Letters + Opinion » Mailbox

Diversify the Curriculum



Thank you for featuring the important work on Indigenous-centered curricula that young activists are promoting in the local public schools ('Long Overdue,' April 28). I have spent the last six years researching youth identity, participation choices and resilience in local high schools. Data from interviews, focus groups, surveys and ethnography clearly show that BIPOC students have to armor up every day in schools and communities to withstand the slew of microaggressions, misrepresentations and silences in the curricula. Negative experiences in schools and towns contribute to how young people feel about themselves and the shape their dreams take.

Curricula connected to local Indigenous culture, such as that featured in the recent NCJ cover story, alongside things like Yurok language electives (which are currently offered at four high schools: Eureka High School, McKinleyville High School, Hoopa Valley High School and Del Norte High School) are examples of providing educational access that promotes respectful pluriethnic coexistence. Yurok language classes affirm identities of heritage-speakers and help address intergenerational trauma by validating Native cultural practices. For white students, these classes educate them about Indigenous peoples as contemporary neighbors rather than as past folklore. And students from other minority backgrounds report feeling more motivated to investigate their own family backgrounds and to take pride in the identities they find there. In short, diverse curricular offerings do many kinds of positive things for students from a range of backgrounds.

I hope that school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers can all work together to find ways to expand curricular offerings that move us further away from misrepresentation and toward appreciation, and applaud those who are already doing so.

Mneesha Gellman, Boston and Kneeland

Add a comment