SB 5023

by Tracy Castro-Gill

The Washington State Legislature has sent SB 5023, “Concerning an ethnic studies curriculum for public school students,” to Governor Inslee to sign into law. This is great news for many of us who have been fighting for years to get curricula that is relevant for our students and challenges white supremacy.

We should not, however, think our job is done. The bill reads very much like liberal multiculturalism and does not mention anything about anti-racism or the critical analysis of the the power structures in our country and the world. You can read the report here. But what’s disconcerting is the following language:

Summary: Essential Academic Learning Requirements.By September 1, 2020, OSPI must adopt EALRs and grade-level expectations that identify the knowledge and skills that all public school students need to be global citizens in a global society with an appreciation for the contributions of diverse cultures. The EALRs and grade-level expectations must be periodically updated to incorporate best practices in ethnic studies.
Ethnic Studies Materials and Resources.By September 1, 2020, OSPI must identify and make available ethnic studies materials and resources for use in grades 7–12. The materials and resources must be designed to prepare students for global citizenship in a global society, with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures.

School districts are encouraged to provide ethnic studies courses that “incorporate” whatever materials are created by an OSPI Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee. So while this feels really good, and may be a win on some levels, it has no teeth. There is no mandate to provide ethnic studies. In a state whose teaching force is 90% white (some of whom feel emboldened enough to write trash like this: Diversity education is divisive education) I am not satisfied.

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