The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Diverse Classes are Essential to Learning

In a community that prides itself on high levels of social inclusivity, classes that emphasize diversity are not only few and far between but fewer diverse classes are offered this year.

Were all the classes you requested this year offered? Mine were not: the Asians in America history class, African American Seminar, Writers of Color, Chinese IX, to name a few. A commonality stands out from them: they are all classes explicitly addressing race, ethnicity, privilege and power.

Why are they not offered? According to the school, it’s due to budget cuts. While budget cuts are out of the school and administration’s control, choosing what classes to offer is not. Why is the school prioritizing classes like British Literature over Writers of Color?

English Curriculum Coordinator John Andrews said it’s because not enough people signed up: there are only 14 students who picked Writers of Color as their first choice for senior year’s English course. However, there must have been more students who chose it as their second or third choice. Are there really less than 20 people out of 500 seniors who would take a class about BIPOC authors and literature? I hope not.

It would make much more sense to move five students who had Writers of Color as their second choice into Writers of Color than to put the 14 students who chose Writers of Color into other classes. However, that is not what happened.

There seems to be a larger problem at play: students can’t actually choose the classes they want due to external factors, such as the pressures from parents or counselors and from the competitive culture of Brookline; “interest” in these classes is not the problem. Whenever any other classes are put “in competition” with advanced placement classes, lots of students feel pressured to choose the AP option to demonstrate their abilities to colleges.

Yet, our current classes, APs or otherwise, fail to include accurate and proper representation of BIPOC experiences and stories. In a perfect world, the English curriculum would include authors from diverse backgrounds and identities. The history curriculum would include BIPOC history, queer history, disability history and more. Sadly, the high school is not there yet. For instance, in an entire year of AP US History, I only learned about two pieces of Asian American history: Japanese Internment Camps and the Chinese Exclusion Act.

While we cannot change the competitive culture in Brookline or the lack of representation in AP curriculum overnight, the administration and department leaders do have the power to mitigate its effect, especially in a department like English where there is no AP option – by offering more ethnic study classes.

Classes like Asians in America and Writers of Color are crucial to fill in those gaps while we strive to create a more inclusive curriculum. Countless research has been done, showing that such curriculum benefits everyone, regardless of their identity and experiences. For example, a study published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that in a San Francisco school district, adding an ethnic study course increased attendance and average grade. A research review from the National Education Association also agreed that a well-designed ethnic study curriculum has academic and social benefits for both white students and students of color.

If the school continues to use numbers and “interests” to decide what classes are offered, we are only going to perpetuate the lack of representation in classes. Ethnic study classes can be a temporary bandage, but this systemic issue can only be solved from its root cause: by creating a truly diverse, representative curriculum. For instance, instead of leaving it to students (and external pressures) to decide whether or not Writers of Color is a class worth offering, why can’t we include more writers of color in all English classes?

Many student and teacher advocates have made efforts to diversify our curriculum in the past. For example, during May of 2022, a group of AAPI students made a presentation to administration and district leaders about the importance of including AAPI experiences in school’s curriculum. There is also a new English course this year for juniors and seniors, called Asian American Literature, that received over 90 requests. All of these are steps in the right direction to reform the curriculum.

It is not my intention to blame or critique the school for these systemic and nuanced problems. Rather, it’s a request for us to work together. As an Asian immigrant, I only speak from my own personal experience. But I’m sure that I and other students of color aren’t the only ones angry and frustrated with our current curriculum.

Therefore, it is crucial for all of us: students, teachers and administration, to be explicit and transparent about the problems in our curriculum and work together to make it better.

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