Asian American Studies Added to NYC Schools’ Curriculum

asian american studies coming to NYC classrooms
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Asian American Studies Added to NYC Schools’ Curriculum

Asian American history is becoming a permanent part of New York City public schools’ curriculum.

Last spring, the new pilot program Hidden Voices: Asian American & Pacific Islanders (AAPI), was introduced in a dozen schools throughout the city with the goal of raising awareness of the multiplicity of AAPI experiences. The program is part of a larger effort by the Department of Education to build out Hidden Voices resources that promote the inclusion of underrepresented populations in the classroom. Citing a historical lack in coverage of Asian American issues, the new curriculum will include topics such as Japanese internment camps, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, discrimination against South Asians following the 9/11 attacks, and more.

“These Hidden Voices resources allow us to re-examine our understanding of American history to see ourselves in the story and to celebrate what makes each of us unique,” said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks, who took office in January of 2022.

“Diversity makes up the very fabric of our communities, our neighborhoods, our city, our classrooms — and it is our responsibility as the largest school district in the country to bring these lessons into all of our classrooms starting with kindergarten,” said Banks. He announced on Tuesday, January 23, that the new resources and curriculums would be available to all schools and ages by June, before the end of the school year.

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“But it’s not just about bringing these physical resources into the classroom,” Banks emphasized. “It’s also about making sure that our educators know how to use these resources to embrace the strengths and backgrounds of their students and to celebrate their histories every day not just during a commemorative month … This pilot is going to serve as an inspiration for the work that we’re going to do for the rest of the city.”

New York City is following in the footsteps of states like Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey, all of which passed legislation in the last two years mandating AAPI history to be taught in public schools. Similar legislation, sponsored by State Senator John C. Liu, is currently making its way through the New York State Senate.

“People just don’t know enough about Asian Americans and the Asian American experience and how our history is just as much a part of American history as anybody else’s,” Liu said.

The new curriculum comes following a dramatic increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans over the last three years and since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. One study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found hate crimes against Asians in the US increased 339% from 2020 to 2021. A survey of AAPIs from early 2022 found that 16% of Asian American adults and 14% of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had experienced an incident of hate because of their race. In New York City alone, there were 131 confirmed hate crimes against Asian people in 2021, compared to 28 reported in 2020 and just 1 reported in 2019.

“A lack of understanding and knowledge of Asian Americans has contributed to a recent increase in violence and hate crimes against people of Asian descent, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” states the legislation proposed by Senator Liu. “This legislation would ensure that students in New York State schools are taught about the historical contributions of Asian Americans, which will foster respect and understanding of Asian Americans, and allow Asian American students to see themselves reflected as an important part of the history and culture of our state and country.”