Book We Read in Class

Welcome to Lira’s 2022-2023 Ethnic Studies Class!

  • I taught this course during the 2022-2023 school year.  Below is the course outline, a PDF of handouts given out during Back to School and Open House including some student feedback.

Back to School/Open House Handout

Course Outline

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Ethnic Studies

    • We begin by immersing ourselves in stories, recognizing that history is essentially a collection of narratives presented from specific perspectives. This week, our focus is on understanding the distinction between dominant narratives, which are stories told by those in positions of power, and counter-narratives that either supplement or outright challenge the dominant ones. To illustrate these concepts, we examine historical examples such as Christopher Columbus and also analyze contemporary media coverage. Moreover, we engage in discussions to reflect on instances where we may have contributed to reinforcing a dominant narrative or embracing a counter-narrative.
    • Moving forward, we delve into the foundations of this course by exploring the Four I's of Bias/Oppression and how the field of Ethnic Studies has evolved in response to conflicts, particularly in Arizona. In order to comprehend the rights and civil liberties afforded to individuals in the United States, we closely examine the U.S. Constitution, paying special attention to the Bill of Rights, as well as the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments. Additionally, we explore the three branches of government responsible for legislation, execution, and interpretation of laws, along with the checks and balances put in place to ensure fairness.
    • Briefly revisiting the 8th-grade curriculum, we recap American Imperialism during the 19th and 20th centuries, including the profound impact of the slave trade on the American economy.
    • Lastly, our class engages in a collective exploration of what an ideal Ethnic Studies class should encompass. This involves studying perspectives from different voices in the community, allowing us to gain a comprehensive understanding of topics from multiple perspectves.

    Unit 2: Identity

    • One's identity encompasses more than just race, ethnicity, and gender. Although these three aspects are prominently addressed in this course due to their immediate visibility and the potential for bias and discrimination, we also explore other crucial components of identity. These include age, religion, political ideology, socio-economic status, family type, residency status, body type, mental and physical health, sexuality, gender expression, and language.
    • Additionally, we investigate the origins of identity within individuals, drawing upon sociological and psychological theories such as Brofenbrenner's model and Erikson's Theory of Moral Reasoning. Through this exploration, we discover that our interactions with various people and institutions in our daily lives shape who we become. Our identities are influenced by family, friends, neighbors, neighborhoods, schools, teachers, religious leaders and institutions, as well as local, state, and federal government entities. Furthermore, documents like the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, laws, and religious texts contribute to the construction of our identities.
    • Furthermore, we delve into the concept of intersectionality, exploring how a person's identity markers intersect with one another, leading to additional advantages or challenges in society depending on the situation. For instance, we examine an article discussing the challenges faced by a school with a significant population of English Language Learners, particularly when some of these students also have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The article highlights the difficulties parents and students encounter while attempting to effectively communicate with school staff regarding important matters. In light of these observations, we contemplate the best ways to support individuals with intersecting identities that present additional challenges or, at the very least, ensure that their experiences are not further hindered.

    Unit 3: Race

    • To kick off this unit, we delve into the concept of implicit bias, exploring its definition and the controversies surrounding the term, particularly in relation to identity politics within educational settings. As part of our exploration, we watch the Hulu documentary "The School That Tried To End Racism," which follows British students taking a bias test that yields intriguing results. Subsequently, the school embarks on a series of exercises and activities aimed at diminishing students' implicit biases favoring certain races while challenging biases against others.
    • In the following lessons, students develop their skills in creating compelling presentations by researching significant events from the Civil Rights era, such as the Sit-ins, Freedom Riders, Little Rock 9, Selma March, Montgomery Bus Boycott, and more. Through their presentations, students present factual information, explore dominant and counter-narratives, consider the influence of different identities (race, gender, age, socio-economic status, ideology), examine various forms of oppression, and identify instances of discrimination, all while acknowledging any potential intersectionality that may contribute to additional challenges.
    • We take a closer look at the profound contributions made by marginalized immigrants to the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Specifically, we highlight the instrumental roles played by Chinese and Irish immigrants in constructing the Transcontinental Railroad, as well as the significant contributions of Japanese and Mexican immigrants to American agriculture. It is important to recognize that these contributions occurred despite facing immense discrimination, exemplified by policies like Americanization, Chinese Exclusion, Gentleman's Agreement, and Mexican Repatriation.
    • Moreover, we analyze contemporary events relating to race and ethnicity, including the Model Minority Myth, the Muslim Ban, the enactment of Arizona Laws, the rise of Anti-Semitism in the United States, the Holocaust and various ethnic cleansings across the world. By examining these events, we gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing challenges and complexities surrounding race and ethnicity in our society while appreciating how diverse people built America. 

    Unit 4: Gender

    • We thoroughly study each of the four waves of feminism along with the gay rights movement of the 1970s/80s/90s and current issues.
    • Various current events related to gender are covered in this unit by integrating course vocabulary and concepts such as identity markers, intersectionality, types of oppression, and names of discrimination/bias. 
    • Topics include male gaze, gender pay gap, second shift, male privilege, sexual assault on college campuses, sexual harassment in the workplace, LGBT rights and now controversies related to rights of trans youth and trans adults, such as sports participation and workplace discrimination. 

    One midterm

    One written final

    A project about identity

    A capstone project

    We read the novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, with reading quizzes and discussion.