The Center for Asian American Studies will create a free resource for high school teachers
Key points to remember:
- Fills a need. Fifty-eight percent of Americans were unable to name a prominent Asian American.
- Customizable courses. Chapters will be designed for a single course period or a week-long series.
- The project meets the moment. California and other states have mandated the teaching of ethnic studies in high school and college.
UCLA’s Center for Asian American Studies has received $10 million in state funding that will propel the development of a free multimedia learning experience that will provide teachers across the country with materials that can fill a curricular gap on the experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The AAPI Multimedia Handbook will feature an open-access online platform with lessons for high school, middle school and lifelong learners. Its chapters will highlight the stories, struggles, cultures, and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the United States. It will integrate content developed by scholars from across the country and engaging learning activities into flexible modules for teachers and students. The material will be geared towards high school and college students.
“The Handbook will be the most comprehensive, scholarly, and comprehensive online history of AAPI that redefines the American narrative and unlocks limitless possibilities for building a just, multiracial, and democratic future,” said Karen Umemoto, Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director of the UCLA Center for Asian American Studies. A key feature of the multimedia manual is its curation by members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
One-time funding from the California budget provides infrastructure to support the development of a broad curriculum as well as to facilitate the purchase of multimedia equipment, build and test a new online learning platform, and launch a national program training for teachers and school districts. The center will also evaluate and refine the content of future editions.
The budget allocation was championed by the Asian American Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.
“This AAPI multimedia textbook produced by the Center for Asian American Studies at UCLA will provide an authoritative and invaluable resource for high schools and colleges in California as we prepare for teaching ethnic studies statewide” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi. “I look forward to continuing to partner with UCLA to ensure the history and perspectives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are properly taught in our classrooms.”
Teachers will have flexibility
The online platform will allow students to browse chapters on different topics, time periods and locations with visual, audio and archival artifacts that bring history to life, Umemoto said. The chapters will stand alone and function as customizable modules designed for a single lesson period or a week-long series that educators can “take off the shelf” to teach in their classrooms.
“The work that Dr. Umemoto and the Center for Asian American Studies at UCLA are doing is more important than ever,” said Assemblyman Mike Fong. “The increase in anti-AAPI hate crimes is an indication of the lack of understanding and appreciation for the contributions our community makes to California and our nation. I am grateful for the support of the AAPI Legislative Caucus, the Legislature and Governor, and I can’t wait to see the final product of the AAPI Multimedia Textbook project.
After a long history of racism in the United States, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have become the scapegoats of the COVID-19 pandemic, facing xenophobia, physical violence, bigotry and to hatred. While the mainstream media has helped make this wave of anti-Asian racism more visible to the public, scholars and policymakers believe that the dearth of AAPI history in classrooms is a critical gap that allows these racialized ideologies to persist generation after generation.
“As California requires ethnic studies for high school graduation, the Asian American Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus secured funding for the AAPI Multimedia Handbook, which brings together distinguished scholarship, technology open access and a pedagogy of ethnic studies as an essential resource for teaching AAPI history,” said Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator and Caucus Chairman. “We are grateful to the Center for Asian American Studies at UCLA for spearheading the project and look forward to its widespread use.”
In 2021, California law made ethnic studies a graduation requirement for all public high schools, Cal State University campuses, and community colleges in the state.
Many other states and school districts across the country are also beginning to require ethnic studies as a requirement for high school and college graduation. Illinois and New Jersey now require AAPI history to be taught in all public elementary and secondary schools.
“There will be a huge need for high-quality curricula that reflect cutting-edge scholarship and Asian American Studies pedagogy with learning outcomes that will equip future leaders to build a more just and equitable future,” said Kelly Fong, co-director of the project. and associate professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at UCLA.
Dangerous Ignorance of Asian American Contributions
Umemoto was part of an academic advisory committee for the 2022 Social Tracking of Asian Americans in the American Index that found that the contributions of Asian Americans continued to be invisible and unknown to the American public. Fifty-eight percent of Americans were unable to name a prominent Asian American and 42% were unable to name an important Asian historical moment more recent than the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.
The AAPI Multimedia Handbooks Project will help to better understand how the AAPIs have influenced and shaped the United States, as well as fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance for Asian Americans.
“For decades, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have longed to be seen and heard. In my childhood, I didn’t learn anything about the history of AAPI in school. It’s like we don’t exist, which contributes to the perception that we don’t belong in America,” said Phil Ting, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee.
e. “Inclusion in textbooks and lessons is essential to fostering greater understanding and acceptance, and I’m happy to champion state funding that helps us achieve these goals.”
The Center for Asian American Studies at UCLA is deeply grateful for the support of the Senate and State Assembly Budget Committees, as well as Governor Gavin Newsom and the entire Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. Americans, Umemoto said.