Many universities in Indiana offer ethnic studies courses, but a newly proposed bill would require all elementary and high schools in the state to add the subject to their curriculum.
Bills like this have been received in vastly different ways across the country. California is attempting to require the discipline be taught in high schools, while Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies is being challenged in court.
Indiana Senate Bill 495 would mandate that elementary and high school social studies courses integrate ethnic studies into their curriculum.
Quinton Dixie is director of Ethnic Studies at IPFW. He says the discipline grew out of civil rights activism on college campuses in the 60s.
While nearly 30 percent of K-12 students enrolled in Indiana aren’t white, Dixie says ethnic studies are not just for one particular group, because students of different races often have such limited social interaction.
“And this lack of knowledge, contact, experience with the other are the kinds of the thing that leads to social problem down the road," says Dixie, "and I think what we’ve lacked, particularly in Indiana, are good, honest, sometimes painful conversations around race.”
The bill is sponsored by Democratic Senator Greg Taylor, and Republican Senator Dennis Kruse. It’s scheduled to be heard at the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.