The Asian American Education
The history of Asian Americans in the United States is an integral part of
American history. Since their arrival as far back as the 1800s, Asian
immigrants have contributed and shaped the way the country is today. From
labor activism to fighting for school integration and citizenship rights
in the courts, and against model minority and perpetual foreigner
stereotypes, Asian Americans have faced adversity and fought for
opportunities to create roots here in the U.S. From building coalitions
with other minority groups, Asian Americans have been a vital part of
major historical achievements including the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and Title IX. Today, as one of
the fastest–growing populations, Asian Americans continue to make
further positive and effective changes towards a better future for the
United States, together with all their fellow Americans.
The history of Asian American is deeply intertwined together with
America’s own history, yet often forgotten or ignored within
today’s classrooms and public discourse. Our online lesson plans
here provide a tailored K–12 curriculum for educators to teach this
rich history to students. These lessons are but just a brief snapshot into
the long journey of Asian immigrants and their native–born children
within America’s timeline—both dark and bright, from exclusion
to acceptance. By showcasing the struggles and triumphs of Asian Americans
over the course of two centuries, our lesson plans amplify the importance
and voices of this growing, integral segment of the U.S. population in
building the country into what it is today and can become tomorrow,
together as Americans. It is important for all Americans, young and old,
to join in on this learning experience.
In 2005, Stewart Kwoh, a civil rights activist, saw a dire and essential
need to tell the stories of Asian Americans in K-12 learning. Both he and
Russell C. Leong of UCLA, were co-editors of a project to tell the stories
of how Asian Americans impacted civil rights in the United States. They
organized a team of writers that included Julie Su, Helen Zia, Dale
Minami, Angela Oh and Casimiro Tolentino, among others. The stories told
included that of Fred Korematsu, Philip Vera Cruz, Vincent Chin, Joseph
Ileto, Asian American Pacific Islander Women, and Amric Singh Rathour.
Through these stories, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the UCLA Asian
American Studies Center co-edited the book
Untold Civil Rights Stories: Asian Americans Speak Out for Justice.
In 2009, Untold Civil Rights Stories was published utilizing
generous contributions from friends and colleagues to the Beulah Kwoh
Memorial Fund. The Fund, in honor Stewart’s mother, was established
to teach young people about Asian Americans. In 2014, Patricia Kwoh
managed a team of teachers to develop 12 lesson plans with the stories
from Untold Civil Rights Stories.
During 2014, the executive producers of Asian Americans, a
docuseries for PBS, CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) and WETA
(Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association),
approached Stewart on the production of their film project. Subsequently,
Stewart and Patricia were engaged as partners to produce 36 lesson plans
based on the stories and topics that took place from the 1850s to 2000s in
Asian Americans, for PBS LearningMedia and Asian Americans Advancing
Justice. Now 36 lesson plans have been developed between WETA, CAAM, and The Asian American Education Project, as the engagement and education partners.
In 2020, Stewart and Patricia engaged the Stanford University Program on
International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) to develop a
teacher’s guide with five thematic units based on the 48 lesson
plans from Untold Civil Rights Stories and Asian Americans.
Waka Takahashi Brown, Curriculum Specialist, from Stanford SPICE created
the teacher’s guide.
In 2021, Stewart and Patricia formed The Asian American Education Project,
using the learning resources created in partnership with the UCLA Asian
American Studies Center, Stanford University SPICE and PBS LearningMedia,
in order to bring the history, contributions, challenges and triumphs of
Asian Americans to students across the country.
The value of Asian American and other ethnic studies cannot be
underestimated. “The (2010 to 2014) Stanford study (with SFUSD)
found that the attendance for those enrolled in ethnic studies classes
increased by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points and credits
earned by 23. It also found significant effects on GPA specific to math
and science achievement suggesting that exposure to ethnic studies could
increase performance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
The Asian American Education Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The perpetual foreigner stereotype is a form of systemic racism against
Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI). AANHPIs
have been scapegoated in the past by their fellow Americans: Vincent Chin,
mistaken for Japanese, was murdered for the downturn of the auto industry
in Detroit during the 1980s. In the 1940s, Japanese Americans, many U.S.
citizens, were incarcerated in concentration camps after Japan bombed
Pearl Harbor. South Asian Americans and Muslims were attacked and unjustly
surveilled after the events of September 11, 2001.
