NYC schools to teach Asian American and Pacific Islander history

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New curriculum will have lessons about historical figures like Dr. Anandibai Joshee, the first Indian American woman doctor

A number of public schools in New York City will introduce a new pilot program in the next school year teaching the history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

“There’s nothing more tragic than a Caribbean student sitting next to an AAPI student not knowing the rich history of that student,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said at press conference announcing the new program on May 26.

The curriculum, called “Hidden Voices: Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States,” is part of the Department of Education’s Hidden Voices Project and reflects the growing numbers of AAPI New Yorkers.

Read: Asian Americans must be in decision making rooms: Kamala Harris (May 23, 2022)

“This curriculum will cover stories from numerous AAPI figures and a multitude of communities who have left their mark on this country,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks.

It will have “lessons structured around historical figures like Dr. Anandibai Joshee, the first woman of Indian ancestry to be a doctor of Western medicine in the United States; Representative Patsy Mink, who was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress; and Helen Zia, the Chinese-American journalist,” he said.

“This new curriculum is a milestone in our ongoing support to AAPI students and families in our public schools and communities,” Banks said.

“Since 1990, the number of API residents in NYC (including both immigrants and non-immigrants) more than doubled, from 490,000 in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2019,” the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs said in a report last year.

In the 2020-2021 school year, 16.5% of the 1.1 million public school students identified as Asian, according to the DOE.

While the specific schools have not been selected, Banks said the pilot curriculum will be developed for all grade levels with plans to roll out across the school system by the fall of 2024.

Read: NYC to teach Asian American, Pacific Islander history in over 1,800 schools (June 1, 2022)

Banks noted the pilot program was also aimed at combating anti-Asian sentiment, which has led to a surge in violence – in 2021, hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers were up 361% over the previous year.

“One of the ways we combat racism and hate – and the mayor talks about this all the time – is by teaching and learning about each other’s stories and histories. We are not the other,” Banks said. “We are all New Yorkers. We are all Americans.”

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