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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.


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