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Oregon Lawmakers Consider New 'Ethnic Studies' Curriculum For Schools

Oregon students would learn more about the history and impact of ethnic and social minorities under a measure being considered by state lawmakers.

Oregon State Capitol

Oregon State Capitol

David Grant / Flickr

The measure would require the Oregon Department of Education to develop standards for social studies instruction that incorporates the history and contributions of people of color and social minorities. The bill defines “ethnic minorities” as Native American or Americans of African, Asian, Pacific Island, Chicano, Latino or Middle Eastern descent. And “social minorities” as women, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, says the goal is to help students from those backgrounds “see themselves as the fabric of this country — and not as separate from it.”

The bill would give the state four years to develop the curriculum. The cost of the measure has not yet been determined.

During a hearing in the House Education Committee, Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, questioned the need for social minorities to be included.

“It would be a rather easy sell in my district to look at a bill that is about ethnic minorities,” said Wilson, R-Grants Pass. “But it is a much larger barrier to cross when you put in the mix social minority status as well.”

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