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Ethnic Studies in Minnesota

Ethnic Studies has been added to graduation requirements in Minnesota. The Minneapolis School Board unanimously approved Ethnic Studies as a requirement for graduation from Minnesota High Schools, effective with the class of 2025. Saint Paul Schools, as well as the rest of the state’s school districts, are set to follow.

The MN Social Studies Standards Committee and advisory board members are appointed by Minnesota Ethnic Studies Coalition and input from the Department of Education. All members of the board must be inclusive and representing ethnic and racial diversity. The language of the HF 4663 bill passed the state legislature May 11, 2020. It mandates the required teaching of all ethnicities, identities, perspectives and cultural backgrounds. The bill has been enacted by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota. Minneapolis, and St. Paul passage by city council is important in reforming Minnesota’s curriculum to better serve all students across the state.

M.K. Nguyen

M. K. Nguyen is a member of the Minnesota Social Studies Standards committee and is shaping the state’s social studies standards for the next ten years. “Ethnic Studies benefits all our students regardless of their intersectional realities,” she says.

The idea of making ethnic studies a state requirement was introduced by students.

One of Nguyen’s hopes is to improve the economic curriculum standards through an ethnic studies lens. “The economics standards start drilling scarcity into our babies’ heads at an early age, instead of teaching our young folks the idea of managing abundance of our biodiverse ecosystems,” she says.

The challenge will be in developing a standardized curriculum that is inclusive and effective for all students in all school districts. Public schools vary from city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, budgets to budgets. Social studies thus far have European values, practices, and cultures, which does not give details and truths about underrepresented groups, such as Black, brown, and Indigenous people. 

Lisa Purcell, District Program Facilitator of Minneapolis Public Schools, says, “One of the essential components of ethnic studies is that students are co-constructors of the curriculum, so our goal is to support teachers in making that a reality and to have every course look different based on who is in the class.”