Ethnic Studies makes a comeback

Tatiana Rodriguez, Arts & Trends Editor

Ethnic Studies teacher, Ms. Alayna Washington, discusses the reasons why more and more WY students are programming for the elective.

Q: Why do you think so many students are programming for Ethnic Studies?

A: I think a lot of students are looking for a space to discuss the topics we discuss in Ethnic Studies. A majority of students at this school in some way, shape, or form can relate to the things that we talk about. I feel as though WY has a very strong social justice culture and the nature of the class is focused on social justice issues. A lot of the students are engaged and active because what they’re learning in the classroom connects to their interests outside of the classroom. It provides for a very rich environment and learning experience.

Q: What is the goal or purpose of the class?

A: I have several goals. I would say number one, I want my students to be more well-rounded individuals and have a more open perspective and understanding of the world that they live in. I also would hope that some component of the class will then influence them to go and make a change in a positive way- whether that has to do with gender issues, racial issues, class issues. But I hope that they can communicate with their friends, families, and communities about how to engage with people of other backgrounds, appreciate those those things, and love one another. I want them to be propelled to utilize their knowledge and their consciousness to make change. That’s my expectation for the leaders that we have here at WY. I want them to leave the classroom with a better understanding of who they are and how they see themselves within our country and the world.

Q: Why should students program for the class if it’s only an elective?

A: I would say, for me, I remember I was asked when I was at Michigan State what class would I teach if I could teach any class in the world- what would it be, how would I construct the class and the curriculum- and Ethnic Studies is really that for me. I found that when I was in high school, I needed and wanted a space where I could connect to things that were personal to me while discussing issues that I knew were happening in society on a regular basis. I think that the class really provides students with a space to do that. Even though it’s an honors level course, it is structured like a college level course in terms of the projects that are assigned, the discussions, and the flow of the class. I think if students want to explore their social consciousness, it’s really the class for students who want to dig in deep to that.

Q: How does this class differ from most social science classes?

A: I would say this class has components of all the social science classes we have here. I think it’s just more from a contemporary point of view. But I would say that the majority of students who take the class are bringing in the historical analysis that previous teachers have given them to then utilize that knowledge to examine the parallels to today. I think that’s why it’s a nice “rounding out” elective for those who are interested in history and the social sciences. You’re utilizing the knowledge that you gained from 9th-11th grade to connect that to this course. I wouldn’t say this class is completely different, I would just say there’s more of a contemporary focus and the nature of the course is that way.