Oregon to Require Ethnic Studies for Students in K-12

By Scottie Barnes
Scottie Barnes
Scottie Barnes
Freelance reporter
Scottie Barnes writes breaking news and investigative pieces for The Epoch Times from the Pacific Northwest. She has a background in researching the implications of public policy and emerging technologies on areas ranging from homeland security and national defense to forestry and urban planning.
April 6, 2022Updated: April 6, 2022

Oregon’s youngest students will experience a new emphasis on race, identity, and equity as the state incorporates ethnic studies requirements into the social studies curriculum for all students in K-12.

It will be the first state to do so.

The new focus stems from an Oregon law passed in 2017 that directed the Oregon Department of Education (DoE) to develop standards to “improve cultural competency and promote critical thinking with regard to histories, contributions, and perspectives of ethnic and social minority groups.”

The standards will permeate the study of “civics and government, economics, geography, financial literacy, history, and social science analysis,” according to the department.

Published in March 2021, the new standards are now being adopted in many schools across the state and will be required for the 2025-2026 school year.

Already, Oregon teachers, staff, and administrators are being trained on the elements of ethnic studies, which the department cites as “an indispensable tool” for dismantling what activists describe as “America’s racial caste” system.

“Oregon’s [new] social science standards are intended to create a more inclusive understanding of our past and present, including additional perspectives and histories that allow students to feel welcome and recognized in the classroom and a part of our collective narrative, our shared history,” according to an Oregon DoE statement.

Critics of the state’s new teaching standards are concerned that the ethnic studies curriculum mirrors “critical race theory,” an academic concept that argues racism is ingrained in American laws and government institutions.

Under the new standards, for instance, kindergarten teachers in Oregon will be required to teach students to “understand humans’ inherent differences, like race, gender, and religion,” according to the guidelines published in March.

They will learn to understand “one’s own identity groups” and “identify examples of unfairness or injustice towards individuals or groups and the ‘change-makers,’ who worked to make the world better,” as well as “possible solutions to injustices.”

First grade students will be required “to define equity, equality, and systems of power.”

By second grade, pupils should be able to “explain how inherited wealth and scarcity affect individual and group power” as well as “take informed action to interrupt injustice or promote justice in their community.”

Third graders will need to “identify” the impact of “systems of power, including white supremacy, institutional racism, racial hierarchy.”

In fourth grade, the guidelines require students to “examine the consequences of power and privilege on issues associated with poverty, income and the accumulation of wealth” as well as “understand how physical geography [dams, wind turbines, climate change, and transportation] affect Oregon’s environmental sustainability.” They will also study movements of “resistance and justice” in the state.

Fifth-grade classes will “examine how the excisions of those in power affected those with less political/economic power in the past and current movements of equality, freedom, and justice.”

Beginning in seventh grade, students will study “historic and contemporary means of changing societies and identify individuals and/or groups promoting the common good [civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, workers’ rights] … for the expansion of justice, equality and equity.”

High-school students will “identify and critique how implicit bias, institutional racism, racial supremacy, privilege, intersectionality, and identity influence perspectives” and “take informed action.”

“These new requirements will encourage our students to think critically,” Fern Ridge School District Superintendent Gary Carpenter told The Epoch Times. “It will also encourage students to become active and engaged citizens. And that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

But not all teachers are on board.

“I’ve studied critical race theory,” one teacher who asked to remain anonymous told The Epoch Times. “This is CRT. It’s not a curriculum. It’s a theory that forces us to view everything through the lens of race.”

“I’ve spent the past 35 years teaching kids not to do that,” added another teacher. “Now I’m supposed to turn that on its head. Now I’ll be asked to teach something that I believe is harmful to our country.”