Stay woke: Ethnic studies add color to the classroom


Maddy Gleason , Reporter

Massacres, torture, terror, sexual abuse, systematic military occupations, removals of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories, forced removal of Native American children to military-like boarding schools, allotment and a policy of termination.

These are all the historical atrocities against the native americans. Countless tribes full of rich history and culture used to live in these lands, before European invaders took over. In fact, many of these controversial historical events are focused on in the proposed ethnic studies course. Many of the events in the past are horrible, but the way we choose to look at them can empower minority students and build empathy and relationships between majority student groups.

“I think that by the time students get into high school, especially, they should understand history as complex and understand that it’s not always fair for all human beings,” said Ed Cash, head of the social studies department.

Unfortunately, Durango 9R declined to offer classes that describe the histories of marginalized peoples, but not for the reason that you’d think.

“ It’s not something that has been highly promoted by community members, but if they did want to, we could find a way to make that happen,” said Robert Logan, senior member of the social studies department.

If an ethnic studies course was included, it would be necessary to find students who want to take the course and to combat the responses from all points of view: reluctant, opposed and outwardly supportive. Other school systems have tried out these ethnic studies classes, and it can work, but it depends on the history of the area as well.

“Arizona has an ethnic studies course, and it’s somewhat controversial. We don’t struggle with the same dynamics here, at least to the same extent, so that’s a good question to think about,” said Logan.

Despite the possible controversy, we have to think about what we need to teach our youth.

So. Kaitlyn Ashburn takes AP World History, one of the more difficult classes offered at DHS.

“We should not hide our history. We need to learn what we’ve done in the past. In reference to bad things that are apart of our history, we should look at these things and realize that they were bad and learn from them to prevent repeating them,” said Ashburn.

Although it may seem that schools in the United States ignore some parts of history, it’s very mild compared to other countries, such as North Korea, who changed historical articles for the image of the country.

“By looking at the the causes we wish to discontinue, we can identify patterns that we can watch out for in our current societies. We need to learn about our mistakes in order to learn from our mistakes,” said Carson Matz, a former DHS student and expatriate student who is currently in Spain.

Although students and teachers find promise in a possible ethnic studies course, many individuals believe it may take a toll on the school’s image.

According to Stanford News, “While ethnic studies proponents contend the courses can help address academic disparities by aligning individual student experiences with curriculum, opponents have argued they are anti-American, teach divisiveness and may displace opportunities for students to take electives of their choice.

Students work very hard in AP classes all year, and the AP Legacy Grant provides the promise of a $100 check for any student that passes a math, science, or english AP exam with a three, four or five. Every department besides the social studies department is included in the Legacy Grant.

“It’s simple: we are not part of the grant program… English, Math, and Science are the  three areas that seem to be the highest value areas, yet social studies wasn’t included,” said Logan.

“We should receive the money, because it provides an incentive for students to really prepare for their exams and try hard. It’s also nice to be rewarded for the work that you put in,” says Ashburn.

Stanford News performed a study on the questionable effect of ethnic studies course, and they found that students made improvements in attendance and grades, but they also increased the number of credits they earned to graduate.

“It’s a novel approach that suggests that making school relevant and engaging to struggling students can really pay off,” said Stanford News.


Sidebar: “I think the necessity of understanding the diversity of our world is absolutely vital, and if we could structure a course and bill a curriculum that’s really relevant we could learn to make the world more fair, more equal,” said Cash.