How to Spot a High-Quality Ethnic Studies Resource: Three Key Features


Ethnic Studies is no longer exclusive to colleges and universities—it’s a quickly growing field of study in K-12 education. As of 2021, nine states had passed legislation supporting the adoption of diverse coursework in public schools[1], with California becoming the first state to require Ethnic Studies for graduation[2].

As states around the country begin to phase in new requirements, educators are in need of supplemental resources that infuse the curriculum with diverse subject matter. The challenge is finding resources that are high-quality, credible, and compatible with existing standards. To aid the selection process, this post identifies three key features you should expect to find in a high-quality resource for Ethnic Studies.

For a digital solution that meets all three criteria, try The American Mosaic databases from Bloomsbury/ABC-CLIO—available for a free 30-day preview at this link.

1. It takes a global view

All too often, social studies curriculum confines its focus to a few centuries of history in Western Europe and North America. As a simple glance at the map can tell you, this emphasis neglects important developments in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Islamic world, as well as the histories and cultures of Indigenous people.

Moreover, the history of America’s diverse communities is deeply connected to the history of peoples and cultures around the world and across time. In order to properly contextualize the experiences of Asian Americans, for instance, students need to learn about the many regions, countries, and cultures that make up the cultural legacy of different AAPI identities. The story of a particular group of people did not begin when they arrived in the United States, and neither should the curriculum.

In this way, the concept of diversity in social studies is closely related to geography. By expanding the lens of study to include the histories and cultures of people around the world, social studies curriculum “tell[s] a richer, more accurate story that helps all students feel seen and included in their learning”[3].

2. It does not shy away from difficult subjects

Big topics like American and world history are full of painful subject matter, and in order to develop a nuanced understanding of history, students need to engage with these subjects. Of course, age appropriateness should always be a consideration when designing a social studies lesson; but when age and content are aligned, “being forthright about the nation and world’s history is absolutely necessary in providing students true, robust, and authentic social studies classes that are culturally responsive.”[4]

Some teachers may feel that introducing difficult subjects in the classroom means taking a political stance. However, omitting certain chapters of history is as much a political decision as the choice to include them. What is left out of a historical narrative affects the interpretation and ultimate meaning of what is left in—and these kinds of omissions can reinforce forms of cultural isolation and ignorance.

Writing on this phenomenon in the Brown Political Review, Michael O’Neill explains:

…people are more likely to be skeptical about the validity of certain ideas – even if they are undeniably true – if they spend most of their early life unaware of its existence. These are realities that Americans face every single day, and leaving them out of social studies curriculum invalidates their struggles to many of those who don’t experience them first-hand. [5]

3. It provides ample context

Context is a key ingredient for all responsible historical inquiry. Students need to be able to situate what they’re learning in the proper historical and cultural context. When it comes to sensitive subjects, the importance of context is magnified.

Consider the use of historical primary sources in the classroom which may contain offensive images or language. Incorporating these kinds of sources can be a powerful way to help students understand how prejudice was institutionalized at various points in history. However, situating such documents in the broader historical context is absolutely essential to avoid misunderstanding of their purpose in the lesson. Historical background essays, guiding questions, and sources that present multiple points of view can help students think critically about these sources and arrive at informed conclusions.

We hope this guide proves helpful in your selection of high-quality Ethnic Studies resources. For a digital solution that meets all three criteria, try The American Mosaic databases from Bloomsbury/ABC-CLIO—available for a free 30-day preview at this link.

Bloomsbury / ABC-CLIO is a leading publisher of reference and nonfiction for students, educators, and researchers striving at all levels of academic inquiry. Whether it be primary documents, critical texts, historical archives, or the latest in video and audio resources, we are committed to enhancing the research experience with engaging and dynamic digital resources of the highest quality. Learn more about our resources for teachers and librarians at

[1] National Education Association. (2021). “Movement Grows to Require Ethnic Studies in Public High Schools, Despite California Veto.” EdJustice.

[2] Fensterwald, J. (2021). “California becomes first state to require ethnic studies in high school.” EdSource.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ferlazzo, Larry. (2022). “8 Practical Ideas for Teaching Social Studies in Culturally Responsive Ways.” EducationWeek.

[5] O’Neill, Michael. (2016). “Time to be Heard: Diversifying Social Studies Curricula.” Brown Political Review.

Author: Bloomsbury / ABC-CLIO

Categories: Collection Development

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.