Ethnic Studies
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Ethnic Studies

Ethnic Studies

What are Ethnic Studies courses?
Ethnic Studies courses place the stories of people of color at the center of the curriculum. The goal is critical engagement with content left out or minimized in the Minnesota state benchmarks, culturally sustaining pedagogy, community connections, and social action. Courses are interdisciplinary, typically combining elements of history, literature, economics, sociology, and political science.

What Ethnic Studies courses do we offer in Minneapolis Public Schools?
African American Studies
Asian American Studies
Chicanx/Latinx Studies
First Nations Studies​
Hmong Studies
Intro to Ethnic Studies [for middle school]
New in 19-20: Somali Studies will be piloted 

Course options vary by school. Talk to a school counselor or Social Studies teacher about which are available at your site.

Why has MPS chosen to prioritize the development of these courses? 
Significant research has shown the positive effects of Ethnic Studies courses on the lives of students who take them--both in terms of academic outcomes and personal/identity growth. To read some of the research, see the list below. Ethnic Studies courses are one small part of our equity work and do not replace efforts to transform all Social Studies courses. The work on all our courses is rooted in ideas of culturally sustaining pedagogy. Ethnic Studies courses are unique in that we can center the stories of people of color, students have the time to go deeper in learning about one particular group and the concept of race as an organizing construct in US society, and students can explore their own racial identity.

Why don’t Ethnic Studies courses earn “Social Studies credit?”
From the perspective of MPS, there really is no such thing as a general "Social Studies credit"--there are 5 very specific Social Studies courses required for graduation, which add up to 3.5 credits. Anything outside of those courses counts as elective credits.

Required Courses

  • US History (1 year = 1 credit)
  • World History (1 year = 1 credit)
  • Economics (1 semester = .5 credit)
  • US Government (1 semester = .5 credit)
  • Human Geography (1 semester = .5 credit) 

For example, if a student takes AP Human Geography, which is a year-long course, the first semester of it counts towards the graduation requirement of 1 semester of Geography. The other semester counts as elective credit. Of course, on a college application, this is most definitely a year of Social Studies and from the perspective of the teachers and students taking the course, it's a year of Social Studies. But counselors do not add up "Social Studies credit" they look to see that students have taken the 5 required courses within Social Studies. Courses beyond these, whether it's an Ethnic Studies class, a Psychology class, or History of World War II, would all count as elective credit.

Why can't Ethnic Studies courses count as US History?
Ethnic Studies courses don’t align with the Social Studies benchmarks required by the State of Minnesota--the whole point of the courses is to teach the content marginalized or left out of our state benchmarks. Each course is focused on one racial/ethnic group, giving students the opportunity to go in-depth with their learning. There are five required Social Studies courses for high school graduation, each tied to specific content benchmarks. This is different than some other disciplines, where the benchmarks are more skill-based and schools can provide a variety of courses for students to earn required credits, for example, ELA. Ethnic Studies courses currently earn elective credit, which is required for graduation, but as part of the District Comprehensive Design process, the MPS school board is reconsidering the idea of making a requirement to take one Ethnic Studies course.

I heard Ethnic Studies is a part of the District Comprehensive Design. What are they considering?
Ethnic Studies initiative is five years old. Since it began hundreds of students have taken the courses, with each high school making different decisions about which courses to offer. The school board is considering options for the future of Ethnic Studies in MPS.

  • Option 1: Ethnic Studies for All. The school board could make a 1-semester Ethnic Studies course a graduation requirement, above and beyond what the state requires. The Board could also decide that all students take the class, even if it is not required.
  • Option 2: Ethnic Studies is US History. Through a Rigorous Course Waiver, two semester-long Ethnic Studies courses would be an option for the US History requirement.
  • Option 3: Ethnic Studies as an Elective. Maintain the current status of the courses, with each school deciding whether to offer the courses.

Who should take these courses?
All students are welcome and should be encouraged to take these courses.

Research and News on Ethnic Studies
Ethnic Studies: A Movement Born of a Ban, NPR
The Need for Ethnic Studies Curricula in Minnesota Schools, MnEEP
The Ongoing Battle Over Ethnic Studies, The Atlantic
The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies: A Research Review, Christine E. Sleeter, National Education Association, 2011