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America’s educational system continues to waver, as the heated debate on Ethnic Studies remains complacent.
At the University of Colorado at Boulder, the department of ethnic studies is described as “an established undergraduate program that provides students with conceptual and methodological tools to analyze the historical, political, and social and cultural forces that have shaped the development of America’s diverse racial and ethnic peoples.”
This program teaches ideas supporting diversity and historical perspectives on social movements and heroes who fought for equal rights for people regardless of ethnicity, gender and race.
However, the ethnic studies department is barely recognized on this campus. This is ironic, since CU claims to strive for increased diversity.
The long-time absence of an ethnic studies department at CU has caused students to be deprived of a full education. As a result, we learn the half-truth of world history. The information taught is one-sided because it is all derived from the white man’s perspective. This leads to a narrow understanding of U.S. history and a promotion of stereotypes in our education.
If our education is constructed solely from a Western European, white man’s perspective, then how can we possibly have any understanding about how other groups of people function together in society?
This narrow perspective puts students at a disadvantage from a global historic perspective. When I was in kindergarten and I learned about Christopher Columbus, my school treated the day like we were commemorating a hero, rather than learning what he had done to the indigenous people of the Americas. We learned of his supposed “discovery,” based on mandatory curriculum.
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned that he was responsible for slaying thousands of indigenous peoples.
Since attending college at CU, I have been given the option to take ethnic studies courses, which delve much deeper into the true elements of history.
As a student of higher education, I choose to learn more about different cultures and people outside of what I have already learned because I don’t have that much knowledge about them. Now that I am more conscious of these alternate perspectives, I am curious to learn more than what I have been told. Depravity of that knowledge has given me curiosity to learn about what has been covered up and ignored in history.
The content that I have learned through my ethnic studies courses has helped me break the stereotypical notions that I used to have about people of diverse backgrounds and cultures. I have learned that it is much better to be open minded than to assume that different people think and behave in ways that society says that they do, which is often false.
I feel much more informed and conscious of those who are different from me. I can only wish that CU would enforce that every other student learn a little bit from this department as well.
Making at least one ethnic studies course a core requirement for graduation will give all students the opportunity to broaden their horizons by having an equal opportunity to learn the history of diverse groups of people.
Because students are taught history through the lens of Western European theory, only a handful of influential movements and people of other ethnic backgrounds are represented.
With the exception of slavery and the civil rights movement, we aren’t learning anything about the continent of Africa and its people pre-dating the slave trade. We aren’t learning much about the lives of Native peoples prior to European colonization.
What do we know about Asian culture before parts of it were conquered? We have not learned the full context of the internment of Japanese Americans, beyond the perspectives of history textbooks and literature.
There is so much of history that we continue miss out on because of an underrepresentation of ethnic voices.
Having a broader view of world history will help students have a better understanding of diversity. There will be a universal consciousness and less xenophobia (or fear of foreigners) in our world.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Stacey Sams at Stacey.firstname.lastname@example.org
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