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WA School District Launched an 'Ethnic Studies' Program Teaching Students to Resist 'Systems of Oppression'

AP Photo/Denis Poroy

The Northshore School District in Washington state launched an ethnic studies program early last year in which an Ethnic Studies Pilot Work Team was offered materials to learn about "transformative ethnic studies in schools that will aid in the development of an Ethnic Studies Framework."

According to a slide presentation from October, the purpose of ethnic studies is "to transform student lives by promoting healing from historical trauma, humanizing and empowering all students, and promoting civic and community engagement through action in solidarity with others."

"Ethnic Studies pedagogy promotes collaboration in learning, higher level thinking and critical analysis of racism and other forms of oppression," the slide continues. "Ethnic Studies further provides students with the opportunity to understand themselves and their intersectionality in relation to society."

And in a November slide presentation, the work team listed several bullet points detailing what "we are talking about" when ethnic studies are being discussed.

These bullet points include that ethnic studies intend to "eliminate racism by critiquing, resisting, and transforming systems of oppression," and that ethnic studies are "responsive to students' cultural, historical, and contemporary experiences."

A December presentation included a draft of the work team's "Framework Components" the team was working on. The themes from this unit were "Identity," "Power and Oppression," "History of Resistance and Liberation" and "Healing."

In a presentation in January of 2022, the work team was told that "Safe, brave spaces are growing" and that the ethnic studies framework should consider "Decolonization through self-determination and cultural resurgence."

Last month, a presentation on "Disability Justice" was delivered and team members were tasked with watching the video, "Paulo Freire and the Development of Critical Pedagogy" prior to the next meeting.

Students at the November, January and March sessions were asked to read a guide entitled, "This Book is Anti-Racist."

Each presentation began with a "Land Acknowledgement" that the Northshore School District is located in areas that have been "colonized, occupied, and renamed."

"We acknowledge the experiences of genocide, forced relocation, ethnic cleansing, and land theft of Indigenous peoples and sacred lands so we can build our awareness of how settler colonization still exists today," the acknowledgment reads. "We honor the ways of knowing and ways of being of Indigenous peoples and tribal nations, who are still here and thriving, in our district-community."

Nonprofit parent group Parents Defending Education, which obtained the work team's presentations, ripped the school district for prioritizing ethnic studies over subjects like reading and mathematics.

"Ethnic studies is being used as another avenue for schools to teach students, as young as pre-K, that the United States is systemically racist," PDE researcher Rhyen Staley said in a statement to Townhall. "The focus of curriculums such as the one Northshore is creating centers around the idea that society is filled with oppression and that students need to be trained activists to end that oppression. Schools should not be in the business of fixing alleged societal ills. Rather, in order to bring about real lasting change, they should be focused on how to best educate students in reading, writing, and math."

Northshore's superintendent, Michelle Reid, is currently the lone finalist for the position of superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

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