Whiteland to require new ethnic studies class

By Tiniya Bailey
Staff Reporter

In the fall of 2019, there will be a new Ethnic Studies class that will impact the community and students here at WCHS. This class can help students feel comfortable. The class is available on the scheduling roster and the purpose is to learn more about cultural backgrounds. This class may hit the heavy topics that it may seem like are being avoided in regular classrooms, such as U.S. History. Ethnic Studies standards will allow students to explore different challenges and traditions of different groups and cultures.

Superintendent Patrick Spray understands how important this class may be to the students and he is excited to see the changes that the Ethnic Studies class can create here in Whiteland. Spray believes the class was created to hit the difficult topics that are harder to talk about in other classes, such as U.S. History.

Spray hopes this class will bring much-needed diversity and crucial conversations to WCHS curriculum. He believes the class is a step toward better discussions and change.

“I think it’s a fairly progressive step for a very conservative state, to have a bill like this [ SEA 337], to talk about ethnic studies because it’s so important that we take a look at culture, diversity, the impact of ethnic studies over time for different cultures, different races of people and that sort of thing,” Spray said.

Teachers may find it difficult to talk about certain sensitive topics such as segregation and slavery because the students are predominantly white and these topics can be uncomfortable to discuss for both teachers and students.

Spray discussed a training that explained that teachers have biases when teaching certain topics.

“We had a training in January and I’ll just call it implicit bias training,” Spray said. “Peace Learning Center did it out of Indianapolis and really talked about how all of us have biases and implicit biases, things that we just have in the back of your head, you know, things that are outwardly and our actions, but we all just have those biases.”

Principal Tom Zobel explained that he came from a small town that wasn’t as diverse, but when he got to college he took a class like this and it helped him grow and become better educated on other places and cultures. Zobel hopes that the class will be eye-opening to the students and give them a new taste of the world like he experienced.

“I think it is going to give some people an opportunity to maybe become a little more tolerant, to be a little more educated on different cultures and different beliefs than their own belief system,” Zobel said.

Chary Hernandez, a junior at WCHS, believes that this class is an experience that will affect students and families in positive ways. This is important to her because she moved to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and she feels that her culture can go unnoticed. With this class, students may become more informed about her background and what being Latina actually means.

“It means an opportunity to learn about other people and understand their different point of views and understand why they think the way they do. I would hope that we will learn about others cultures, countries, important people from around the world that have impacted our lives now or will in the future,” Hernandez said.

Cultural awareness is important. This class is the first step in the direction where students can feel comfortable talking about certain topics. Staff and administration are trying their best to make all students feel welcomed and accepted in the community.

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