Current plans bare, but MVLA set to implement ethnic studies course in 2022

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY ALLISON HUANG

The Mountain View–Los Altos School District has plans to implement an ethnic studies course in the fall of 2022.

Ethnic studies — loosely defined as the study of race, ethnicity and inequality from the perspective of people of color in the United States — has faced criticism since its inception in the late 1960s.

Detractors, notably in Tucson, Ariz., have called ethnic studies “divisive,” and asserted that the courses teach “resentment.” Separately, Jewish groups have contended that many versions of the curriculum minimize anti-Semitism, and take a one-sided approach to teaching Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Supporters have argued the importance of examining race and ethnicity, asserting that doing so will teach “respect” and “tolerance.”

Most recently, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill in November of last year that would’ve made ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement starting in 2029; he clarified that he supported the idea, citing his previous approval of a similar requirement in the California State University system, but felt that the draft curriculum needed more revision.

Derek Miyhara, Social Studies Department Coordinator at Los Altos High School, said that the MVLA district is yet to begin devising its course.

“We actually don’t know where it is going to be put in the curriculum; it’s something that needs to be decided,” he wrote in an email to the Post. “We have also put off efforts to develop the class until we know where in the curriculum it will be and whether it will be a semester or year-long course.”

The University of California system requires two years of social studies courses for freshman admissions — one year of world or European history as well as a year of United States history.

Miyahara said that he’s currently unsure if the ethnic studies course would be a graduation requirement as opposed to an elective, noting that the push from student and community groups is for a required course. A required course would take “some reconfigurations” of the current social studies offerings to implement, he added.

When asked how the course team plans to address concerns that have arisen in the past with ethnic studies courses in other school districts, Miyahara said that it’d be hard to comment on the process for developing the course before logistics such as course length and requirement have been determined.

Miyahara added that the district has not yet decided the specifics and structure of the team that would devise the course. Board President Fiona Walter suggested that the district could draw from the curriculum currently being created by the state, similarly emphasizing the current “work in progress” nature of the course.

Any eventual curriculum — which Miyahara said should be more fleshed out around the end of the fall semester next year — will need to be approved by the board of trustees before implementation.