Ethnic and cultural history could be required education

Senate Education and Career Development Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, hears testimony Wednesday about a bill to require cultural history in schools. Photo by Dyala Akermawi, TheStatehouseFile.com.

By Hannah Troyer

Elementary students and high schoolers may soon spend more time studying cultural and ethnic history.

A bill proposed by Sen. Greg Taylor, D- Indianapolis, would require that all public elementary schools and high schools add cultural and ethnic history subjects to their social studies curriculum.

Currently, the subject is only an elective, but Taylor is concerned that not many students chose to take the course.

By implementing cultural and ethnic standards into the social studies curriculum, he hopes more students will desire to take the semester-long elective.

“Now, in our standards we have sets of recommended study issues for all the way from K-12 – including the study of people like Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and Malcolm X. But, there is nothing in those standards that requires those to be taught in the classroom room,” Taylor said.

“I believe that when you start embracing other ethnic groups and cultures you find a respect for those cultures. But, you also find a lot of students…become more involved, better students.”

The bill passed a committee by a vote of 9-1 and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Some committee members said Wednesday they were uncomfortable with the original proposal, which would have applied to both private and public schools. But the committee passed an amendment proposed by Sen. Earline Rodgers, D- Gary, stripping private schools out of the bill.

Sen. Amanda Banks, R- Columbia City, did not vote for the amended bill because she was concerned with the lack of definition of the subject matter.

“The term cultural is undefined. It could mean a whole a lot of things instead of the original intent of the bill,” Banks said. “It is a very broad term and could mean something some of us may not want it to.”

Taylor said the lack of definition had been done on purpose – and something that should be “embraced” by other politicians. Taylor said he believes school districts should have the ability to implement which subjects they believe to be most beneficial to students and the surrounding community.

If the subject does become a required part of the curriculum, other aspects of the current social studies curriculum may have to be revised or deleted to make room for cultural and ethnic history subjects.

Hannah Troyer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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