‘Cal State University is today graduating students who cannot do basic algebra, supposedly a requirement for admission to the university. They also cannot compose a paragraph, much less an entire research paper. Once the CSU has figured out how to teach those two R’s, they can take the time to guarantee full employment for ethnic studies faculty.’ Dr. Tony Lima, Professor of Economics, CSU East Bay.
On Thursday, a bill requiring that an ethnic studies course must be completed for an undergraduate degree at all California State University (CSU) branches was passed in the Senate.
A mandatory class at all CSU branches
Assembly Bill 1460, written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), would start the ethnic studies course requirement in the 2021-2022 academic year, with students graduating in 2025 being the first class to graduate with the required class. According to AB 1460, an ethnic studies class focuses on one of four racial groups in the United States: Asian Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans.
Senator Weber had first written the bill in early 2019, but because it was placed on a suspense file, the bill wasn’t reheard until this year. While it was first written as a way to address California’s diversity and any “miseducation,” AB 1460 took new life and meaning after the George Floyd protests as a way to reduce hatred, and to “think critically” about race in America.
“Part of the fight against racism requires us to increase our understanding of one another and our history,” said Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). “We need students to know not only the contributions of white Americans, but of Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans and their contributions to this country. For over 400 years, we have sanitized and white-washed history, full of lies, omissions and denials. Now is the time for the truth.”
Several Republicans also crossed the aisle on the bill, including Senator Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who mentioned being called racial slurs while campaigning for office.
“Ignorance can become hatred,” noted Senator Chang. “Ultimately this is something I have to support because if we can kill hatred by just informing and educating our students to think critically, to think in different ways to seek more understanding, I think that’s a good thing.”
Opposition against AB 1460 remains
Opposition still stands against the bill, as the Senate passage was only 30-5 with 5 abstaining. Many educators within the CSU system remain strongly opposed to the bill due to the CSU system failing in many other graduation requirements, as well as the perceived lack of applicable educational uses of such classes.
“Cal State University is today graduating students who cannot do basic algebra, supposedly a requirement for admission to the university,” noted Dr. Tony Lima, an economics professor at CSU East Bay. “They also cannot compose a paragraph, much less an entire research paper. Once the CSU has figured out how to teach those two R’s, they can take the time to guarantee full employment for ethnic studies faculty.”
Another professor pointed out how such classes could even hurt students.
“Pre-reqs are there for a reason,” added a professor at CSU Los Angeles who did not want to be named. “They’re to keep up other departments and they’re there to prepare students academically in many areas that aren’t their major. It does help retain students and helps with graduation rates, but CSU as a whole is rocky now. Many campuses have low amounts of students in ethnic studies classes, and it seems like an artificial push to keep them alive, especially during the last several years when budget cuts were threatened all around.”
“It’s just going to be spread thin and not prepare students when it comes to racial issues, just as other CSU classes don’t prepare students in other pre-req areas right now It’s sad and I don’t want students to be ill-educated in those areas, but we’ve seen it happen for years.”
“Before we make any more classes mandatory, let’s check where our funding is first, you know?”
AB 1460 is due to be heard in the Assembly in the coming weeks.
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