Tag Archives: Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies emerges in Summit Tahoma classrooms

By Cyrus Shakeri

Staff Writer

Ethnic Studies is a controversial class taught at Summit Tahoma during Expeditions that some feel is necessary to understand their own cultural background and heritage. Ethnic Studies helps students understand controversial topics happening around the world.

Ethnic Studies has been banned in the state of Arizona. The ban has been the subject of controversy, and a federal judge has ruled that the ban on Ethnic Studies violates students’ constitutional rights.

Ethnic Studies is a multipurpose class emerging along the West Coast. It consists of controversial topics such as police brutality, immigration and other political issues. Students discuss these topics and how they can be resolved. Angel Barragan teaches Ethnic Studies during Expeditions at Summit and helps students understand their cultural heritage.

Mr. Barragan explained the perspective of students in the course: “Students have a great opportunity to learn about themselves and other people that are different from them.” He added, “Ethnic Studies helps students learn about issues that are affecting everyone.”

Mr. Barragan then spoke about the ultimate goal of the class: “I just want students to be more woke than the moment they first came into my class.”

Tahoma freshman Miles Thompson shared a similar view on Ethnic Studies: “When you walk in, you don’t really know about where you came from, but when you walk out you get more of an understanding.” He said the class has also had an impact on him outside of the classroom: “This class helps me outside of school because it teaches me about different races.”

See below for a video about the Ethnic Studies course:

Representation in the classroom empowers students

By Judy Ly

Rainier Editor-in-Chief

People of color or marginalized people are rarely discussed in-depth in the history textbooks. We know of Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, but not many more names come to mind; not because more historical figures of color don’t exist, but rather because they aren’t taught in class as a requirement.

Ethnic Studies is a class that focuses outside of the Eurocentric lens often taught in traditional history classrooms. This year was the first time Summit Public Schools introduced the curriculum as an Expeditions course.

From being a Spanish teacher for four years, Angel Barragan switched to teaching Expeditions this school year. When he used to teach Spanish, he incorporated cultural factors in his teaching such as Dia de los Muertos, but this was the first time he got the opportunity to teach a curriculum with its sole focus on current world issues.

Mr. Barragan felt like there was a gap in our classrooms of students not being taught about their identities, their history and racial issues: “So as soon as I got the opportunity to create this new course and to teach it here, at Tahoma and at Everest right now, I went with it because I wanted to make sure students had the opportunity to learn this content and get a chance to explore what it means to be diverse or what it means to be in a diverse community and how that can have an impact on people.”   

For their first year, students got to study the history of Ethnic Studies, unsung heroes, representation in media and current events.

Rainier junior Joe Pinkney said the Ethnic Studies curriculum is personal to him: “It’s given me a deeper understanding of my culture and my ethnicities, being Mexican and African American.”  

See this website for more explanation of Rainier’s experience in Ethnic Studies this year.   

See below for a video about the Ethnic Studies course:

Filling the gap of representation through art

 By Judy Ly 

Rainier Editor-in-Chief

For this Expeditions round of Ethnic Studies, students studied the portrayal of people of non-dominant backgrounds in media. From music video to films to even personal poetry, Expeditions teacher Angel Barragan showcased the representation and misrepresentation of Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and African Americans.

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Expeditions teacher Angel Barragan shares his struggle with how he was represented in the media when he was growing up.

In an interview with Mr. Barragan, he said he came from a community with no college graduates few high school graduates. In addition to not seeing himself represented in the faculty, it made it hard for him to believe he could succeed academically in college: “I did eventually, but I think that goes beyond just school, right. That goes through the media, that goes through the way they’re showing people.”

Mr. Barragan added that the representation of people of non-dominant backgrounds is getting better; however, when he was in high school, representation included a lot of stereotypes. He explained that created a certain impression: “All you can amount to be, at some point, is to be like a gardener or a maid or some type of service worker. I think if I saw Latinos that were doing other successful things, it would’ve made me feel I could’ve been successful myself.” These are the reasons why Mr. Barragan thinks everyone needs to be aware of how society portrays others and why everyone should have a positive representation in the media.

See below for a video about this project:

See below for the reporter’s personal take on this project:

For more information about Expeditions Ethnic Studies course, check out this blog

Ethnic Studies gives students a new perspective

By Cyrus Shakeri 

Staff Writer

Many problems have been occurring regarding race and immigrants. More and more controversial topics seem to be coming to light every day. There have been innocent killings of African-American males and desperate immigrants from Honduras trying to get into the United States. Most schools don’t converse about these topics. However, recently schools have been adopting a new class called Ethnic Studies. In this course, students are tasked with correctly dealing with situations regarding race and controversy. Students learn about historical figures of color and parts of the timeline that are not traditionally taught in school history classes. 

Angel Barragan, the teacher for Ethnic Studies, talked about how young people might react differently compared to older people: “I feel like older people often think more about what they say, and I believe younger people react faster to these situations.”

Mr. Barragan offered his view on how to improve race relations, “I believe in raising awareness, and I believe that people keep in mind a way to grow together and that each race could find ground on feeling safe with each other.”

Tahoma senior Alex Heredia, the T.A for Ethnic Studies, talked about the impact and effect that the class has on the students and what the goal of the class is: “Students are learning how to fight and correctly solve situations with racial oppression and other racial issues. The students in our class are also learning about ongoing situations regarding the border and immigrants trying to get through.”

Heredia reflected on the personal impact the class has had on him: “It’s opened my eyes in the fact that I’m able to help a lot more people and in doing that I’m learning about a lot of different backgrounds in cultures, so it’s kinda like a win-win.”

When asked about the topics covered in the class, Heredia said, “The things we’re talking about in this class currently is immigration and police brutality, and we talk about a lot of historical figures of color and how they made an impact on society.”

Tahoma freshman Jacob Silva discussed how Ethnic Studies has impacted him: “It’s made the way I’ve seen the world different because it’s easier to understand the struggles and differences other races go through on a day-to-day basis.”

Silva explained his view on what could be changed in Ethnic Studies, saying, “To better Ethnic Studies, I would suggest if we got deeper and discovered more about other ethnicities from our own.”

After discussing what kind of topics the class could reflect more on, Silva said, “I would want to reflect more on the reasons that we have different stereotypes and different profiles, and I would like to know how those were created and how we can avoid being judged and stereotyped.”

Silva feels that Ethnic Studies has made him more open-minded: “It’s easier to understand and view both sides of the situation on racial topics.”

Summit Rainier now offers Ethnic Studies as a course

By Judy Ly

Staff Writer 

Summit Public Schools has been open for 15 years, and this is the first time the course Ethnic Studies has ever been offered at the Summit Public School: Rainier campus in Eastside San Jose.  Ethnic Studies is an interdisciplinary curriculum that teaches about other ethnicities’ significant social impact on U.S. history.  Here at Summit Rainier, we welcome the curriculum with open arms; however, in places like Arizona, politicians did not only dislike the idea of this class, they fought to ban it and succeeded in doing so.  

In class, Rainier students watched the Independent Lens documentary Precious Knowledge.  The film takes place in Arizona and shows how a group of students, most of whom are of Latinx descent, become empowered through the curriculum once they start learning about the history of themselves.  Even with the positive effects the program had on the students, conflict soon arose between politicians and the students.

In an excerpt of the documentary, Tom Horne, former politician and Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction at the time, critiques the Ethnic Studies curriculum by saying, “There are better ways to get students to perform academically and want to go into college then to try to infuse them with racial ideas.” When asked if he thought Ethnic Studies was doing anything right, he added, “I really don’t, no. I think they should be abolished.”

House Bill 2281, the ban on Ethnic Studies in Arizona that got passed in 2010, claims the course teaches pupils to “resent or hate other other races of people.” In the ban, it also says it prohibits any class or program that seeks to “promote the overthrow of the United States government.”

Despite what the ban claims, students within the documentary say the class had only helped them understand themselves better and unify.  Students at Summit Rainier joined the class with the same objective.

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Rainier junior Alan Do

When asked why he joined Ethnic Studies, Rainier junior Alan Do said, “I wanted to learn more about the history of marginalized people, and I also want to explore my own identity.”  He continued, “I think going to a class that teaches everyone about each other’s history and each other’s people really allows me to understand people’s backgrounds a lot more.”

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Rainier senior Michelle Thai

Rainier senior Michelle Thai said, “It’s important because you’re learning about your own identity, and that’s really empowering because I feel like people these days, especially minorities, don’t feel as empowered in America.”

The Ethnic Studies instructor at Summit Rainier, Angel Barragan, is hoping for students to not only feel empowered but also to have the academic benefits that come alongside with being enrolled in an Ethnic Studies course. In a study of 1,405 ninth graders, conducted by Stanford and San Francisco Unified School District, students who had eighth grade GPAs below 2.0 were automatically enrolled in Ethnic Studies, while the students who had eighth grade GPAs above 2.0 were able to choose whether or not to enroll in that specific class.  Stanford News states, “The researchers found that attendance for those encouraged to enroll in the class increased by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points and credits earned by 23.”

When the students in Arizona heard that local politicians, including Mr. Horne, were advocating to ban the course by law, they began protesting. They even caught wind of the local politicians having a meeting to discuss the ban and went into the building to protest for their right to the education that made a difference in their lives.

Rainier senior Edwin Escobar said, “I’m not a big protester, however, I think that what really inspired me the most was the people who were low-income, who are minorities.” He added that many minorities are going through a financial struggle, are immigrants, or come from a single-parent household, “so these students are already struggling to just


Rainier senior Edwin Escobar

work well towards the system, to have a working system for them … when they find the Ethnic Studies class, these kids got engaged, and they sort of left behind all the problems they had, and they focused on what matters to them. They developed a recognition to the importance of studying about their history, and they fought for it and that’s what really inspired me.”

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed HB-2881, banning classes for a specific ethnic group, which basically shut down Ethnic Studies. This resulted in the Tucson Unified School District shutting down their Mexican American Studies program. In addition, politicians also ruled to ban certain books.  In 2017, there was an article published by NBC News saying Judge Wallace A. Tashima claimed that these bans on books and Ethnic Studies courses were “unconstitutional.”  

When asked why he thought the Ethnic Studies curriculum is so controversial and why politicians might feel the need to ban it, Mr. Barragan answered, “[The politicians] say that the classes are the ones in fact racist, that they were teaching students to overthrow the government, about being with your own race and not mixing with others, but all those things are false.  All these classes are about becoming good 

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Ethnic Studies teacher Angel Barragan

Americans and what it means to be united through our different struggles. I think that’s why; I think they’re afraid of students being able to find their strength and power.”

When asked why Ethnic Studies was important, Escobar said, “What builds America is diversity; and, if you have diversity, there’s history behind diversity.” Escobar explained how if the United States was just a white country, then its history would mainly be about white history. In most schools, the curriculum is still mainly about the dominant culture’s history. For the people of color who crucially influenced American history, their stories weren’t told because they aren’t as powerful as the dominant culture. Ethnic people were totally disregarded from U.S. history, and Ethnic Studies curriculum seeks to address that imbalance. 

Escobar concluded, “If history is such an important concept in America, then why is it that we only have to learn one type of history and it’s the only type of  history permitted in America?”

The Summit News team will be following this class throughout the year.  

Featured image (at the top of this post):  The Ethnic Studies teacher, Angel Barragan, hosted an event called Why Ethnic Studies Matter when he was president of the Ethnic Studies Student Organization at San Francisco State University.  PHOTO CREDIT: Angel Barragan.

Summit Prep offers a look into the human experience with Expeditions

By Jon Garvin

Staff Writer

Celebration of Learning is an annual showcase put together by the Expeditions team where students and parents come together to learn about the different courses. Students in the Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, Girl Rising and Human Sexuality classes explored different aspects of culture and the human experience. Here are some things they displayed at the Celebration of Learning:


Anthropology is a class taught by Noelle Easterday. “Anthropology is the study of human beings in the past and the present, hopefully looking towards the future,” she explained. For the annual Celebration of Learning, students created an Anthropology museum. “They’re curating their own museum of artifacts that they have chosen from their own life that they feel represent their culture,” Teacher Easterday said.

Here’s a look at some of the student exhibits:


Summit Prep freshman Kayla Mora explained the objects she chose: “It represents a lot of my culture. We like dogs, we love to have fun with board games and we use objects to represent our religion.”


Summit Prep freshman Gerardo Rodriguez also explained his choice in the objects he brought: “Instead of bringing something really big, they were simple.”

Here is a look at what other Anthropology students did:

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Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies is a class taught by upperclassmen at Summit Preparatory Charter High School. The purpose of the class is for students to learn more about themselves and about other people. This class covers history that isn’t taught in regular classes. Students talk about the media and current issues, discussing how the media portrays different people. 

The students’ last project consisted of a social experiment related to an issue that they saw in the world. Based on the results of that experiment, they proposed a way to fix that issue. For example, one student proposed that talking to people more about gay rights would improve how people in the LGBTQ community are treated. 

For their Celebration of Learning project, students picked an issue to research and explained why they chose that issue. Here’s a look at what they presented:


Summit Prep freshman Daniel Garcia said, “We’re working on LGBT rights because they aren’t receiving enough rights because of their sexual orientation.”



Summit Prep sophomores Vanessa Contreras and Alexa Vargas chose to research mass incarceration. Contreras said, “We picked the topic of mass incarceration because one in three black males get incarcerated.”

Here is a look at what other Ethnic Studies students researched:

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Girl Rising

Girl Rising is an Expeditions class in which female students learned about “feminist issues and the female body,” according to Cynthia Dubridge, a Summit Prep freshman. The students in the class presented videos on feminist issues, from female genital mutilation to sex trafficking. Anyone who identifies as female and is concerned about issues relating to their gender can join the class to learn more. 


The lineup of performances presented by students in the Girl Rising course shows the numerous issues that women face.


Summit Prep junior Denisse Fierro presented a short film titled “My Body No Shame.”

Human Sexuality

Human Sexuality is an Expeditions class taught by Lia Pinelli. In this class, students learn about sexuality, anatomy, sexual orientation, sexual identity, birth control and relationships. For their last project, students picked a topic they’ve learned about in class and created an educational video to teach other people about the topic. For the Celebration of Learning showcase, students created a presentation to talk to parents about sex and why they should talk to their kids about sex.


Summit Prep sophomore Tatiana Love and freshman Irene Valencia talk to parents about how parents should talk to their kids about sex.


Summit Prep freshman Victor Aguilar-Mendoza talks about sexual orientation.

Staff Writers Andrea Pena, Raul Martinez and Nicholas Reed contributed to this article.