Ethnic Studies


Ashley Bollinger

In the 2021-22 school year, Green Mountain High School added a new course to its course catalog: Intro to Ethnic Studies. This class, as explained by its official course description, gives a contemporary analysis and contextualization of concepts such as racial identity, ethnicity, gender, and others. Not only does it combine both historical and modern frameworks for issues that have plagued society for centuries, but the course also presents students with the ability to learn about relevant topics that they are likely to experience or witness well beyond high school. When asked about the course, Mrs. Valdez, Green Mountain’s Ethnic Studies teacher, shares “This class has us look deeply about ourselves and hit the social-emotional teaching that helps students learn self-awareness and identity. A lot of personal growth happens in this class.”

In the past few decades, however, the controversy surrounding Ethnic Studies has risen. Confusion over its curriculum and overall goal has made some skeptical of the class. Those who are hesitant about Ethnic Studies propagate the term “critical race theory” to dissuade others from supporting the course. As Mrs. Valdez explains, “[Critical race theory]  is just a theory used in law schools to understand how race and the law are connected. There is no CRT curriculum or resource.” One of the byproducts of the course’s backlash is the notion that Ethic Studies teaches hate. However, nothing could be further from the truth. As Mrs. Valdez points out, (in her opinion) “Learning about cultures other than your own teaches us empathy, dignity, respect, and pride in our own cultures.” One of the class’s many goals is to inform students about things like prejudice, discrimination, and marginalization in order to dismantle hatred and educated young adults on important subjects. Not only does Ethnic Studies diversify students’ understanding of important and relevant subjects, but it also teaches them to avoid and combat racism, sexism, homophobia, and hatred in general. When dealing with sensitive subject matters, tension and emotion seem almost inevitable. However, Mrs. Valdez shares “I work hard at building a safe, trusting community where students feel respected and comfortable sharing about themselves.”

Ethnic Studies is a class for open-minded individuals interested in social justice. If enrolled in the course, students are also offered three guaranteed CU college credits through CU succeed at a discounted rate. It’s an excellent opportunity to get ahead of the game, both academically and socially. Ethnic Studies encourages discussion surrounding topics that are often considered “taboo”, aiding communal and societal growth. As someone currently enrolled in Ethnic Studies, I would highly recommend it to anyone considering expanding their horizons.