Chicago Public Schools to Mandate Latin American Studies for Kindergartners

Chicago Public Schools plans to make Latino and Latin American studies a required part of its curriculum beginning with students enrolled in kindergarten.

According to Catalyst Chicago, kindergartners will learn the Mayan counting system, while fifth graders will be taught about “African influences on South American percussion.”

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is so excited about the new curriculum that she copyrighted it so that she could sell it to other school districts. “This is huge,” Byrd-Bennett told Catalyst Chicago. “This is the curriculum for the next generation of Chicago’s children.”

Hispanic students now make up a plurality of CPS students. As a result, the third largest school district in the country will begin training its teachers in the new curriculum this spring. School officials and teachers created the new courses with the guidance of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Latino Advisory Committee, and designed them to be compliant with Common Core State Standards.

Emanuel will face Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the son of Mexican immigrants, in a runoff election next month. The race is viewed as having national implications for the Democratic Party as it heads toward the 2016 election cycle without President Obama at the top of the ticket, and Emanuel may be doing his best to make overtures to Chicago’s Hispanic population.

But some professors do not think the required courses go far enough. Ray Salazar, a professor at Hancock High School in Chicago, said he was disappointed in the new program, and feels it is too politically correct. He said he thinks Latino and Latin American Studies is largely about “insurrection and demand for change.”  

“I’m also struggling to find 21st century assignments in the curriculum where students communicate their insights,” he wrote. “I’m looking for podcasts, for example, that educate our community about important issues in the Latino community.” 

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