The Minneapolis Board of Education hopes its new ethnic studies requirement will help students develop “skills to become agents of change” and create a learning environment “that leads to action.”
Starting with the class of 2025, all Minneapolis students “must earn a passing grade in an ethnic studies course,” according to a resolution passed by the school board earlier this month.
“It’s our responsibility to provide this opportunity for deep examination of power structures in our society along with identifying ways and developing skills to become agents of change,” states the resolution.
The amended graduation requirements define an ethnic studies course as one that includes the “explicit exploration of identity and intersectionality,” prioritizes “the history and culture of historically marginalized groups,” discusses “the history and current role of race, racism, and anti-racist work,” and creates “interdisciplinary learning that leads to action.”
School board member Kimberly Caprini said she is “looking forward to the conversation about how we can modify ethnic studies for middle school and elementary-age students,” according to a video of the Nov. 10 meeting.
“I think by doing that we will definitely be in a better position to change the trajectory of racism in this country, the acceptance of differences, the understanding of different cultures and just being more respectful of each other and celebrating each other’s culture,” she said.
Kim Ellison, chair of the school board, noted that state Rep. Fue Lee has introduced a bill in the Minnesota House to require ethnic studies in all public schools statewide.
Vice Chair Jenny Arneson said that “when we take the step to add credits, it means we are raising the priority level of this in our district.”
It’s “important for us to recognize that our history and our understanding of history has been rooted in white supremacy for a long, long time in the United States, certainly, and elsewhere,” said school board member Nelson Inz.
“I think to some extent it’s disappointing that we have to create a separate space for ethnic studies,” he added, later suggesting that the state’s educational standards are “embedded in white supremacy.”
Inz applauded the “progressive nature of our social studies curriculum in Minneapolis Public Schools.”
Superintendent Ed Graff said Minneapolis schools have to abide by state standards that are “perhaps not necessarily current in today’s world and do take on a very Euro-centric kind of mindset and approach.”
“As we all know, the educational racism and injustice in America is there, and unfortunately, it will be there for some time,” added board member Siad Ali, asking Graff to assure him that ethnic studies will be given “the maximum resources.”
The resolution to create an ethnic studies graduation requirement passed unanimously.