California is attempting to make up for generations of high school students who graduated without a formidable understanding of the ongoing triumphs and tribulations of people of color and other marginalized groups. Now, the state is mandating that all high school students take “ethnic studies” courses in order to graduate.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law after it gained overwhelming support in the California legislature, the Los Angeles Times reports. Ethnic studies will “help expand educational opportunities in schools, teach students about the diverse communities that comprise California and boost academic engagement and attainment for students,” a statement from the governor’s office said.
The program will focus on histories of Black, Latino, Native American, Asian and other marginalized communities.
“The inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is long overdue,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside), who authored the bill. “Students cannot have a full understanding of the history of our state and nation without the inclusion of the contributions and struggles of Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans. ” He called the approval “one step in the long struggle for equal education for all students.”
The law has attracted much controversy as part of a larger national debate sparked around the inclusion of critical race theory in education.
Under the law, students in the Class of 2030, who will start high school in the fall of 2026, must pass at least a single one-semester course. And, by the fall of 2025, all public high schools will have to offer such a class.
Many schools are already on the path towards providing these courses. A number of schools and districts already offer ethnic studies, namely the Los Angeles Unified school district which already makes it a requirement for graduation.