Getting Our Noses Out of Our Textbooks: Why We Need More Diverse Classes

By Hope Su

At Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS), all students are required to take American Literature as their English class in junior year. While American literature can be diverse, most courses focus on traditional pieces written by Caucasian male authors.

Controversy surrounding white-washed textbooks and biased curriculums isn’t new. However, is that really an excuse for Americans to continue teaching limited history and literature? While there is value in teaching the traditional canon, offering a variety of English and history classes that offer more than just Western culture would greatly benefit America’s high school students.

In February 2016, high school students in Memphis, Tennessee were given the opportunity to take an African American history class. One of the first of its kind in a high school, this class’ curriculum is centered around the adversities overcome by early African American leaders. In most cases, the history of African Americans is taught in U.S. History but this class focuses more on the Africans Americans themselves rather than simply their role in American history overall.

For example, the Civil Rights movement is an important part of African American history but it is often mentioned only briefly in the average history class. An African American studies class, on the other hand, allows students to take an entire course that centers around the culture and history. In the 21st century, this type of high school class is long overdue. Students need more opportunities to study different cultures independently in order to develop our own identities as citizens of a culturally diverse country.

It is extremely important for students to be able to take a diverse variety of classes in high school before they go to college. Once a student reaches college, they will have to pay for their classes which stops them from taking certain classes that could benefit them culturally.

The school’s population has changed dramatically in the last few decades. There are now numerous cultures that are not traditionally represented in what students traditionally study, which leaves international students out of the curriculum. Students from Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America are coming to GHCHS every year and the curriculum needs to be changed in order to support include their own experiences in their learning.

GHCHS should offer African-American studies, as well as other classes like Asian-American studies and Mexican-American studies since those two ethnic groups make up a large portion of GHCHS’ population. GHCHS should also offer classes such as gender studies or courses dedicated to LGBTQIA literature or history in order to appeal to a growing LGBTQIA community.

While these may not be University of California (UC) requirements, they could be electives. I’m sure there would be many students who would enjoy taking these classes as well as many teachers who would enjoy teaching them.

There are also many international students on campus who would benefit from seeing their cultures represented in their classes. They could then help other students in the class by sharing the ideas of their own unique culture.

Learning about different cultures would make students more effective communicators and problem solvers. All students would excel in the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results (ESLRS), traits all GHCHS students are expected to have, if GHCHS offered a more diverse variety of classes. Students who understand that their way of life isn’t the only correct way of life are lifelong learners and productive members of society.

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