There is a growing push for public schools to require teaching the history of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in states across the country.
It comes as the pandemic has put a spotlight on the rise in discrimination against the AAPI community.
According to the nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate, there were more than 10,000 reported hate incidents against AAPI people in the first 1.5 year of the pandemic.
“The Asian American Pacific Islander community is still seen as a perpetual permanent foreigner and I think there’s a sense to better educate young people in civics on the Asian American experience, which is really the American experience,” said Jeff Le, a political partner with the Truman National Security Project. “There are Asian Americans which come from 50 different communities, 100 different languages, who are also not well versed or fluent in the history of other parts of their community. So, there’s also a need to educate not just non Asian American or Pacific Islanders, but also within the community themselves.”
New Jersey and Illinois now require AAPI studies after state lawmakers passed measures in the last year and several other state legislatures have proposals now under consideration.
In Florida, lawmakers are considering SB 490 and HB 281 which calls for schools to include teaching “the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity, and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American society.”
“I think it’s a sign that people recognize that these communities want to be more visible, want to be more heard,” said Le.
Last year, Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a bill in Congress to promote teaching AAPI history nationwide.
That proposal dubbed the “Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act” has been introduced in the House but has not made movement beyond that at this time.
We asked Meng’s office about the push to include AAPI curriculum in schools at the local level and in a statement, her office said: “The inclusion of AAPI history in schools is important to reflect America’s diverse history and the number of state’s considering and implementing such laws is incredibly encouraging. I continue to champion this issue on the federal level and remain hopeful about the bill’s progress.”
The push for AAPI curriculum comes as lawmakers are at odds over schools teaching critical race theory, which has become increasingly controversial.
Supporters say critical race theory examines the intersection of race and law in the U.S. and is meant to shine a light on racial injustice.
Opponents have argued the teaching is divisive and several states have banned critical race theory in public schools including in Florida.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called critical race theory “state-sanctioned racism.”
So far, it doesn’t appear the push to include AAPI curriculum is getting the same heated backlash.
In fact, it has bipartisan support at the state level.
We asked DeSantis’ office for comment on the Florida proposals to include AAPI curriculum and in a statement, his office said: “The governor has not weighed in on SB 490 and HB 281. His position is that students should learn the facts about our state, country, and world history. Public schools must adhere to Florida’s standards for K-12 education. Without having the chance to review the proposed AAPI Curriculum, we wouldn’t be able to say whether that would be in line with Florida’s standards or not.”
Supporters, meanwhile, are hoping to see more states adopt similar proposals.
“It will make more representation possible, more visibility possible,” said Le.
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