Ethnic Studies as a Collective Disciplined Thesis

Pages: 5 (1514 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

Ethnic Studies as a collective disciplined has had a varied history since its inception during 1968. The first institutions to offer such programs include San Francisco State and the University of California, including Berkeley and Santa Barbara. Ethnic Studies are also known as Black Studies, African-American Studies, Africana Studies, Mexican-American, and Puerto Rican Studies. Other ethnic programs include American Indian and Asian-American Studies.

As the demand became more outspoken, these programs began to grow exponentially, until the 1990s saw more than 700 programs and departments focusing on Ethnic Studies. Ranging from formal University departments as the most significant and powerful in the country, ethnic programs are also offered by research institutions and interdisciplinary programs.

Four major professional associations are representative of these programs in the United States: the National Council of Black Studies, the National Association of Chicano Studies, the Asian-American Studies Association, and the National Association of Ethnic Studies. Smaller associations include the Puerto Rican Studies Association, founded during 1992, and Women's Studies, which came into existence during the same time, although the latter has been dominated mainly by the White middle class sector.

The Berkeley Campus at the University of California began offering Ethnic Studies by means of four programs during 1969: Black Studies, Chicano Studies, Asian-American, and Native American Studies. In the 1990s, over 150 different courses were offered by the programs at Berkeley. The second-largest multiethnic program in the United States is offered by the University of Washington via its Department of American Ethnic Studies. It offers Black Studies, Chicano Studies, and Asian-American Studies. Native American Studies are offered by the department of Anthropology.

2.

Ethnic Studies focus on meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse population among American students. As such, it focuses upon the value of various different cultures represented within the country. Its specific characteristics then also focus upon providing these students with educational opportunities that are equal to those of the entire student body; the opportunity to achieve excellence and learn about the importance and history of their own and others' cultures.

As such, the first characteristic of Ethnic Studies is its purpose of unlocking the value of the history and culture it represents. When enrolling in a specific Ethnic Studies course, a student can then expect to learn about the art, history, and other paradigms of that culture. This then enables a learning process that brings about an appreciation of the beauty and value of the culture in question.

Secondly and connected to the first, the purpose of Ethnic Studies is to challenge the Eurocentric assumption of its own superiority over other cultures. When a white person for example enrolls in such a course, he or she is taught the importance of a culture other than his or her own. This provides a much more balanced and open-minded view of the world with which the student interacts on both the college and workplace level.

Finally, Ethnic Studies tend to have either a specific or comparative focus on minority constructs in United States society. This relatively integrated nature refers to the fact of the social paradigm of racism, by means of which these groups have been distinct from the white majority for years, decades and centuries.

Despite the fact that Ethnic Studies have become an increasingly integrated part of American Universities, the truth remains also that it is often maligned as a non-valid direction of study. For this reason, it is vitally important that not only students, but also the rest of the United States understand the importance of Ethnic Studies for American culture.

3.

The most significant challenge for Ethnic Studies in the United States is the onslaught of renewed racial paradigms brought on not only by social developments, but also and more significantly by political ideology. These paradigms have maintained for Ethnic Studies a subordinate position in the academic mindset. Concomitantly, the initial format of Ethnic Studies departments was mostly based upon protests, which often had a violent aspect. This perpetuated negativity among the mainstream educational sector; a negativity which in many respects still prevail today.

One of the main factors that Ethnic Studies institutions have in their favor today is the new White House era led by a non-white President. In addition to changing political policies and paradigms, the United States is now more positive than ever towards the minority sector. This is a changing attitude that Ethnic Studies departments can use in their favor. Rather than building upon the protest and violence paradigms of the past, these departments can now focus upon a spirit of integration and comparison with other, more mainstream departments. Comparative studies can for example extend their focus to mainstream History and Sociology studies.

A wider academic perspective can also be adopted by means of an integration with Third World Studies. While the latter are still mostly conducted by mainstream white male students mainly with the use of traditional methods, they would do well to adapt to Ethnic Studies departments, while the latter can also capitalize upon the integration paradigm.

Although segregation and racism are social paradigms that theoretically belong to a distant American past, they nonetheless tend to persist in certain academic circles. This can no longer be acceptable on either a social or academic level. Indeed, academic institutions are most important in cultivating a student body that is tolerant and integrated as they are prepared to work and function in the working world.

4.

Despite the many problematic issues still prevailing at American universities as well as in society with regard to Ethnic Studies, it is an undeniable fact that such studies in whatever form are vital in order to create intellectual and social balance. This is true on a variety of levels, including the social, the political, and the academic levels.

On the social level, schooling prepares the student for the world of work, as mentioned above. However, it also does much more than that. Through interpersonal connections, and also through cultivating critical thinking skills, the learner is also prepared for interacting in general society. The United States is becoming increasingly diverse as a result of both immigration, and also as a result of past immigration trends and current social trends. It is therefore vital that the learner learn to interact effectively in a multicultural society. The focus upon diversity offered by Ethnic Studies is a sound basis from which to provide such learning.

On the political level, learners are provided with critical skills in terms of politics. Ethnic Studies that focus on history provides the learner with knowledge regarding the past of the ethnic group in question, and also how this past shapes present social paradigms. Learners develop their critical skills, which can be applied not only to past political issues, but also to those of the present.

On the academic arena, learners are developed in an academic discipline that focuses their attention on innovative ways and fields of research. Students are prepared to possibly enter new fields of professional research or lecturing, cultivating them to function effectively within their own ethnic group, and for empowerment via learning. Through this, all ethnic groups now have the opportunity to develop themselves academically by learning about the historical and social paradigms of their culture. Importantly, all cultures now have access to learning about others in an open-minded and tolerant way.

PART II

There are several career options for students who opt for an Ethnic Studies degree. Students with an Ethnic Studies major for example often continue as teachers in colleges, universities, or secondary K-12 schools. Counseling has also been a career choice among these majors, on either the clinical, career, or academic level. Students with an Ethnic Studies background can also usefully apply their knowledge to the fields of law, journalism, marketing, community and housing development, radio and television, health and medicine, social… [END OF PREVIEW]

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