Diversity in the School Curriculum

Zinna Park, Staff Writer

Today, diversity is a concept that has taken the world by storm as more and more industries strive to make changes regarding inclusion and the education system is no exception. As school’s around the country work to incorporate more diversity into their student body and staff the question remains on whether or not that same adoption of diversity is applied to the school curriculum.

Students at IHS were asked about their thoughts on the curriculum and how diverse they feel it is. Freshman Divitt Jain says, “Currently, I think the IHS curriculum is decently diverse in comparison to other schools around the nation, but it is just a little more than the bare minimum. The euro-centric instruction is very misleading in the way it over-emphasizes European influence and undermines that of other communities worldwide.” While it might be true that classrooms may not offer the level of knowledge and inclusion necessary, other students at IHS have found inclusion and diversity in other aspects of school. Junior Evanka Singh says, “I do feel advancements within South Asian representation at school have dramatically increased, like AAPI club and South Asian studies, which has allowed me to feel more represented within the school.” Singh agrees, however, that the curriculum itself is only beginning to feel more diverse and that it is not prominent in different ethnic studies.

Although compared to other schools around the country it seems that IHS has a decent curriculum and various extracurriculars it is essential to consider why a diverse curriculum is beneficial to students. According to the Hill, “Creating inclusive classroom spaces benefits students and teachers and provides opportunities for them to create practices and curriculums that are relevant to the communities and classrooms they serve.” A diverse curriculum can  contribute not only to the understanding of complex issues going on today but can help students broaden their perspectives. In the education system especially, curriculum improvements are always being made in addition to being called to be made by parents and students. Jain says, “I think teachers can add more diversity by reevaluating the amount of time and importance dedicated to specific areas and instead create even mandatory time for non-conventional learning.”

Similarly, teachers at IHS were asked how they deal with diverse topics and their thoughts on how the curriculum can improve their diversity. English teacher Heidi Hutch says,“ I think we are going in the right direction, but I still think there is a lot of room for improvement. We go through a curriculum adoption for each subject every number of years so adopting new material is kind of a slow process, unfortunately. During our last curriculum adoption maybe about four years ago we did and tried and have our focus set on bringing in more diverse materials and of course that is still four years ago and pre-2020 before all the chaos that happened. I do think we are growing in the right direction and something that is on a lot of teachers’ minds these days for ways to make the curriculum more diverse.”  Honors World History teacher Ellie Shane adds, “I think the curriculum for social studies is fairly diverse and teachers always seek to bring in multiple viewpoints, perspectives, and cultures to the content we teach.” A lot of how students learn and process information can come from how the teachers teach the curriculum, and how they incorporate the respect that goes into addressing complex topics. Hutch says, “At the beginning of the year especially, I really try and stress with my students to be speaking from their perspective. I think as long as that is happening it kind of eliminates a lot of the possibilities for offending people or misspeaking so we use the phrase ‘speak your truth,’ a lot which just means make sure you are sharing from your perspective and sharing your experiences and never speaking for another’s experience that is never yours.” She continues to address that curriculum can improve by having the adoption process be made more efficient and trying to remove the barriers that make the process harder to bring in new materials.

In recent years, schools and governments around the country have begun to push for harsh laws and bans against content being brought into curriculums. According to American Progress,“Texas, for example, at least 713 books have been banned from public schools, and school districts’ and school boards’ attempts to censor books have triggered a systematic review of hundreds of books in every school district in the entire state.” Additionally, American Progress says, “A 2022 nationwide survey from Campaign for Our Shared Future, 92 percent of parents and 85 percent of voters overall said they believe that teachers should play a more active role in decisions about what subjects are taught in classrooms. Additionally, 74 percent of parents and 71 percent of voters reported believing that current high school students should play the second-most-active role.” It is no secret that the government plays a huge role in the education systems in different states, as well as their influence on the curriculum which can ultimately lead to biased viewpoints,  Shane says, “I think this is unfortunately tied to the state’s politics. Sometimes political motives can influence what is allowed to be taught, or what way a topic can be discussed. Even textbooks can lack diverse viewpoints or perspectives because of the audience the manufacturer is making them for.”

Previously, before COVID the ISD used to distribute and ask parents to fill out surveys based on the school curriculum and how much they agree or disagree on certain statements as well as what could be improved on. Although these surveys were last done in 2019 they still provide an insight into the parent’s thought process. On the Issaquah School District website one parent said, “I wish for the teacher to be able to speak the language correctly. When a teacher does not know how to speak the language, and or pronounce the word correctly, there is a problem. Issaquah School District really needs to have a more thorough screening of French teachers.” It would be interesting and informative to see the district bring back these surveys and ask parents about their thoughts.

Overall, despite how politicalized the education system is becoming, IHS seems to be one school that tries to adapt the curriculum and improve on it. It would be nice to see that same effort be applied moving forward and hopefully more improvements on the curriculum where students would be able to feel fully represented through their learning.