Ethnic Studies Is a Must for Our Schools, Claim Boston City Councilors

Twelve of the 13 Boston City Councilors signed onto a letter supporting the Boston Teachers Union’s Ethnic Studies Now! Committee and its campaign to fully integrate Ethnic Studies into the City’s public school curriculum. The Committee, headed by educators from the Boston Teachers Union (BTU), is advocating for the program to become a core element of what is taught in the District’s curriculum, making the school curriculum more representative of one of the state’s most diverse student populations.

The vision for Ethnic Studies in Boston Public Schools (BPS) centers on the history and experiences of people of color to empower educators and students alike to not only collaboratively learn about  world history, but also learn about the history that honors and affirms intersectional identities. Ethnic Studies builds on the collective power of communities of color and their social movements to inspire all to act locally and globally toward justice and transformation.

“Our students deserve an education that honors their identities, critiques the systems of oppression that structure our world, and creates opportunities for them to build community and make real, impactful change,” said Cecil Carey, an active member of the Ethnic Studies Now! Committee and an educator at Charlestown High School.

The 12 Boston City Councilors who signed the letter in support noted that more than 84% of BPS students are students of color, coming from 139 different countries. The letter was signed by City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Andrea Campbell, Kenzie Bok, Ed Flynn, Michelle Wu, Liz Breadon, Annissa Essaibi-George, Kim Janey, Julia Mejia, Michael Flaherty, Matt O’Malley, and Lydia Edwards.

“We share your commitment to providing the best educational opportunities for students in the district,” the letter reads. “This [integration of Ethnic Studies] has become all the more important given recent movements for social justice that have occurred in our communities, around the country, and around the world.”

BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius has announced her support of Ethnic Studies and added the curriculum to the district’s Strategic Plan, though no funding has been allocated for any Ethnic Studies positions for the 2020-21 school year as of press time. The Ethnic Studies Now! Committee encourages funding for Ethnic Studies being allocated as soon as possible in order to follow through on the district’s commitment to racial equity.

The proposal put forth by the Committee urges the district to:

•Pilot an Ethnic Studies course in three to six schools within BPS in the 2020-2021 school year.

•Allocate funding for one or more district-level full-time Ethnic Studies “Instructional Coach” educational position(s), supervised by the Social Studies Academic Department.

•Allocate district funding for professional development training for teachers and staff in which the pilot course is being taught.

•Allocate district funding for curricular development, including classroom materials and the implementation of a cycle of development, piloting, reflection, revision, and expansion of new courses like African American, Asian American, Native American, and LatinX studies.

The Ethnic Studies Now Committee has built support for the policy among parents, families, students, community leaders and educators for the past three years. Dr. Bettina Love has endorsed the proposal as have many community organizations including the Citizens for Public Schools, Orchard Gardens United, the Boston Education Justice Alliance, BLS Asian Students in Action, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development Inc. The list is still in formation.

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