The State of Ethnic Studies at Fremont

Protesters are seen in June 2011 in support of the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American studies program. A new state law effectively ended the program saying it was divisive.

Fremont High School has an opportunity that many schools throughout the United States don’t have. It’s one of an increasing number of Bay Area schools that has a thriving ethnic studies course which began in the fall of 2016 as a pilot class.

In the United States, ethnic studies is the study of diversity which includes race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender, and power expressed by both civil society and individuals alike. The ethnic studies course at Fremont is taught by Jason Muniz and is only offered as a ninth grade course.

However, Fremont is one of few schools that provide ethnic studies courses for ninth grade students. Muniz said Fremont didn’t have a mandate to teach history or social science to ninth grade students so he took the liberty of starting an ethnic studies class for freshman.

Muniz said in history courses after ninth grade there will be gaps in the content due to the limited classroom time to teach what is required.

“I know that there’s a hole in some of the information that they’re gonna get later on in those other courses, not because the teachers are being manipulative, but because there are certain things that you have to learn in a certain amount of time,” Muniz said.

Ethnic studies teaches about the importance of people of color in the history of the United States, aside from the oppression and bondage that is forced on them by a Eurocentric society. An example is the Tuskegee Airmen who were a fully African-American military unit that were active during World War II, in the time period of Jim Crow laws.

Across the United States, there are schools that aren’t as fortunate as Fremont High such as in Arizona where a bill passed to ban ethnic studies courses. reports that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer banned ethnic studies classes that promote “resentment toward a race or class of people” and condone “…the overthrow of the government.”

Some leaders, such as Gov. Jan Brewer, believe ethnic studies courses are propaganda used to form divisions between people of color and whites. These people that don’t benefit from ethnic studies classes dominate the mainstream with their narrative in places like Arizona.  

“To use the language of an ethnic studies class, a convenient dominant narrative is told by people that may not necessarily want to have an ethnic studies class or may not necessarily feel that the ethnic studies courses are beneficial to their particular narrative,” Muniz said.