Ethnic Studies: Why not start in High School?

Providing ethnic studies for young minds to learn offers many advantages that are often overlooked

January 19, 2023

We all have appreciated and celebrated our culture in one way or another. As teenagers grow older in high school, they have discovered a pattern of how their exploration of identity outside of school was different from their experience in school. However, the diversity that many see outside is not represented enough in the classrooms they entered and the textbooks they read. Now more than ever, it is crucial to celebrate and educate about the diversity and communities that are all around us. Why not start with what our brains are being taught in school?

Ethnic Studies From a Teacher’s Perspective

What led me to this big idea was my dual enrollment class History Through a Chicano Perspective. Professor Padilla shared that in 2025, ethnic studies will be required in high school courses. Padilla is very passionate about culture and its importance in today’s society which is heavily shown through her teachings. 

“It definitely took time to get to this place, but I do feel strongly connected to my culture. The way that I’ve done that is through learning history, which I feel like I continue to learn as I continue to look into more of [chicano] history…things I was not able to do growing up because my parents weren’t really aware of it themselves,” said Padilla.

She mentions how she was not aware of history until she grew older which applies to why this is such an important issue to talk about. Once we step up and make that change to apply ethnic studies in high school, more and more generations are going to be able to spread their knowledge to the generations after then. 

Padilla has always enforced the ideas of strong connections and the impacts of what you learn and how you can apply your knowledge to a variety of situations.

“It’s really important to bridge that gap between the community and the school and knowing that she (a female author she is talking about) did that in her classroom was by bringing people from the community to teach children…Also gives students to be proud of their culture and learning together. That’s something that’s rare that doesn’t happen in schools.”

Ethnic studies not only brings the awareness of the diversity that is all around us but makes students proud to know where they came from. 

Alex Turner has been teaching social studies and philosophy at San Marcos High for seventeen years. He is more than in favor of offering ethnic studies in high school but he offers other ideas that are realistic and other factors that need serious consideration.

“That’s another reason why I’ve been so hesitant about the idea of throwing an ethnic studies course as high school students needing it. Not that I don’t see it necessary but students have so many classes that they have to take, what are the ones that are important and which ones are not important… just something we’re struggling with in education,” Turner said, “I think the intent is good. I think there are always going to be failures and that’s because we’re people and we struggle.”

After teaching for so many years, Turner has seen a variety of changes throughout San Marcos High. He is aware of how the education system works which brings many obstacles to providing these studies. 

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Ethnic Studies From Student’s Perspective

Danielle Henderson, a senior at San Marcos High School and president of the Black Student Union wants to be the help and push communities that need to be represented. 

“As president of Black Student Union I like to represent black people on campus because we’re already such a misrepresented small minority on campus so I want to make sure I create an open environment for those in my community as long as getting to know those people on my campus and seeing the ways we are similar and trying to connect with people that may have similarities that I don’t see from other people” Henderson said.

Henderson is a senior who wants to leave a mark in our community here at San Marcos High School. She knows what is right from wrong and like many, she is able to strive for a change. 

“There’s a lot of things being said to do which is nice knowing administration have certain goals…There is not necessarily enough being done…I think it’s also important because in life, you will meet people from different backgrounds and even in certain jobs you have to be adaptive, you have to be aware of the people that you work with and how they come from different backgrounds,” said Henderson.

Henderson recognizes the advantages of ethnic studies being introduced to students at a time while they are still forming their identity. Ethnic studies bring more than just knowledge of the past. It introduces new ideas that can broaden new ways of thinking. 

Knowing that there is a problem within so many communities not being represented is one thing, but being the one to take action towards what we fight for is what many students are lacking within our administration. 

Jacqueline Olguin Hernandez is the president of the Hispanic Student Union. Hernandez and Hernderson share many of the same ideas on this issue.

“I think it is very important because we spend a lot of our time here at school…this is really where we develop our minds and if we don’t develop our minds in an environment which we feel accepted and represented then I feel like that can really have an effect on how well we perform in school,” said Hernandez.

A majority of our lives are spent in school, and if students don’t feel welcome and safe, how are they able to perform in such an environment? 

High school students are at a critical point in their life where they are forming their identity and ways of thinking. Offering ethnic studies provides several advantages and after many years of always learning from one perspective, both students and teachers are now just counting down the days of when we will start to see a change in our education. 

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