The Orange County Board of Education (OCBE) Ethnic Studies and Critical Race Theory (CRT) forum held on July 27, and a subsequent guest column in the OC registry written by Board Chairman Mari Barke with Wenyuan Wu, were filled with so much misinformation that we were forced to respond.
It was disappointing to see our community group, Truth in Education (TIE), criticized by Barke and to see the OCBE Forum refusing to provide honest reviews of ethnic studies. The speakers, almost none of whom are experts in ethnic studies, did not represent or speak about the reality of Orange County schools.
The OCBE fails to engage in an authentic dialogue on ethnic studies. Professor Theresa Montaño withdrew from the panel after she realized she would be the sole ethnic studies educator and curriculum expert; how can panels move the dialogue forward if panelists are not informed?
Despite Barke’s repeated efforts to present the forum as diverse, the views of the panelists largely echoed the same ill-informed rhetoric against ethnic studies and the CRT. No real discussion of research and theory in this area has taken place, nor any review of the years of data provided by research in ethnic studies.
While the CRT philosophically supports the pedagogy and content of Ethnic Studies courses, they are not synonymous. The CRT was created twenty years after ethnic studies as an academic movement used in legal research to examine the how, why, and effects of racial policies (Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, Chinese Exclusion Act, Indian Removal Act, Executive Order 9066 – Japanese American Internment, Operation Wetback, etc.) on marginalized communities. It became a resource or a philosophy that supported work in ethnic studies classrooms. So, although ethnic studies are not CRT, it is a tool that can be used to support it.
Panelists and public commentators have repeatedly referred to ethnic studies educators as “Marxists” and “Communists.” Yet Barke called the Forum “apolitical”. This is red bait and an effort to silence supporters of ethnic studies, far from apolitical.
Unfortunately, the panel organized by OCBE made it clear that they did not understand ethnic studies, nor did they take any classes, nor did they speak to students, parents, teachers or professors who had taken or taught ethnic studies.
Unlike the alarmism of Barke’s Forum, ethnic studies do not victimize students. In truth, Ethnic Studies empowers students from all walks of life to make positive life choices, empower their communities, and improve our society as a whole. Ethnic studies benefits all students, including white students, by promoting cross-cultural understanding among all students.
Ethnic Studies brings the experiences of our diverse communities into the classroom in a way that validates the cultural identities of our students, celebrates the achievements of under-represented ethnic groups, and studies interracial and intergenerational alliances throughout the long term. our country’s history to achieve, equity, justice, and civil rights. Research shows that students who participate in well-designed ethnic studies classes that teach racism and cultural identity develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy, perform better academically, and achieve higher rates.
Ethnic studies emphasize civic engagement. It demonstrates a love for community and for making our society fairer and more equitable for people of all races, classes and genders.
One of Barke’s statements at this event made sense: “We [the OCBE] have no control over making a decision [about Ethnic Studies], this is your local district. We agree and recommend that OCBE leave it to parents, teachers, students, and ethnic studies experts to implement these courses in OC communities. For too long we have heard the outdated, ill-informed and vindictive rhetoric of the OCBE and its supporters, and we will continue to speak out against it.
With this in mind, we have formed a county-wide coalition, TIE (Truth in Education), to ensure that ethnic studies are implemented with special attention throughout Orange County. We will be hosting upcoming events to help parents, educators, and students understand and explore ethnic studies and tools like Critical Race Theory to provide a more comprehensive understanding of this discipline.
Shuntele Andrews is a fifteen-year-old grandmother, a retired history teacher for 35 years, a member of the original class of UCI’s first sixteen black students.
Briana walker is a wife and mother of five on a mission to raise awareness of disinformation campaigns in Orange County.
Mike rodriguez is a biracial Chicano / white husband and father of two, an 18 year old teacher, and co-teaches a summer program called “The History of the Peoples of Orange County”. For more information about TIE, please send an email to [email protected]
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