Readers React

In praise of ethnic studies -- and ethics studies

To the editor: Ethnic studies does not need to be isolated from other teaching. It can be blended into the curriculum as it was in my American literature classes before my retirement in 2002, before the curriculum became test-driven. ("In L.A. schools, the time has come for ethnic studies classes," Dec. 15)

Aside from the usual literary tomes, we read Native American and Latino poetry, records from Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and Olaudah Equiano as well as slave journals and sale records. We read longer works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison and Rudolfo Anaya. We read about Japanese internment.

If ethnic studies is to be an isolated program, I hope that it can still use challenging, engaging literature.

Katharine Paull, Kagel Canyon

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To the editor: Sandy Banks shares an important, insightful "self-actualization" moment regarding her ethnic studies course as a teenager; to wit, her life changed and "early lessons had marked" her.

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education is to be congratulated for decreeing that every high school student will take an ethnic studies class. I would like to see it add an ethics course as well.

Moral decisions are influenced by theories of one sort or another that are not independent of childhood experiences, including ethnic studies. Indeed, decisions come from the way we were raised and the teachings and experiences beginning in early childhood. We internalize these, and they shape our world views in ways that come to seem both intuitive and unquestionable.

Richard Boudreau, Marina del Rey

The writer is a bioethicist at Loyola Marymount University.

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To the editor: Banks has it right: There would be no need for ethnic studies if our history books had honestly included the variety of peoples and cultures that contributed to our country since its beginning.

My hope is that students will not only learn about their own cultures but will also learn, be familiar with and appreciate the history and customs of cultures other than their own.

Stu Bernstein, Santa Monica

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