Ethnic Studies is designed to help students to develop a more complex and nuanced understanding of the human experience as it relates to ethnicity, including the factors that influence individual and collective identity. Early lessons in the course guide students to build a conceptual framework for studying ethnicity and ethnic groups, based on the relationships among identity, ethnicity, race, and nationality. At the beginning of the course, students will analyze how cultural assumptions and biases influence both individual identity and people’s perceptions of others. Additionally, lessons about the origins of culture in early civilizations and the ways that humans organized themselves socially as populations increased will provide background knowledge that students need to study ethnicity in the United States.
Later lessons introduce the histories and cultures of specific ethnic groups in the United States and help students understand how identity and experience are sometimes shaped by belonging to these groups. Students will then investigate factors that lead members of different ethnic groups to immigrate to the United States and consider how these groups and their cultures have shaped American society. Students will also analyze the power structures that impact the lived experiences of Americans in various ethnic groups, identifying patterns of oppression and resistance throughout each group’s history.
Throughout the course, students are encouraged to identify and appreciate aspects of their own identity as well as the cultures, strengths, achievements, and values of the major ethnic groups in the United States. A key feature of the course is the emphasis given to the perspectives of individuals from historically marginalized groups that are rarely represented in textbooks. The goal is to add these voices to the larger historical narrative so that students can see themselves and all of their classmates as vital parts of the American story.