And now in 2021, AANHPIs have once again been scapegoated, being blamed
and attacked for the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, AANHPI teachers and
students have faced harassment and microaggressions from other
students—due to no fault of their own. This anti-Asian hate is learned
AANHPI teachers and students have reached out to our team for help. We are
working with school administrators, teachers and unions on solutions to
the current challenges. We have to design innovative strategies to solve
this current problem because AANHPI teachers and students are going
through a lot pain and trauma right now, while also struggling to survive
Stewart and Pat Kwoh
Co-founder and Co-Executive Director
Director of Creative Development, and Counsel
Manager of Operations
Professional Development Manager
Prabhneek (Niki) Heer
Curriculum Developer, Research Analyst
Lorine (Erika) Saito
Consulting Instructor, West Coast Regional Manager
Consulting Instructor, Southern Regional Manager
Laura Houcque Prabhakar
Midwest East Coast Regional Coordinator
Shirlie (Mae) Peralta
Web Developer, Web Designer, Graphic Designer
Communications and Operations Assistant
May 31, 2023
"It is fitting that on the last day of AAPI Heritage Month we are announcing PS 244 will add an AAPI history component to its current curriculum, a year ahead of the citywide rollout of the Department of Education’s own AAPI history curriculum,” said Councilmember Sandra Ung."
“This new pilot program is vital given the current environment of rising hate and violence towards our communities,” said Maria Castaneda, Senior Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU. “It’s an opportunity for school children to be educated in a multicultural and multiracial curriculum, where they can learn and appreciate one another and know that America is their home, and this is where they belong.”
“Our curriculum will foster respect, sense of belonging, and a good relationship between students of different backgrounds,” said Leny Cordero, New York Coordinator for the Asian American Education Project. “The history of AAPI is deeply intertwined together with American’s own history, yet often forgotten and ignored in today’s classrooms and in public discourse. Our goal is to teach the teachers, who teach the students, who in turn go home and teach their parents and start a discussion.”
June 7, 2022, The Hechinger Report, By Wayne Zhang
“as nearly 1 in 6 Asian American adults reported experiencing a hate crime or incident in 2021.
These findings only validate the pain that has been felt in the community since the coining of the term “Chinese virus.”
“Other survey results have implications for young Asian Americans’ sense of not being seen or represented in American society. When asked to name one prominent Asian American individual, over half (58 percent) of Americans replied, “I don’t know,” followed by 7 percent responding “Jackie Chan.”
“In education, national groups such as The Asian American Education Project, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Immigrant History Initiative and local groups such as the Yale-China Association and Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago have invested resources to create accessible curriculum materials.”
June 3, 2022, NBC News, By Michelle Cho and Jo Ling Kent
“I actually had someone cough on me, like take off their mask and cough on me, when I was out with my parents. And at the moment, I didn’t really understand,” Huang said. “I was very confused because it seemed very, just the look on his face, very hateful and like spiteful.”
“There’s a lot of ignorance, I guess, that’s where lack of awareness starts. Well, racism starts with lack of awareness,’ Huang said.”
“Stewart Kwoh, co-executive director of the Asian American Education Project, whose organization provides online lesson plans for K-12 educators on AAPI history, said that “there’s a number of steps in the implementation that could go wrong. And so, it’s very important to have the implementation cover 80 percent of the energy that goes into these packages. It’s fine to pass a law, but it’s more important to implement it well.”
May 31, 2022, NBC News, By Tat Bellamy-Walker
“New York City will launch a new pilot program in schools this fall that aims to teach students about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the city’s Department of Education announced Thursday … Hunter College, the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) and the Asian American Education Project are among the organizations developing the new curriculum.”
May 20, 2022, Washington Post, By Marian Chia-Ming Liu
“At the helm of this movement is longtime activist and lawyer Stewart Kwoh, leading the charge with his wife, Patricia, and their nonprofit Asian American Education Project. Alongside other teachers, they have created 53 lesson plans on subjects including racism and immigration, training more than 1,000 educators over the past year online.”
May 1, 2022, Axios, By Russel Contreras
“Why it matters: The Wong Kim Ark case affirmed that American-born people of Asian descent were U.S. citizens — giving protections to millions of Asian Americans, Latinos and even Native Americans decades later. It's an overlooked example of how Asian American civil rights fights transformed the nation.”
“The Wong Kim Ark story is regularly cited to show how vital Asian American history is to the nation's narrative.”
“Groups like Make Us Visible and the Asian American Education Project are promoting Asian American history initiatives to fight a surge in anti-Asian violence.”
