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Queens senator introduces legislation requiring state public schools to teach Asian American history

Photo courtesy of Senator Liu's office

A Queens lawmaker recently introduced a bill requiring all New York state public schools to teach students the historical and civic impact of Asian Americans.

Under legislation S.6359 sponsored by Senators John Liu, Toby Ann Stavisky, Jeremy Cooney, Andrew Gounardes, Brian Kavanaugh and Kevin Thomas, the instruction on Asian American impact would be required at the elementary and high school levels following the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across the state and the nation.

The curriculum would come directly from the Board of Regents and State Commissioner of Education, which would create a new course of study highlighting Asian American contributions, struggles and accomplishments throughout history.

“Asian Americans have long been caught between the pernicious perpetual foreigner syndrome and the seemingly benign but truly destructive model minority myth,” Senator Liu said. “That my preceding sentence requires a long explanation to most people clearly illustrates the omission of Asian American presence in the teaching of American history and related topics in our public schools. Amid the onslaught of anti-Asian hate, assault and killings, this legislation is necessary to remove the cloak of invisibility that Asian Americans have long endured in order to truly achieve equal opportunity, equal treatment and equal protection. Only then can Asian Americans experience safety and security in the long run.”

According to reports, New York state and the United States at large do not have official curricula centered on the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Much of the textbooks erase the impact Asian Americans have had on the state and country and the discrimination they have faced in the United States. The lack of understanding led to increased violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans, which grew exponentially during COVID-19.

“The story of the importance Asian Americans as part of American history has been ignored for too long. The significant impact of the Asian American community should be taught in our schools. It is time we create a more well-rounded and inclusive curriculum that better represents everyone who helped build this country and move our society forward. I speak from the perspective of a former high school social studies teacher,” Stavisky said.

The new legislation would ensure that Asian American contributions are taught in the state’s schools, fostering respect and understanding for these communities and allowing the communities to see themselves reflected as important parts in the fabric of American history.

Assembly members Rob Kim and Yuh-Line Niou will introduce the same bill in the Assembly this week.

“Asian Americans are as much a part of the fabric of our country as any other community in America,” Kim said. “This legislation will ensure that students in New York understand the history, contributions and sacrifices of our community and help them understand our essential place in this country. I look forward to working with Senator Liu to pass this bill in our respective chambers.”

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