By Kimberly Bajarias
SACRAMENTO, CA – On May 9, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed House Bill 1537 into law, therefore requiring the instruction of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history in K-12 schools. Following suit with other states, the initiative sheds light on the need for racial education — one that uplifts the important role that AAPI communities have played in the social, political, economic, and cultural landscape of the United States.
Historically, AAPI communities have given much to the development of the United States; however, current K-12 school curricula lack education on their successes, contributions, and heroes. Given the lack of education, students of every background fail to understand the racial landscape that is the United States.
Implementing AAPI education additionally demonstrates an effort to combat racial violence in America. After the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, anti-Asian violence rose immensely. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Asian individuals specifically rose by 76% in 2020. Organizations advocating for K-12 AAPI education are hopeful that its implementation — in addition to expanding necessary knowledge — will combat and prevent hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Nonprofit organizations such as Make Us Visible, The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), and The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) continue to support the adoption of K-12 AAPI history legislation in all 50 states. As of 2023, at least eight states require an AAPI or ethnic studies curriculum, including Illinois (2021), New Jersey (2021), Colorado (2019), Nevada (2021), California (2021), Oregon (2023), and Nebraska (2021). Florida (2023) is the most recent addition to the states adopting AAPI history legislation.
Since passing this legislation, these state school curriculums are now mandated to include the histories of AAPI communities. In Illinois, for example, public schools must now include a unit of instruction dedicated to lessons on “the wrongful incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the heroic service of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army during World War II.”
To educate students, organizations like the National Education Association have developed lesson plans on Japanese American internment, along with creative activities meant to engage with AAPI culture.
With the gradual expansion of AAPI and racial education across the country, advocates are hopeful that all communities will be better educated and inspired by their own histories.
Although more states have implemented K-12 AAPI history education, still many states have not passed it, hence the continuing mission that many nonprofit organizations have to support it nationwide.
Kimberly Bajarias is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Political Economy. She is a writer for the Vanguard at Berkeley’s Social Justice Desk.