High school curricula: Progress or regress?

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I was 7 years old when someone called me “brownie” for the first time.

People have asked me if I’m “related to terrorists” because of my appearance, have called my family “uncivilized” because of where we come from and have made fun of my culture. I experience this on a pretty regular basis. Most of the time it comes from people who don’t mean to be racist but are just completely unaware and insensitive of the blatant racism present in American culture.

I am a South Asian high school student from Orange County, California. Both of my parents were born in India and immigrated here about 20 years ago. I constantly deal with racist comments because cultural insensitivity is so ingrained in American society.

That’s why it’s so important for schools to implement a diverse curriculum. We live in a diverse society; it’s time for all school curriculums to reflect that. When schools consistently address issues about race and incorporate stories about different people of color, we can confront our prejudices and overcome them. Furthermore, it has been proven that diversity in the classroom promotes empathy in students, improves student achievement and fosters creativity.

Recent bills in Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire and Arizona ban the teaching of critical race theory, the practice of questioning the role that racism plays in society. Nearly 20 more states plan to introduce similar legislation. These bills are a means of rolling back racial progress, essentially banning classroom discussions about racism, bias, privilege, discrimination and oppression. These are attacks on our First Amendment rights. White fragility is so prominent in Republican lawmakers that they are ostensibly willing to indoctrinate students into believing that the United States’ foundation, history and modern systems are not inherently racist.

Fortunately, California does not plan to implement any similar legislation. But while other states are moving backward, we are stuck in time.

We still have a severely whitewashed curriculum. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet mandated an ethnic studies course for all high school students. Most of our books are written by white men. Most of our history textbooks glaze over stories about people of color and are written from the white male perspective. While California’s high school curriculum may not be in as much danger as those of other states, we still have a long way to go before we can call it “diverse” or “equitable.”

High schools in California and all over the country must implement a more diverse curriculum and address the United States’ racist history and today’s systemic racism, as well as incorporate the stories of other people of color from more countries around the world. This will make students of color feel safer in classrooms knowing that their voices are heard.

High school is an optimal time to introduce topics of anti-racism, as a student’s mindset is shaped by their primary and secondary education. Schools are severely underutilizing their influence and resources to combat racism. It’s time they do better.

Ritika Asher is a junior at the Orange County School of the Arts. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.