The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

Culturally-based classes spark student interest

Joanna Li
Additional courses have been added to RM’s Course Catalog that explore culture, sexuality and languages of varying cultures.

Everyone has taken history classes. From the heavy textbooks with tiny fonts and long paragraphs, it can seem like these courses must cover next to everything. Yet, in these carefully crafted textbooks, many often marginalized groups, such as women and African Americans, have stories left untold. With such a short time to cover hundreds of years of human interactions, simply adding a few facts when crucial seems the limit of representation. But Richard Montgomery, and a sprinkling of other high schools throughout the county, have found a way to allow students to delve deeper.

RM offers classes focusing on these groups as one-semester electives. Most of them are only a few years old. One of these is Asian Pacific Islander Desi American studies.

“APIDA studies is a look at the history and current experience of being Asian in America,” APIDA teacher Rebecca Garrigues said. The class has four units, delving into what it means to be Asian, the history of Asian Americans, some activism and ending with a unit on culture.

“No matter what field you go into, you are going to work with a diverse group of people and it can only benefit you to know more about the people around you,” Ms. Garrigues said.

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This class is unique to the county. Two teachers, one from John F. Kennedy High School and one from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, with a group of twenty MCPS students, worked together to craft the curriculum. It’s been offered at RM for a mere two years.

Another recently added class with the shared goal of learning about underrepresented groups focuses on women.

“Women make up 50 percent of the population and while a lot of progress has been made for women, a lot, they’re still economically behind men when it comes to job representation and even for health issues,” Women’s studies teacher Lisa MacFarlane said. “Educate people about these issues, then change can come.”

The women’s studies class is formatted similarly to APIDA studies, focusing on history for only one unit and filled with discussions on recent events. It also has a similar origin story.

“I teach AP US History, and we were talking with some kids in the class about how we spend like one day on women and that’s it,” Ms. MacFarlane said. “And they say, you know, ‘We need a women’s class.’ So I went to Mr. Stillman. and I said, ‘Is this something we could do?’ And he helped me get in touch with the other teachers in the county, and we offered it, and enough kids signed up.”

But the question remains, is one semester enough for these classes?

“I think it’s good as the semester,” Ms. Garrigues said. “That’s what I think high school is for– to get you interested, to give you a taste, and then you can pursue it further.” She thinks the course is merely meant to introduce students to the topics.

“I could easily do it a full year,” Ms. MacFarlane said. “Girls are coming back and they’re like, ‘Oh, I wish it were a full year’ and we didn’t get to everything. Like there’s so much more I could do that I didn’t realize I could until after I started teaching.”

Whether or not they are suited for a full year remains unknown, but the positives of having these courses as opportunities for students seems a clear win. 

Universities have also taken a similar approach to providing students with a larger course catalog. 

“So many campuses are starting to build up, like the Asian Studies Department, whether it’s Asian American or Asian history,” Ms. Garrigues said. 

The Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland offers a minor to students seeking a detailed dive into the history of Asian Americans and characteristics of their culture. 

Specific courses like these, allow students to learn more about their own identity while also having the ability to discuss ongoing issues revolving around specific cultures. 

Notable pop stars and influential people have also been spotted throughout many courses, including one of the most prominent music stars today, Taylor Swift. 

In 2023, Harvard University’s Stephanie Burt, announced a new class she would be teaching as part of English 183: Taylor Swift and her World. Eversince the class was offered to students, the demand has reached its maximum, causing the creation of a second section to accommodate the influx of interested students. 

With greater classes similarly to those mentioned being implemented, students have so many opportunities to explore the topics they truly enjoy. 

“Having that knowledge out there and getting people to care about it is what’s important,” Ms. MacFarlane said.


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About the Contributor
Joanna Li, Graphics Artist
Joanna is currently a junior at Richard Montgomery high school, and a first-year graphic artist for the Tide. She is passionate about art, music, cats, and her community. Apart from drawing, Joanna likes to go on long bike rides, write short stories, and procrastinate on calculus homework.