Ethnic Studies must begin in our schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12 | opinion

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For 50 years, students and faculty have organized time and time again to expand ethnic studies at Harvard. We’ve made some progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do: “Collection appointments” and administrative efforts to expand faculty job offerings aren’t nearly enough. At Yale, students enjoy the benefits of a full bachelor’s degree program in ethnic studies, and our colleagues at Princeton have gained from the losses of our faculty.

With students organizing Ethnic Studies at Harvard just last week, we must think critically about the fight to advance this curriculum beyond the walls of our university. It may be in our interest to refocus attention on sowing the seeds of ethnic studies education earlier — in our elementary and secondary schools.

Massachusetts House Bill S.288/H.542, which was referred to the Education Committee last February, calls for “Promote racially inclusive curricula in schoolsCreate a fund to incorporate the history and contributions of marginalized and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into the curriculum of K-12 schools.

Why should we care? Significant evidence suggests that developing cultural competence and an appreciation of community diversity and historical nuance among students early on is vital. a 2021 Stanford Study found that the San Francisco Unified School District’s ethnic studies curriculum had a “remarkably strong and long-lasting positive effect,” helping students to “increase[e] their overall participation in school, probability of graduating and probability of enrolling in college.” Furthermore, the study showed that ethnic studies increased students’ sense of belonging and importance in their communities.

I am acutely aware of the prominence of race in debates over the K-12 curriculum. This is not a piece whose purpose is to eliminate all obsessions with critical race theory or to add fire to the flames of an overpolarized discussion that has been broken beyond repair. Instead, I aim to set terms for a more bona fide conversation about the educational, social, and emotional benefits of a racially inclusive curriculum, while putting aside racist dog whistles in the pursuit of maximizing the well-being and education of students.

While ethnic studies may seem like a mystical endeavor, especially to younger students, we can visualize this through Terry Cowe’s metaphor of Windows and mirrors. According to Qawi, an English and language arts teacher from California, an ethnically inclusive education will provide both windows—frames through which students experience cultures and live apart from their own—and mirrors—opportunities for students to see themselves reflected in the narratives they make. Learn – In pursuit of a balanced education.

Besides the benefits to racially inclusive curricula for students, K-12 ethnic studies in Massachusetts may just be the catalyst for the subject’s sustained push at Harvard. Preventing burnout and maintaining momentum as we strive for a formal ethnic studies curriculum in the college requires a student body confident in the field’s educational value. Knowing that ethnic studies programs at the elementary and secondary levels uplift students and stimulate participation, expanding these frameworks at the K-12 level could help the department find a stronger foothold at Harvard.

Perhaps this does not concern you – perhaps you do not see the need for a specialized department of ethnic studies at Harvard. After all, why is this specific educational niche that we must promote?

Harvard is synonymous with the gold standard. Whether or not we as students agree with its educational importance, Harvard University is the paragon of academic excellence. Our curriculum offerings run broad, and in a school where every class of students currently admitted to campus is a majority of non-white, the absence of a section devoted to critical analysis of the student body’s diverse racial and ethnic perspectives is inexcusable.

Whether or not one chooses to study ethnic studies at Harvard, having an on-campus department that willfully and meticulously investigate flawed historical, scientific, and political narratives is crucial. The only way Harvard will continue to live up to its academic reputation is to develop students and advance curricula that embody ongoing critical questions.

We must recognize that the lack of ethnic studies on campus is a symptom of a national unfamiliarity with, and hostility to, critical education on race and ethnicity. In the absence of rigorous educational reform at the K-12 level (through legislation such as the Massachusetts law to promote racially inclusive curricula in schools), Harvard students may continue to arrive on our campuses who lack the cultural competence and the full education necessary to value diversity and preserve on him. Community.

We know that enabling younger students through windows and mirrors to see their own and others’ experiences reflected in their education leads to remarkably positive learning outcomes. So maybe it’s time to organize Ethnic Studies to broaden our audience, and to compete not only for a balanced Harvard education, but also for the Harvard students of tomorrow.

Rhys Moon 26, Crimson Editorial, lives at Matthews Hall.