8, 2021 at 11:04 am

Cancel Culture is historical enlightenment and to evade or disregard the impact of white bigotry is to turn a blind eye to the wrongful nature of racism.

To date, both Boalt Hall & the Hastings College of Law have had their names removed by the UC Board of Regents as both Boalt and Hastings were xenophobes and ethnocentric racists (aka wealthy white men).

Junipero Serra's name was removed from Stanford University along with the statue of Robert E. Lee in Virginia.

This is a step in the right direction as these individuals were not heroes or worthy of any historical respect along with David Starr Jordan and Terman who also had their names removed by the PAUSD.

Slaveholder Thomas Jefferson is next.






Christopher Chiang
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Dec 29, 2021 at 3:26 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Dec 29, 2021 at 3:26 pm

MVLA offers AP US History, AP World History, AP European History, AP Government, and AP Economics. Social studies, the one discipline that should reflect John Dewey’s vision of public schools being a living laboratory for democracy, is a largely tracked experience at MVLA with students having fewer chances to hear from, work with, and learn from those different from themselves.

A better approach than one ethnic studies class, would be to examine what and with whom all four years of social studies is taught, to ensure that all social studies classes reflect a more complete story of society.

MVLA has an open enrollment policy with regards to AP classes, but tracking as an outcome still persists. While the College Board is making its own moves to diversify its AP curriculum, the enemy to a truly diversified AP curriculum is not the College Board’s intentions, but the scarcity of time, in that one can’t teach the full scope of what AP social studies classes demand and still provide the properly thoughtful and messy process of learning America’s complex past with race, ethnicity, gender, economic class, or indigenous history.

True to their Cold War origins, AP math and science classes continue to play a powerful role in ensuring young people are ready to solve the complex problems ahead. AP classes in social studies do less to serve that mission.

If AP classes in social studies are here to stay, then high school ethnic studies is a welcome addition, and state legislation has already bound MVLA. That said, it would have been better to not add one more high school graduation requirement, and rather, give students the complete history with their complete community each of their four years.


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