HomeBlogsGovernor Hesitates Signing Ethnic Studies Bill

Governor Hesitates Signing Ethnic Studies Bill

California High School Assembly

By Ed Diokno

GROWING UP in an immigrant household, I remember my parents would always refer to our white neighbors as the “Americans.”

This was funny, because my father fought for the U.S. during World War II and defended the Stars and Stripes in Korea and worked for the the city we lived in. How American can you get?

The image they had of themselves were as foreigners – not “Americans.”

In school, we were told about our American forefathers, Manifest Destiny, the building of the transcontinental railroad, about grand ideas, inventions and bravery of historical figures, all of whom were European descendants. It’s no wonder we held “Americans” in such high regard. No wonder the Euro-Americans hold themselves in such high esteem. They built themselves a society in which all the institutions supported and perpetuated this myth.

A California bill awaiting the governor’s signature could dramatically change this single-lens perspective.

Assembly Bill 101 seeks to widen the lens through which history and literature  is taught in California schools. Authored by a coalition of Asian, Latino and black lawmakers, including   Assemblyman Chris Holden, Luis Alejo and Rob Bonta, the potentially game-changing bill  was passed by the Assembly and state Senate and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 8.

If the governor signs the bill, it would the first step in easing a lot of tension America is undergoing because the country’s shifting demographics wherein we see the white population shrinking and the communities of color getting larger. By 2040, demographers estimate Euro Americans would be in the minority in California.

A study by Dr. Christine Sleeter revealed that an alarming gap between the real diversity of California’s students and the people students see, read about and read from in these textbooks. For example, despite our state’s diversity, Dr. Sleeter found that “in history/social science [textbooks], representation of whites ranged from 41-80 percent, African-Americans from 2-28 percent, Latinos from 0-4 percent, American Indians from 1-10 percent, and Asian-Americans from 0-8 percent.” Compare these percentages to the 2014 student demographics in San Diego Unified School District: 23 percent white, 10 percent African-American, 46 percent Latino, .3 percent American Indian and 3 percent Asian American.”

What school children of color learn is that their fathers, grandparents or ancestors have not contributed to the greatness of this country and that they should be grateful that the Euro Americans have allowed them to enjoy the benefits of being an American. In a state like California where the student body is 75% students of color, shifting the viewpoint would have a powerful impact on their self-image and the way their communities fit in the making of this country.
Assembly Bill 101 notes:

“Based on the National Education Association (NEA) publication, The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies, the inclusion of ethnic studies in a curriculum has a positive impact on pupils of color.

“Ethnic studies benefit pupils in observable ways, such as pupils becoming more academically engaged, increasing their performance on academic tests, improving their graduation rates, and developing a sense of self-efficacy and personal empowerment.

AB101 would create a blue-ribbon advisory body to come up with recommendations on how to broaden the state’s K-12 curriculum. In its original version, the bill would have mandated the inclusion of ethnic studies in high school.
California student body by ethnicity
A 2011 study concluded that a curriculum that integrated ethnic studies into a school’s regular studies is more likely to positively impact students’ racial attitudes than occasional assemblies or erratic programs.

Thandeka K. Chapman & Tricia M. Gallagher-Geurtsen with the California Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education, San Diego regional network, wrote an opinion piece for the San Diego Union Tribune:

“We support AB 101 because developing ethnic studies programs in all of our state’s public high schools is an integral part of cultivating a classroom and social environment that is accepting of diverse cultures and challenges students to become thoughtful consumers of information. It is vital for young people to learn about the many different histories and contributions of Americans, while also feeling like they can change their communities in positive ways. This bill will help close the achievement gap by reducing student truancy, increasing student enrollment, reducing dropout rates and better preparing Californian youth to be college-prepared, career-ready and social-justice oriented.”


Unfortunately, the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition says they have heard this bill has lukewarm support by the Governor’s office and with than a week to go, he may veto the bill. Here are two things you can do right now to help passage of AB101:

1. Call Governor Brown at (916) 623-4866
Then dial 1 for English & 4 to speak with a rep. Use/Share this ESN number so we can keep track of how many calls are made.2. Email Governor Brown:
You can also sign a petition asking the governor to sign AB101

(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading