Ethnic Studies Breaks New Ground


Janet Abrantes

Ethnic Studies In Action: Ethnic studies students dive deep into exploring their identities in Mrs. Ho’s class.

Nathan Perera, Staff Writer

In the 2022-2023 school year, Oxford Academy introduced its first ethnic studies course, centered around the interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and other markings of identity. The class, led by Mrs. Ho, is available to juniors and seniors interested in learning about marginalized communities and their histories. 

The new class satisfies the state requirement for all students to graduate with an ethnic studies course by 2030, and AUHSD has cemented its support for ethnic studies by mandating it for the graduating class of 2026. 

¨We believe wholeheartedly in what [ethnic studies] represents. We believe in the importance of belonging,” said Dr. Jaron Fried, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. “Ethnic studies is like a history course, but history courses are often taught through one perspective, so an ethnic studies course allows students to see themselves in the curriculum.” 

The curriculum showcases stories that historically have been erased while covering a variety of sensitive and important topics regarding race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and other areas of identity. 

At Oxford, ethnic studies is separated into five units: Self, Stories, Systems, Social Movements, and Solidarity. In Self, students work to understand their identity, followed by Stories which focuses on the specific histories of social groups. The Systems unit analyzes the types of oppression people have experienced, while Social Movements and Solidarity discusses how people come together to create an inclusive society. The course concludes with youth participatory action research (YPAR) in which students engage in college-level research on a chosen topic using what they’ve learned.  

“We have a large portion of Asian-American students, and within the Asian-American umbrella we have over fifty languages represented,” said Ho. “We also have Latino students and Black students; we need everyone’s stories to be heard.” 

The ethnic studies course reflects the diversity of Oxford, enabling students to explore their identity and expression. 

“We’ve been able to explore how we perceive ourselves. I really never had time to reflect on [identity], so [ethnic studies] makes me a lot better as a person. I feel more confident.” said senior ethnic studies student Emily Lee.

The focus on serving one’s community shapes students into empathetic, globally-aware people determined to tackle deeply-rooted social issues. 

“Because of all the internalized self-hatred and shame I had growing up, ethnic studies gave me the space to heal and love myself,” said Ho. “The purpose of ethnic studies is not just knowledge, it’s using that knowledge to make a better world.”