In 2017, Oregon passed House Bill 2845 requiring Ethnic Studies curriculum in grades K–12. It was the first state in the nation to do so. The bill passed almost fifty years after the founding of the country’s first Ethnic Studies department. The passage of an Ethnic Studies bill in a state that once banned African Americans and removed Indigenous peoples from their land requires further examination. In addition, the bill mandates that Ethnic Studies curriculum in Oregon's schools includes “social minorities,” such as Jewish and LGBTQ+ populations which makes the bill even more remarkable. As such, it is conceivable for some observers, a watered-down version of its perceived original intent—one that focuses on racial and ethnic minorities. Similarly, one can draw analogies to the revision of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 when it included women as a protected group. Grounded in a socio-political history that otherwise would not have been included, this essay examines the productive and challenging aspect of HB 2845. Framing the bill so it includes racial, ethnic, and social minorities solved the problem of a host of bills that may not have passed on their own merit while simultaneously and ironically making it easier to pass similar bills.
Oregon’s K–12 Ethnic Studies Bill
Shirley A. Jackson is professor in the Black Studies Department at Portland State University. She completed her doctorate in sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her areas of research specialization are race/ethnicity, gender, and social movements. She is the coeditor of Caged Women: Incarceration, Representation, and Media (Routledge 2018) and editor of The Handbook of Race, Class, and Gender (Routledge/Taylor & Francis 2014). She is working on several projects, including a monograph on race, gender, and space; a socio-historical analysis of race/ethnicity, gender, violence, and nationalism in WWII and Civil Rights era editorial cartoons; and a comparative analysis of the 1961 Cuban literacy campaign and Mississippi Freedom Summer schools.
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Shirley A. Jackson; Oregon’s K–12 Ethnic Studies Bill. Ethnic Studies Review 1 October 2019; 42 (2): 180–195. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/esr.2019.42.2.180
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