San Diego County Board of Education Member Mark Powell Expressed Concerns over Mandated Ethnic Studies Courses

Written by Julianne Foster

A mandated ethnic studies curriculum is being planned for the 2024-25 school year for California State University and K-12 students alike. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed legislation to add these newly mandated courses, the first major curriculum change in over 40 years.

However, it’s only inclusive to studies on African American, Latino American, Native American, and Asian American communities. According to San Diego County Board of Education Member Mark Powell, other communities are not getting full representation due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Powell made it clear that the comments he made in his KUSI interview are his personal views and do not reflect any particular group or the Board of Education. He isn’t against the curriculum, he simply believes it should be postponed until the pandemic subsides. He explained that parents and communities are already under loads of stress from losing their jobs and trying to provide for their children to be successful in their online classes. Due to the chaos of the pandemic, many parents are simply dealing with enough already in trying to help their children navigate remote learning, and the sudden curriculum change certainly isn’t helping.

“The decisions about who gets included in California’s Ethnic Studies curriculum and who doesn’t seem to be arbitrary and there’s no transparency,” Powell explained. “We deserve better! Ethnic groups, DON’T BE LEFT OUT of the Ethnic Studies Curriculum and make your voices heard!”

Certain groups left out include many of those found in Eastern groups such as Persian, Catholic Chaldean, Jewish, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, and more. “Which is important. Their stories need to be told and should be told,” said Powell. “They’re not being adequately represented and they need time to go in front of the Department of Education and advocate on their behalf to be included in this curriculum.”

By postponing the adoption of the curriculum, they could wait for in-person classes to commence with the necessary participation and discussions to ensure that everyone is adequately represented. The current lack of proficiency in subjects like English and Mathematics also raise questions about the priorities of the curriculum. 

For parents who wish to voice their concerns and demand representation for their communities, they can do so over the California Department of Education website to the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Ethnic Studies Committee.

“There are whole communities suffering and they need to get online to advocate for their own group,” Powell added. This is especially true when the curriculum may be around for many years, impacting generations of students.

You can watch Mark Powell’s entire interview below: