Conn. Becomes the First State Requiring High School Diversity Studies (Video)

We live in interesting times.

We may not stop too often to consider it, but as we speak we are at the mercy of a global pandemic the likes of which the world has not seen in a hundred years.

We spent the past four years flirting with fascism after an anachronistic constitutional loophole elevated to the nation’s highest office a political neophyte with a soft spot for white supremacists.

Hate crimes are at their highest in ten years.

Income inequality is at its worst in decades, and growing.

The climate emergency threatens mass extinction.

The Republican party has become a haven for racists, xenophobes, homophobes, gun nuts, oligarchs, the ultra rich, and anti-choice so-called “Christians” on a crusade to circumvent democracy.

The Democratic party is beginning–finally–to expand its progressive base, leading to heretofore “fringe” issues like single-payer healthcare, student loan debt forgiveness, raising the minimum wage, and tuition-free college being elevated to the mainstream platform.

Social unrest hasn’t been this bad in half a century, reaching a tipping point this summer amid protests over the police murders of unarmed African Americans George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake, motivating states to form police reform oversight boards.

Change is indeed in the air.

And the state of Connecticut has become the first in the nation to embrace it at the most fundamental level–its schools.

Last week Conn. Gov. Ned Lamont signed Public Act 19-12 requiring high schools offer African-American, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies, beginning in 2022.

Lamont stated in a press release:

“Increasing the diversity of what we teach is critical to providing students with a better understanding of who we are as a society and where we are going. Adding this course in our high schools will be an enormous benefit not only to our Black and Latino students, but to students of all backgrounds because everyone can benefit from these studies. This is a step that is long overdue, and I applaud the work of the General Assembly, State Board of Education, and everyone at the state Education Resource Center whose collaborative work helped get this done.”

Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona added:

“Identities matter, especially when 27 percent of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13 percent identify as Black or African-American. This curriculum acknowledges that by connecting the story of people of color in the U.S. to the larger story of American history. The fact is that more inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all.”

This was not a fiat delivered from the governor’s mansion, but a product of nine committees consisting of 150 educators, administrators, professors and scholars, national researchers, historians, education representatives, community organizations, and families.

Change begins at the local local level, and it doesn’t get more local or pervasive than schools.

With some exceptions, most school curricula consists of decades-old material written by and for the European and European-descended white male hegemony, sometimes with a little help from deep-pocketed religious groups and right-wing ideologues.

Acknowledging marginalized groups will broaden students’ perspectives.

But of course it shouldn’t end here.

Studies spotlighting women, LGBTQ+, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Indigenous cultures must also be incorporated.

But they will be.

Connecticut is taking that crucial step in the right direction.

Other states will no doubt follow suit and take it further.

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.