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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

Promotion pays off for new ethnic studies class for 2023-2024

Fullerton+Joint+Union+High+School+District+officials+have+put+together+an+informational+flyer+to+promote+the+new+Ethnic+Studies+class+to+be+offered+for+the+2023-2024+school+year.+Counselors+who+handed+out+registration+packets+to+non-seniors+earlier+this+semester+included+this+handout+for+students+to+consider+adding+to+their+course+selections.
Image used with permission from Hera Kwon
Fullerton Joint Union High School District officials have put together an informational flyer to promote the new Ethnic Studies class to be offered for the 2023-2024 school year. Counselors who handed out registration packets to non-seniors earlier this semester included this handout for students to consider adding to their course selections.

For the first time, school officials offered Ethnic Studies as a new social science elective during spring registration in the 2021-2022 school year.

However, no one ended up signing up for it.

To prevent this from repeating, one of the Fullerton Joint Union High School District’s [FJUHSD] teacher on special assignments, Sharon Hollon from Fullerton Union High School created flyers advertising the course. They were then delivered to Sunny Hills, where they were inserted into registration packets given to every freshman, sophomore and junior earlier this semester.

This promotion paid off as head counselor Beth Thomson confirmed last week that enough students have signed up for one Ethnic Studies class in the fall.

“It’s good to hear that there’s enough interest for us to have it because it’s an elective class students are choosing to take time out of their schedule for,” said social science teacher Hera Kwon, who will teach the class.

Junior Bella Gomez, who learned of the class from the flyer from counselor presentations in her U.S. History class, plans to take the course.

“I wanted to take the class to learn more about my heritage,” Gomez said. “I like that Sunny added this class to let people learn more about different ethnicities, and I look forward to seeing how the class will work.”

ETHNIC STUDIES AS A GRADUATION REQUIREMENT

In October 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom passed Assembly Bill 101, mandating that Ethnic Studies be an educational requirement for high school graduation by 2030, which will first affect the Class of 2030.

Similar mandates have surfaced across the nation in recent years, including a June 2017 Oregon law requiring K-12 schools to implement Ethnic Studies standards by the 2026-2027 school year, a December 2020 Connecticut bill directing all high schools to provide courses on Black and Latino studies starting fall 2022 and a New Jersey March 2021 act mandating K-12 districts to instruct about diversity and inclusion beginning the 2021-2022 school year.

Some conservative political and religious groups have criticized the implementation of Ethnic Studies into the curriculum, attributing it to a term called, “critical race theory” — the belief that racism lies in government institutions, including schools.

Their impact recently surfaced in April last year when the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District board of trustees voted to ban the teaching of courses promoting critical race theory, becoming the first Orange County district to do so.

NEW SOCIAL SCIENCE CURRICULUM NOT AN ISSUE IN THIS DISTRICT

Despite this one instance of backlash in Orange County, FJUHSD officials said they have taken steps to ensure its stakeholders in the community would feel more at ease with its approach to meeting the impending state graduation requirement.

For example, Sunny Hills principal Craig Weinreich — then an assistant principal at La Habra High School, another campus in the FJUHSD — and SH social science teacher Greg Abbott formed a committee in early 2021 with other FJUHSD educators and administrators to work on designing an Ethnic Studies course, Kwon said. The next year, other FJUHSD instructors, such as Kwon, joined the group to help refine the class’ curriculum.

Kwon said results of those meetings culminated with the Ethnic Studies coursework, which hones in on the cultural, historical, political, economic and social facets of African, Native, Latin and Asian Americans. It also features a research project on a group, not limited to one of the four, of the student’s choice in the second semester as part of the class requirements the FJUHSD created.

“I think [the committee] did a great job of creating a class that really celebrates different cultures and celebrates the diversity we have as a district,” Weinreich said. “The feedback from the district has been really good about the class, so I’m excited about it.”

So far, the following FJUHSD schools have students enrolled in the course beginning with the 2022-2023 school year: Buena Park, Fullerton Union, La Vista, Sonora and Troy. 

Sunny Hills also intended to pilot the course in August 2022; however, it could not because of insufficient student interest, school officials said.

In addition to the state eventually making Ethnic Studies mandatory for graduation, the course will meet the University of California [UC] and California State University [CSU] schools’ requirements as a social science elective class according to the flyer.

“What our district has decided to do is get a head start and start pilot testing the class as an elective so that when it does become a requirement, there’ll be a smoother transition,” Kwon said. “The state is pretty general about whether it should be a history class. … It could be more from the art perspective or English perspective; that’s really up to the district as to how they want to do that.”

NEW MUSIC ELECTIVE STILL IN LIMBO

The Music, Listening and Literature course, which consists of analyzing music through critical thinking and writing, will also be open to all grade levels as an elective course that meets the visual and performing arts requirements of UC and CSU schools, Thomson said.

“We threw [Music, Listening and Literature] out as an option, mainly because we have a new choir teacher, and he’s only got three classes right now,” Weinreich said. “We’d love to get him five classes, so he can hopefully grow his program a little bit more.”

Choir teacher Aaron Duncan-Schwartz, who will teach the new class, suggested Weinreich add the course to Sunny Hills because of his experience instructing the course at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, which is at another school district.

“I’m excited for it, especially having something that is accessible for the whole campus,” Duncan-Schwartz said. “A lot of people who perhaps haven’t been in the performing arts being able to jump in and create their own music and participate in COFA [Conservatory of Fine Arts] sounds pretty exciting.”

As of this week, Thomson said although some students have signed up for this music elective, she has not heard back from FJUHSD officials whether the class can be added to the fall master schedule.

Students who already exhibit their interest in music, like junior Michael Amescua, who takes Duncan-Schwartz’s guitar class, are showing interest in this new course.

“I listen to a lot of music, so I’m really excited for this one because it’s right up my alley,” said Amescua, who first learned about the class from his counselor registration presentation in his U.S. History class. “I like talking about music, and my favorite songs and albums and what they mean and knowing that [Duncan-Schwartz] will be teaching it, I’m even more excited than before.”

Junior Talitha Arthurs, who currently takes Orchestra and Symphonic Band with music teacher Whitney Ting, also plans to take the Music, Listening and Literature class next semester.

“I take a lot of music classes already, and I’m really interested in music, where it comes from and how it’s made,” Arthurs said. “I’m going to try to keep my expectations open for the class and keep an open mind about it, but I’m really excited to see what it will be like.”

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Justin Pak
Justin Pak, News Editor
After spending his first year on The Accolade staff as a copy editor, junior Justin Pak returns as the news editor. Through journalism, he aims to strengthen his writing and time management skills. In his free time, Pak enjoys sleeping.
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