Make Us Visible NJ: Inclusion of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Studies into the K-12 Curriculum for New Jersey Public Schools.

We represent Make Us Visible NJ, a coalition of students, parents, educators, legislators, professionals, and New Jersey community members advocating for thoughtful and comprehensive inclusion of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) studies into the K-12 curriculum for New Jersey public schools. Our goals include:

  • Supporting the development of accurate, community-centered, engaging, and inclusive curricula, which reflects the histories and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the United States and the world
  • Passing statewide legislation mandating such curricula across subject areas;
  • Building coalitions to support open access to resources for educators seeking to implement such curricula within their classrooms

We seek to mobilize AAPI communities across New Jersey in pursuit of equitable representation and racial justice for all. As of this letter, we are aware of similar efforts in California, Connecticut, and Illinois. 

We, Asian Americans and our allies, seek a just and equitable future for all. In the wake of the tragic, high-profile crimes against Asian Americans in Atlanta and Indianapolis, and amidst the rise in anti-Asian harassment and hate all over the country, we believe there is important work to be done. We stand in solidarity with all those who demand justice for each one of these incidents. 

Nationwide, the number of reports of anti-Asian discrimination is disturbing.  During the pandemic, the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center received reports of 3,795 incidences of anti-Asian discrimination between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021. Undoubtedly, the number of actual incidents is even higher with many that go unreported. In an ongoing study by Doris Chang and Sumi Okazaki of nearly 700 participants across the country, Asian Americans reported alarmingly high rates of racial discrimination:

34% Verbal harassment

24% Workplace discrimination

16% Coughed at or spat on

14% Barred from an establishment

13% Vandalism

12% Physical Assault

12% Barred from transportation

In New Jersey alone, reported bias incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals rose 82% from 2019 to 2020. During the pandemic there has been an increase in the already elevated rates of anti-Asian discrimination, which is impacting the mental health of Asian Americans who report increased distress, anxiety and depression related to racism.

We believe it is vital to focus on prevention and education, by emphasizing what an integral part of this country Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been, and continue to be. Changing our public school curricula is an important place to start that work. We must correct the absence of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in our narrated history in schools. Our exclusion does not reflect the full breadth of American history and therefore leaves all students inadequately prepared for a society of deep-rooted diversity.

When our children grow up seeing themselves represented in their class lessons, they are more confident, more creative, and more curious. This inclusion builds awareness to fight racism, violence, and disparities in our communities. In this way, teaching Asian American and Pacific Islander studies can be part of a strategy to address the wave of pandemic-related racism and anti-Asian violence.

Make Us Visible CT has already begun this work, and the current bill under consideration (Proposed Bill No. 678) is summarized as follows: “AN ACT CONCERNING THE INCLUSION OF ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN STUDIES IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in the General Assembly convened: That section 10-16b of the general statutes be amended to include Asian Pacific American studies as part of the social studies curriculum for school districts.”

We wanted to share these resources, especially since AAPI month is coming up. Please feel free to share the below resources with whomever you think might be interested.

The Antiracist Teaching and Learning Collective shared this amazing spreadsheet with us and asked that when it is shared the following language be included: “This spreadsheet is an open and collaborative list of Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies curricula and lesson plans. It was started in spring 2021 by the Antiracist Teaching and Learning Collective, based in Connecticut. The goal of the spreadsheet is to centralize online AAPI resources for teachers interested in incorporating AAPI content in their classrooms. Where possible, lesson items have been matched to Common Core ELA and states’ Department of Education standards for teacher convenience. Please feel free to add to this spreadsheet and adapt it as desired.”

California’s ethnic studies curriculum is online. The Chapter 4 link has 14 lessons on Asian Americans, that include lessons on the Model Minority Myth, Cambodian Americans, Chinese Railroad Workers, Little Manila, Filipino Laborers and the United Farm Workers, Hmong Americans, Indian Americans, the Japanese American Incarceration Experience, Korean Americans, Lao Americans, Pacific Islanders, South Asian Americans and Vietnamese Americans.  We know that one problem with the CA curriculum is that it omits caste in the chapter about India due to lobbying from certain groups, but there are curricula materials regarding caste in the above spreadsheet if you are interested.

In whatever ways you are willing and able, we would love to collaborate with you. We believe this is an important issue not just for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, but for all Americans. 

In solidarity,

Make Us Visible NJ

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