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Ethnic Studies is the interdisciplinary study of race and ethnicity, with an emphasis on the experiences and contributions of people of color (Asian Americans, Black and African Americans, Latina/Latino/Latinx, and Native Americans) in the United States. Students develop a deeper understanding of their personal identity, their racial and cultural backgrounds, and the diverse cultures of their peers. Students learn about the root causes and impact of racism and various forms of oppression. Ethnic Studies teaches students about historical and contemporary movements for social change and ways to challenge racism and discrimination and positively transform their communities.  Students will strengthen their reading, writing, speaking, researching, and critical thinking skills.  Ethnic Studies fosters empathy, community, and solidarity and helps students to develop knowledge and skills to become active participants in our democratic society.
Assembly Bill 101 - Ethnic Studies Graduation Requirements was passed in October 2021 requiring at least a semester of Ethnic Studies as a graduation requirement for the graduating class of 2030. In April 2022, the MVLA School Board approved making MVLA among the earlier districts in California to have an Ethnic Studies graduation requirement that meets the A-G approved list of classes for the UC system. In Mountain View-Los Altos School District, this course will be a full year’s course for students in the 9th grade beginning in 2023-2024. World Studies, the current 9th-grade class, will move to the 10th-grade year, where all 10th graders will choose one of our World Studies courses: World Studies, AP European History, AP Human Geography (offered at LAHS) AP World History (offered at MVHS).
Ethnic Studies does not delve into international political struggles or comparative examination of how different groups interact outside of the United States. Ethnic Studies builds students’ awareness and their personal and familial connections to their cultures, histories, and contemporary experiences.
Every student has the opportunity to enter Ethnic Studies from their own unique perspective. Students begin the course from an entry point based on their own experiences and identity. Throughout the course, students learn to connect their experiences to the experiences of other communities. The goal is to equip students with the tools to succeed in a society made up of interrelated communities. This course will build critical skills that students can apply throughout their secondary school experience and beyond.
MVLA Ethnic Studies Curriculum

MVLA Ethnic Studies Curriculum

Districts have the option to use California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum which was adopted by the State Board of Education or develop their own curriculum. MVLA chose to build a framework and curriculum that is responsive to the needs and composition of our community. Ethnic Studies in MVLA is grounded in the following key principles. Throughout this course, we strive to build a strong, caring, and inclusive learning community that helps all students to thrive academically as well as socially. Additionally, students will develop the skills and knowledge to contribute to our local community and democratic society.
Key Principles:

  1. Self-knowledge
  2. Empathy
  3. Community
  4. Inquiry
  5. Solidarity
  6. Transformation
Units within the Ethnic Studies Curriculum:

  1. What is Ethnic Studies?
  2. Identity & Narratives 
  3. Historical Origins of Systems of Power
  4. Immigration & Migration
  5. Education & Housing
  6. Justice System
  7. Social Movements 
Units are designed to make connections to the experiences of all students. Students will explore the American experience of our diverse community to build themselves as culturally-aware future leaders.

Below is a sample Course Learning Objectives for Ethnic Studies. Please refer to Curriculum Framework for more details:
Reflection & Analysis
  • Investigate, develop and share their identities and personal histories 
  • Explore and analyze the contributions and experiences of people of color within US 
  • Learn about the artistic and cultural contributions of communities of color and explore the connections between artistic expression and empowerment 
  • Describe, analyze, and evaluate social movements, laws, forms of resistance & resilience 

Civic Engagement
  • Participate thoughtfully and in an informed way in civic discourse with empathy and respect
  • Develop skills to positively engage with and transform their communities 
  • Learn how to pursue actions of change for a better world in solidarity with others through civic engagement

Academic Skills
  • Strengthen skills in reading, writing, research, and public speaking 
Examples of unit overviews

Examples of unit overviews

Unit 1 Overview: What is Ethnic Studies?

Sample Essential Questions:
What is Ethnic Studies and why is it important? 

What are the historical origins of Ethnic Studies and why did students organize for the creation of Ethnic Studies?
Learning Objectives:
Describe what Ethnic Studies is and analyze why it is important in terms of education and society. 

Describe and analyze how and why students organized for the creation of Ethnic Studies classes in the 1960s and 1970s.  

Begin to learn how to discuss the meaning of and issues related to race, racism, ethnicity, gender, culture, class, and oppression, as well as strategies of resistance.
Exp. Assignment / Class Activity: Historical Inquiry
How and why did students organize for the creation of Ethnic Studies? 

Background info
Inquiry with 4 - 5 primary sources 
Reading, discussing, analyzing diverse perspectives (examples: student perspectives, administrative, community, support, opposition)
Skills: sourcing, contextualization
Documentary Clip analysis
Group work Collaboration Skills
Writing Historical Claims backed by reliable evidence

Unit 2 Overview: Identity & Narratives

Sample Essential Questions:
How do ethnicity, culture, race, gender, family roots, and/or other factors influence who you are and your outlook on the world? 

What can we learn about people’s diverse experiences from stories, testimonials, and historical accounts? 

