The Ethnic Studies Book Battle: Part One

Growing up in California, I never read a book in school by a Latina or Latino author. Our previous Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2016, a bill that would “require the superintendent to oversee the development of, and the state board to adopt, a model curriculum to ensure quality courses in ethnic studies.” The million-dollar question is, what happened to those ethnic studies? Was the initiative shelved -or- was it purposely ignored to continue benefiting certain publishers? 

Governor Gavin Newson has also not helped to diversify which books are selected and included within public school districts. In 2020, he vetoed Assembly Bill 331. CalMatters newsroom reported, “as originally written, Assembly Bill 331 by Assembly member Jose Medina, a Democrat from Riverside, would have made ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement by the 2024-25 school year. This would have given school districts enough time to ramp up implementation over a 4-year period. It also included the funding needed to get the bill off the ground.” 

Recently, the California State Board of Education approved a tentative ethnic studies model curriculum. The L.A. Times reported that “for now, the model curriculum serves as a guide for school districts that want the option to offer ethnic studies. But its lessons stand to become a flashpoint for debate again in the months ahead, as a bill to make a high school ethnic studies course a graduation requirement — believed to be the most far-reaching law of its kind nationally — makes its way through the Legislature.” The California battle continues, for true inclusion and implementation of ethnic studies. 

Ironically, the ban on ethnic studies a few years ago in Arizona actually invigorated the ethnic studies movement in other states. Texas, for instance, moved toward a statewide inclusion of ethnic studies curriculum in its public schools. Interestingly, California is behind the curve when it comes to the actual implementation of ethnic studies curriculum and diverse, bilingual books. Conversations and discussions have been taking place for decades and decades with the definitive adoption and implementation of ethnic studies. This begs the question; is the book selection system rigged? It’s no secret minority authors are often left out, especially when they lack cozy relations with the billion-dollar publishers who have established juicy contracts with various school districts. Comment below on if you think the system is rigged, and stick around for part two in which I’ll discuss my thoughts on the lack of representation when just a handful of major book publishers have the textbook market cornered in our nation’s schools.

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Randy Jurado Ertll

Randy Jurado Ertll

Randy Jurado Ertll, attended some of the toughest public schools within Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). He and his family moved dozens of times throughout Los Angeles. He attended Menlo Avenue Elementary School – which he loved dearly as a child – even though violence was an everyday occurrence in the surrounding community. He survived James A. Foshay Junior High School in the mid 1980’s. As a child, he escaped a rural Civil War in El Salvador, and while in Los Angeles, he escaped an urban Civil War (taking place in South Central Los Angeles) by being accepted into the A Better Chance-ABC scholarship program by going far way to study at John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minnesota. Hella cold. He returned to his community by applying and being accepted into Occidental College where he was indoctrinated to become a social justice activist, reader, writer, free thinker, and free, rebel, spirit.

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