Letters to the Editor: California's ethnic studies law removes the whitewash from U.S. history

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Kent Nishimura  Los Angeles Times A STUDENT PRESENTATION is displayed in Ron Espiritu's classroom this month at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in Los Angeles.
A presentation titled "Maya Math" is displayed in a classroom at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: California is finally the first state to make ethnic studies a requirement to graduate high school. Bravo to Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing this bill.

As an Indigenous Maya and father of two teens in public schools, I know this will help my children learn about our history and the contributions of various ethnic groups that built our country, and about the injustices we have endured at the hands of white "settlers."

While this will not be the silver bullet needed to address the inequities in education for Latino students, it will help eliminate racism and offer a platform to share the rich contributions of our ethnic communities to the Golden State. It will also help ease the common pain that people of color feel, because our history has been whitewashed.

I am grateful that our children will finally learn about the good, the bad and the ugly of our American history.

Luis Alfredo Vasquez-Ajmac, Redondo Beach

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To the editor: So near, yet so far.

The new ethnic studies law is desperately needed. Both white students and students of color will benefit by learning how the historical racial barriers faced by certain groups in this country have shaped present-day American society.

Alas, it is not until 2025 that all public high schools must offer an ethnic studies course. That time lag and the requirement that course material be subject to public review leaves an enormous opportunity for those who consider ethnic studies to be divisive to thwart its effectiveness.

These opponents do not concede that systemic racism had a prominent role in the development of this country and that its roots continue to be nourished to this day. It is ironic that the need for an ethnic studies requirement is directly proportional to the opposition it has generated.

Agustin Medina, South Pasadena

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To the editor: If indeed the purpose of education is to provide each student with the tools to live morally, creatively and productively, our children and our society are better served by requiring classes in two basic subjects that continue to be ignored — ethics and personal finance.

The value of ethnic studies pales in comparison.

Mario Tapanes, El Segundo

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To the editor: I am happy that Newsom has signed the bill mandating ethnic studies, which is already required in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But back before economics replaced 10th-grade social studies electives in the high school curriculum in the mid-1980s, ethnic studies was in most LAUSD high schools. From 1972-84, I taught Mexican American studies at Theodore Roosevelt High School.

In 1970, United Teachers Los Angeles demanded that all LAUSD schools with a majority of Mexican American and African American students offer ethnic studies. Teachers have long known the value to our diverse student population of ethnic studies.

John Perez, North Hollywood

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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