Over 1,800 NYC Schools To Teach Asian American, Pacific Islander History

Students in New York City public schools will begin learning about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders this autumn, according to an announcement from the city’s Department of Education on Thursday.  The “Hidden Voices: Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States” curriculum is designed to teach students in grades K-12 about the contributions, culture, and history of the Asian American community.

As part of the Hidden Voices Project, the show will explore the contributions of lesser-known personalities to history. A total of 1,800 schools in the New York City public school system will be included in the project.  Several different groups, including Hunter College, the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF), and the Asian American Education Project, are collaborating on the development of the new curriculum.

According to CACF’s senior policy coordinator for education, Kaveri Sengupta, the curriculum aims to showcase the diversity of experiences in the Asian American community. To combat anti-Asian prejudice, she said, education is essential.  “We kind of see erasure from curriculum as being one of the root causes of the anti-Asian rhetoric we hear, the hate or the violence that we see,” Sengupta said, adding that this would help Asian American and Pacific Islander students “see themselves reflected and feel like they are really a part of the American fabric.”

Among the topics covered will be the Chinese Exclusion Act, the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the targeting of Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asian-Americans following September 11, as well as the 2017 travel restriction restricting immigration from countries with a majority Muslim population.

Democrat State Sen. John Liu, of New York, repeated the idea that Asian American history might be utilized to counteract anti-Asian prejudices. It’s Liu’s bill in New York City that would mandate students to take Asian American studies. The measure has been sent to the committee.

According to Liu, many people lack a basic understanding of what it means to be an Asian American in the United States, as well as the significance of the Asian American experience in American history. For better or worse, “the yellow peril,” “the model minority,” and “the perpetual foreigner,” we need education to better comprehend Asian Americans.

Following input from instructors and community groups, the whole curriculum will be implemented in the spring of 2024.  “Our goal is to be able to start getting the materials out there, see how they land … and really take a look at this the right way like what are we missing?” Sengupta said.

When it comes to the curriculum, “the city needs to ensure that the curriculum speaks to community needs and desires… and dreams and isn’t unintentionally exclusive,” she said. New York City’s initiative follows similar attempts to compel the teaching of Asian American history in public schools throughout the United States. Connecticut and New Jersey became the second and third states to mandate the study of Asian American history in schools this year, after Illinois’ lead last year.

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