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Black and Latino studies now required in high school courses

Connecticut has become the first state in the U.S. to require all high schools to offer courses on African American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies.

The curriculum will provide a better understanding of the communities’ contributions to the United States history, society, economy, and culture using an inquiry-based approach. The approach includes both content knowledge and student identity development.

“Identities matter, especially when 27% of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13% identify as Black or African American,” Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said in an interview with WTNH. “The fact is that more inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all.”

Last year, Governor Lamont signed the requirement, Public Act 19-12, into law. And this month, the Connecticut State Board of Education unanimously approved the curriculum for the course.

High schools will have the option to offer the course in the 2021-2022 school year but will be required to offer it starting in fall 2022.

This curriculum addition is seen as having broader implications for young Latinos.

“It will spark change beyond our classrooms,” said Tareonna Alger-Rodriguez in testifying in favor of this bill as a student at New London High School as a member of Hearing Youth Voices. “With courses that put our history at the forefront, students become more motivated and more empowered,” she told CTLN in an interview earlier this year.

Public Act 19-12 is hardly an in regard to the state recognizing the hardships and achievements of various ethnic groups that make up Connecticut’s diverse population.

In 1997 the legislature mandated teaching about the great Irish potato famine of the 19th Century which had a great impact on immigration to Connecticut and elsewhere.

In 2018, the state Senate, 37-0, and the state House, 147-0, approved a bill that requires Holocaust and genocide studies to be included in the social studies curriculum.

“The teaching of cultural studies, including the histories of racism, oppression, economic hardship, as well as the many accomplishments and contributions of African Americans and Latinos, is terribly important, said State Rep. Christine Palm, a Democrat who represents part of the Connecticut River Valley.

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Editor’s note: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the disparities experienced by communities of color. Perhaps no group of students have been impacted as significantly...