The Snake Swallows the Elephant: Ethnic Studies Hijacks Education

    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: May 21, 2024 (1 month ago)

    The contentious debate over ethnic studies in American education has intensified, with critics arguing that the discipline is increasingly overshadowing traditional curricula and imposing a one-sided ideological agenda on students. As calls for greater diversity and inclusion in education grow louder, the question of how best to incorporate ethnic studies into school curricula has become a focal point in discussions about the future of education in the United States.

    Ethnic studies, which examines the history, culture, and experiences of marginalized communities, has gained traction in recent years as educators and activists push for a more inclusive approach to teaching history and social sciences. Proponents argue that ethnic studies provides students with a more comprehensive understanding of American society and promotes empathy, critical thinking, and social justice.

    However, critics contend that the discipline has been co-opted by ideologues who seek to indoctrinate students with a narrow and politicized worldview. They argue that instead of fostering dialogue and understanding, ethnic studies has become a vehicle for promoting divisive and often radical ideologies that demonize certain groups and suppress dissenting viewpoints.

    “The snake of ethnic studies has swallowed the elephant of education,” says Dr. Jonathan Smith, a professor of history at a liberal arts college. “What started as a noble effort to promote diversity and inclusion has morphed into a dogmatic ideology that seeks to rewrite history and silence dissent. This is not education; it’s indoctrination.”

    One of the most contentious issues surrounding ethnic studies is the inclusion of critical race theory (CRT), a framework that examines how systemic racism shapes society and institutions. While proponents argue that CRT provides valuable insights into the persistence of racial inequalities, critics argue that it promotes a divisive and reductionist view of race that undermines individual agency and perpetuates victimhood.

    The debate over ethnic studies has played out in school board meetings, state legislatures, and courtrooms across the country. In some states, lawmakers have introduced bills to ban or restrict the teaching of CRT and related concepts in public schools, sparking heated debates about academic freedom and censorship.

    Meanwhile, educators and activists continue to push for the expansion of ethnic studies programs, arguing that they are essential for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. They point to research showing that students who participate in ethnic studies courses report greater engagement, academic achievement, and empathy towards others.

    “We cannot shy away from teaching the full breadth of American history, including the experiences of marginalized communities,” says Dr. Maria Rodriguez, a professor of ethnic studies at a public university. “Ethnic studies provides students with the tools they need to navigate an increasingly diverse and complex world. It’s not about indoctrination; it’s about education.”

    As the debate over ethnic studies rages on, educators, policymakers, and community members are grappling with how best to balance the goals of diversity and inclusion with the principles of academic freedom and intellectual inquiry. The outcome of these debates will shape the future of education in America and determine how students learn about the complex and often contentious history of their country.