Letters to the Editor: Are ethnic studies classes forgetting the Doctrine of Discovery?

Studies hold discussions in an ethnic studies class at Culver City High School on Oct. 13.
(Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: I left my White Mountain Apache reservation in 1943 at the age of 12. My father moved our family from Arizona to Venice to seek work in support of our nation’s defense. So I grew up outside my Indian culture. (“Colonialism, power and race. Inside California ethnic studies classes,” Nov. 10)

In 2018, I attended an event commemorating Indigenous cultures. In the presentation I learned that the colonizing of this continent was directly enabled by the Doctrine of Discovery. My interest was piqued. I discovered that our country was founded on the principles of that doctrine.

Simply put, the Doctrine of Discovery is a euphemism for European (white) supremacy. I am amazed that in so many articles and editorials on racial issues, there is no mention of it. I support the teachers and students in California engaging in important discussions in their ethnic studies classes, and I suggest they include a thorough study of the Doctrine of Discovery.


I love this country, having served in the Korean War and owned a graphic design studio for more than 40 years. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but I believe historical truth must be taught in our schools.

Harold Printup, Mar Vista


To the editor: A graduate of teacher Melina Melgoza’s class says that the experience left her more open-minded, more self-aware and more able to identify injustice and oppression in her daily life.

It’s no wonder conservative Republicans are terrified of ethnic studies and critical race theory.

As young people become more open-minded and able to identify injustice, it will become increasingly difficult for any political party to promote a fearful culture of “us” versus “them.”

Brent Criswell, Laguna Niguel



To the editor: I applaud the goal of teaching high schoolers how to think open-mindedly about ethnicity and inequality. This is not easy to do. Often, merely a new set of generalizations is recommended, replacing the old set. New divisions can result.

A curriculum that truly prompted fresh thinking might cover the origins of us humans, and the story of our great diaspora and remixing. I would cover the histories around the globe of fights over territory, ethnic warfare, slavery, sacrifice, versions of justice and equality, the treatment of women, the exploitation of resources and the full history of migration and expulsion.

After that study, students might hesitate to neatly divide us into angels and devils. Things would get interesting. This continent’s first anti-immigrants, for example, were some Indigenous groups. How does immigration today compare with immigration then?

The second part of the course would cover the history of who, at what times and places, stood up for the disadvantaged or for the ecosystem. What could be a unifying path forward for us now?

Peter Yates, Culver City