Oregon’s K-12 Ethnic Studies Bill

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Ethnic Studies Review

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In 2017, Oregon passed House Bill 2845 requiring Ethnic Studies curriculum in grades K–12. It was the first state in the nation to do so. The bill passed almost fifty years after the founding of the country’s first Ethnic Studies department. The passage of an Ethnic Studies bill in a state that once banned African Americans and removed Indigenous peoples from their land requires further examination. In addition, the bill mandates that Ethnic Studies curriculum in Oregon's schools includes “social minorities,” such as Jewish and LGBTQ+ populations which makes the bill even more remarkable. As such, it is conceivable for some observers, a watered-down version of its perceived original intent—one that focuses on racial and ethnic minorities. Similarly, one can draw analogies to the revision of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 when it included women as a protected group. Grounded in a socio-political history that otherwise would not have been included, this essay examines the productive and challenging aspect of HB 2845. Framing the bill so it includes racial, ethnic, and social minorities solved the problem of a host of bills that may not have passed on their own merit while simultaneously and ironically making it easier to pass similar bills.


© 2019 by the Association for Ethnic Studies


"Oregon's K-12 Ethnic Studies Bill" in the Special Issue on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Founding of Ethnic Studies in the Ethnic Studies Review, Fall 2019, Vol 42, No. 2. pp. 180-195. DOI: 10.1525/esr.2019.42.2.180



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National Association for Ethnic Studies