Curriculums of Diversity
As minorities have a growing presence in American schools, curriculums must center their perspectives through ethnic studies courses and culturally relevant teaching (CR). Unfortunately, there are significant barriers preventing these curriculums from being implemented nationwide.
When CR programs are available, they are incredibly effective. In 2017, professors Wiggan and Watson-Vandiver studied Harriet Tubman Academy (HTA), a private middle school whose population identified as African American. Students were expected to master core subjects while considering them in the context of African American history. They not only outperformed other schools nationwide, but also reported feeling empowered by the lessons (Watson-Vandiver and Wiggan, 2017). It would be incredibly impactful if all minority students could have access to such teaching. However, HTA benefits from being a private institution. It has more liberty over its curriculum and lacks the challenges of overcrowding and underfunding that many traditional public schools face.
In fact, when similar teaching occurred in Tuscon public schools, it resulted in a banning of Mexican American Studies. Professor Kim Hansley Owens notes that although the program was successful in empowering student voices, improving attendance and graduation rates, as well as preparing students for college, it was ultimately shut down under the claim that it radicalized students (Owens, 2018, pp. 247-251) This “radicalness” was teaching students to embrace native, Mexican, and American history simultaneously as it was viewed a replacement of the prominent white preceptive in curriculums.
If ethnic studies and CR curriculums are to be implemented nationwide, there must be strategies, such as centering the voices of these curriculum’s students, to overcome the external factors that work against them, as was done through Hearing Student’s voices in Connecticut. They must not be seen as radical, but instead as curriculums that represent America’s diversity.
Owens, K. H. (2018). In Lak’ech, The Chicano Clap, and Fear: A Partial Rhetorical Autopsy of Tucson’s Now-Illegal Ethnic Studies Classes. College English, 80(3), 247-270. https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.bowdoin.edu/docview/1987346917?pq-origsite=summon.
Watson-Vandiver, M. J, & Wiggan, G. (2017). Pedagogy of empowerment: student prespectives on critical multicultural education at a high preforming African American school. Race Ethnicity and Education, 22(6), 767-787. https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.bowdoin.edu/doi/full/10.1080/13613324.2017.1395328?scroll=top&needAccess=true