Students from marginalized communities often enter classrooms where their cultural heritage is not reflected within the classroom. As a result of being in an environment where one’s culture and experiences are overlooked, students can become disengaged in the classroom. This project investigates the ways in which Ethnic Studies courses hold social promise to inspire better academic performance for high school students. Therefore, the goal of this study is to document, describe, analyze, and advocate for the implementation of ethnic studies scholarship into the California high school curricula. My literature review will ask and answer the following research question: To what extent can teaching ethnic studies motivate high school students in their educational journey to achieve their full potential as active learners? I contend that incorporating ethnic studies into the high school curricula can create an inclusive, diverse, and empowering learning environment for students from marginalized communities. Through reviewing ethnic studies literature from primary and secondary sources, I illustrate the historical development of ethnic studies scholarship as well as the ongoing use of ethnic studies in struggles for social justice that take place on and off campus. Additionally, I include insight from conversations with high school teachers who create ethnic studies classrooms and/or people who are familiar with a curriculum that centers college and career readiness. My project finds that ethnic studies can encourage academic success in students, especially those from marginalized communities. A statewide Ethnic Studies high school graduation requirement can ultimately communicate to Californian students that their culture has value while preparing them to thrive in an increasingly diverse global society.


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