New Ethnic Studies Class Raises Debate

Bella Kim, Co-Editor

At a Los Alamitos Unified School District board meeting on Tuesday, April 27, numerous students and adults voiced their thoughts, opinions and concerns about Los Alamitos High School’s new ethnic studies elective.

The Los Alamitos Board of Education unanimously approved Los Al High’s “Ethnic Studies: Cultural Experiences in the United States of America” elective this February. Students in eleventh and twelfth grade can choose this class as their elective. Its purpose is to educate them about the different ethnicities and cultures in the U.S. Those who choose to take this elective will gain awareness of labels and how other races identify, learn about race-based social movements and understand the role of diversity in America.

However, people who oppose the class argue that this course will segregate students and teach them anti-white values. According to video footage of the board meeting, some individuals believe that this ethnic studies course will portray white people as oppressors and people of color as victims, dividing students and teaching them that white people act racist. In fact, the aim of this class is the opposite: to educate students about the struggles and contributions of ethnic groups that might traditionally be uncelebrated. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Al’s superintendent, Andrew Pulver, explained that there has been a lot of “miscommunication. We want to encourage cultural understanding of how different groups have struggled. Some people think it’s just about oppression, but we’re going to hopefully be able to highlight core ethnic studies concepts such as equity, justice and race.” Lessons will illustrate and discuss a realistic America, where racism and injustice exist, which will hopefully lead to more empathy and understanding. 

Furthermore, as an elective, this is not required coursework. If students express interest in this field of study, they have the opportunity to explore it. Despite these points brought up by speakers at the board meeting, one opponent’s sign read, “Ethnic studies teaches hate” and a speaker encouraged parents to harass board members for approving the class. 

Supporters of ethnic studies pointed out that these reactions represent the reasons why Los Al needs this class. They countered that ethnic studies will unify students and help them feel more comfortable embracing their backgrounds and addressing hard subjects like racism so that our schools can become free of bias and hate speech. 

Ultimately, controversy over the implementation of an ethnic studies class still exists, but the Los Alamitos School Board gave both sides the opportunity to express their arguments. School officials will continue to propose materials for 2021-2022 coursework and the board will consider them for approval in June.