How do we build a positive community based on respect,  empathy, and solidarity across differences of race, culture, gender, and ethnicity?
Learning Objectives:
Explore and develop a deeper understanding of their personal identity, their racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and the diverse cultures of their peers.
Develop skills to practice empathy and build solidarity and analyze how people can build solidarity across differences to contribute to building a better world.
Exp. Assignment / Class Activity: Historical Inquiry
Written Reflections: 
Who am I / Snapshot autobiography

Reading / Analysis / Discussion: 
Analysis of diverse contemporary and historical primary sources
Small group discussions / Socratic Seminars

Unit 3 Overview: Historical Origins of Systems of Power

Sample Essential Questions:
How did colonialism and slavery change power structures in the Americas and create new systems of power?

How were Indigenous, African American, and other communities  impacted by these systems of power and how did they resist and oppose them?
Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to identify, explain, and analyze the impact of settler colonialism and repeated acts of genocide against Native Americans and describe acts of resistance to such oppression both in the U.S. generally and in the Bay Area.

Students will be able to identify and explain how/why the institution of slavery became racialized, why it lasted so long in the USA, and describe acts of resistance to such oppression.
Exp. Assignment / Class Activity: Historical Inquiry
Historical Analysis Essay: 
Skills: Writing Historical Claims
Supporting claims with relevant and reliable historical evidence
Counter argument and analysis
Texts: Reading diverse primary and secondary sources (example: Ronald Takaki A Different Mirror)
Reading and analysis of historical and contemporary accounts of Ohlone Indigenous people and others in the Bay Area.

Unit 4 Overview: Immigration & Migration

Sample Essential Questions:
What are some of the complex experiences of diverse immigrant communities over time?  How do their cultures, languages, knowledge forms, and traditions shape their lives and experiences in the U.S.?
How have policies, laws, and systems of power influenced the experiences of immigrant communities throughout history and today? 

How have immigrants transformed this country, created strong communities in America, and developed resistance, resilience, community empowerment?
Learning Objectives:
Explore, describe, and analyze some of the complex experiences of immigrants, both historically as well as today, through narratives and testimonials.
Describe and analyze diverse reactions to immigrants, including patterns of nativism, racism, xenophobia, anti Semitism, and pressures of assimilation, and analyze how immigrants have navigated these reactions.

Explore, describe, and analyze how immigrants have built strong communities and used a diverse range of strategies of resistance, resilience, and empowerment and transformed this country. 
Exp. Assignment / Class Activity: Historical Inquiry
Oral History 
Interview a family and/or community member to learn about their experiences with immigration or migration

Sample Historical Inquiry: 
What were some of the experiences of diverse groups of immigrants when they were first moving into California?  

Contemporary Connections: Stop Asian American Hate Crimes (Stop AAPI Hate):

Reading, Analyzing, Evaluating News Articles and News Clips from various sources

Unit 5: Education and Housing

Sample Essential Questions:
What role does education play in shaping identity, culture, and community?

How have historical and contemporary housing policies shaped access to opportunities within diverse communities?
Learning Objectives:
Students will investigate the historical and continuing fight for education as a civil right, and the impact education can have on promoting equality or disparity in the diverse population of the United States. 

Students will analyze the different forms education has taken in the United States’s past and present (ex. Linguistically, geographically, culturally, institutionally) as well as the impact these forms of education have had on diverse communities through time.
Exp. Assignment / Class Activity: Historical Inquiry
Mendez v. Westminster Case Study: School Desegregation
Legal analysis
Presentations or Mock Trial

Unit 6: Justice System

Sample Essential Questions:
What are the origins and purpose of the Justice System in the United States?

How have diverse communities been impacted by and engaged with the justice system throughout history and today?
Learning Objectives:
Students will investigate the legal foundations of the Justice system and criminal justice, including laws, law enforcement, courts, and incarceration in the United States justice system, both including Western legal traditions, colonialism, and the system of slavery

Students will investigate the unique traditions of law and order from communities of color that also influence life in the United States today.
Exp. Assignment / Class Activity: Historical Inquiry
Exploration of Court System: Creating Road Maps

Sample Case Study:
United States vs. Ebens (Vincent Chin case)

Current Connections Analysis: 
Analysis of Hate Crime legislation and legal changes over time;
Analysis of Civil Rights & criminal trials

Unit 7: Social Movements

Sample Essential Questions:
How have political/social movements advanced rights and opportunities for communities of color and other diverse groups in the US and influenced and impacted our country and local communities, both historically as well as today?
How and why do people effectively organize and mobilize within their communities to create social change through building effective grassroots organizations?
Learning Objectives:
Students will learn about and be able to discuss and analyze various social and political movements from the civil rights movement to today led by various ethnic and racial groups or other diverse groups to achieve change. 

Students will analyze diverse strategies for creating social change, including boycotts, direct action, nonviolent protest, civil disobedience, and the creation of community organizations, in addition to various forms of local, national, and global advocacy and civic engagement.
Exp. Assignment / Class Activity: Historical Inquiry
Why did American Indians occupy Alcatraz? How did this event influence Native Americans locally and across the U.S.?
Inquiry with 4 - 5 primary sources 
Reading, discussing, analyzing diverse perspectives 
Skills: collaboration, sourcing, contextualization, analysis

Students create photo gallery exhibit, website, or podcast to showcase learning
Community Outreach and Input from Educational Partners

Community Outreach and Input from Educational Partners

MVLA has reached out to various groups in our community to communicate the development of our Ethnic Studies Course and to solicit feedback. This outreach includes: