Equity & Diversity Opinion

The Importance of Culture

By Christina Torres — October 04, 2016 2 min read
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Guest post by Hayden Hawkins

Across the country, there are around 50 million students, spread among 3,007 counties in 50 states, covering 3.8 million square miles of land. As you could imagine, there’s a lot of culture to be had when you’re dealing with such a diverse country like the United States. I personally think that it’d be foolish to not educate high schoolers on things relevant to who they are, or the history and culture of the place they live. I for one feel that it’s extremely important in a place like Hawai’i.

To some young adults, home is home, and it likely wouldn’t matter too much to them if they knew a lot about it or not. Even if students aren’t enthusiastic about it, I don’t see the harm in requiring it. Of course, you could instead teach students about something they’ll clearly remember and care about in 10 years, like oblique asymptotes, or the foci of an ellipse.

On a serious note, students could learn some great things from well-implemented Ethnic Studies. In each state, there’s plenty of historical things to be taught. Whether it be the long history of great western migrations through the region, or the importance the region played in a war that occurred ages ago, knowing about your home state’s culture could really help shape a student’s perception of himself, and who they are as a person.

At my school, we’re taught Hawaiian history. Personally, I feel as though something would be wrong if we didn’t learn about the rich history of the land. I find it to be extremely interesting. Having grown up here, I learned how to pronounce some of the longer street names, and began to know certain phrases by heart. Sometimes, I’d wonder why this big important building is dedicated to this guy, or this really busy and vital street is named after this person. When we learn about the great leaders of the Hawaiian Kingdom, we find out where all these names come from, and the fantastic things that they did.

I’ve always been intrigued by the Hawaiian culture. I feel as though it’s my duty as a citizen of the state to know about the island’s past. Because of my school’s great culture-encompassing curriculum, I’m thoroughly taught about the government of Hawaii as it changed over time, the ancient culture of the islands, the influences of the outside world, and so much more. So far, this has made me more knowledgeable of where I was raised. I don’t see how that could ever be called a bad thing.

To sum things up, I really think it’s important to include Ethnic Studies in high school curriculum. I’m glad California has made such a landmark decision in beginning to develop Ethnic Studies for their schools. I’m sure only good things will come out of this, and I truly hope other states will soon begin to adopt bills like the one passed in California. It’s never a bad thing to know where you came from.

Hayden Hawkins is a 9th grader at University Laboratory School in Honolulu, HI. He enjoys writing music in his spare time, and loves everything Beethoven. He also has an undying thirst for everything mint chocolate.

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The opinions expressed in The Intersection: Culture and Race in Schools are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.