April 29, 2022, NBC News, By Hanna Kang
“In what the mainstream media labeled as race-related violence that lasted for six days, more than 50 people lost their lives, and the city sustained $1 billion in damage, 40 percent of which was suffered by the Korean American community in the city’s Koreatown.
(Angela) Oh protested the media’s coverage of Korean Americans as racist, gun-toting vigilantes and faulted the media for failing to discuss what they saw as the real culprit behind the unrest: the decades of neglect of inner-city L.A.”
“‘Educating people is an ongoing necessity,’ said Stewart Kwoh, founding president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice and co-founder of the Asian American Education Project. ‘We need to bring history to light. I feel that if you don’t educate, then people are buried.’”
April 14, 2022, Harvard EdCast, By Jill Anderson
“Stewart Kwoh: ‘So I think that education, when you look at the intersectionality amongst the groups like Frederick Douglass speaking out on behalf of Chinese immigrants in 1869, 4 years after the civil war. A former slave speaking out for Chinese, it was the first instance I found of solidarity from non-Asians for Asians. And he was eloquent in arguing for Asian immigration, Asian citizenship, Chinese being able to vote. He wanted a composite nation of all different nationalities. There's many examples where Asians have supported Blacks and other minorities. The NAACP wrote articulate, passionate articles against incarceration of Japanese American during World War II. So there's a history of solidarity that nobody knows about.’”
“Stewart Kwoh believes education is the best tool to fight back against ongoing anti-Asian American violence and damaging stereotypes. As co-executive director of the Asian American Education Project, Kwoh has been dedicated to developing curriculums and trainings for educators.”
April 11, 2022, LAist, By Josie Huang
“The past year has seen Asian American teachers and parents push through laws requiring their history be taught in Illinois and New Jersey public schools, with similar campaigns underway in other states.”
“The largest online curricula at the moment is housed at the Asian American Education Project, which is expanding beyond the 53 lesson plans it’s already crafted with input from dozens of teachers.”
“Kwoh, who started the project with his wife, Pat Lee Kwoh, more than a decade ago, said their goal is to reach a million K-12 students over the next several years.”
March 22, 2022, CNN, By J.B. Pritzker and Phil Murphy
“Falsely blamed for the global spread of the virus, the AAPI community has been subjected to violent attacks over and over.
In the last year alone, there has been a 339% increase in anti-AAPI hate crimes nationwide.”
“Change needs to happen at scale so that throughout our nation's education system the stories of AAPIs are told accurately and comprehensively. Initiatives like The Asian American Education Project (AAEdu) — which provides K-12 curriculum lessons on AAPI history for teachers and school districts nationwide — are helping make this happen.”
March 15, 2022, USA TODAY, By Alia Wong
‘Carla Cariño plugs Asian American history as often as she can – even by advocating for Spam.
“when the American military liberated the Philippine islands from Japan. Upon their arrival, according to accounts, GI Joes distributed cans of Spam – enshrining the meat in Asian cuisine.”
“Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. They make up more than 7% of the population, projected to grow to 36 million by 2060”
“Partnering with UCLA and Stanford, the Asian American Education Project has developed more than 50 lesson plans and, starting early last year, offered trainings for teachers.”
Aug 21, 2021, AsAmNews, By Briana Lim
“Kwoh sees a connection between the lack of Asian American history in our schools and the stereotypes that persist about the community.
“When there is no history, there’s apt to be stereotypes. So when bad things happen, people believe bad stereotypes.”
“The stereotyping that Asians often confront are the perpetual foreigner: we’re always the foreigners, so we’re not real Americans and we can be treated in different ways.”
For example, Kwoh describes how although Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps, none were convicted of espionage, unlike some European Americans. “We were treated as the foreigner.”
July 11, 2021, USA Today, By Grace Hauck
“Gong-Gershowitz became emotional at the signing ceremony. She said her grandparents came to the USA in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until law school that she first learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act signed in 1882 that restricted immigration for decades and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.”
"The TEAACH Act will ensure that the next generation of Asian American students won’t need to travel across the county or attend law school to learn something about their heritage," Gong-Gershowitz said.”
“Kwoh's nonprofit Asian American Education Project spun out of the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice last year. The project offers more than 50 lesson plans for teachers and started hosting free teacher training.”
I spoke to a few colleagues throughout the state who have attended APIDA workshops or had your organization present to their Social Studies educators, and all came up with rave reviews!
- Supervisor of Social Studies, New Jersey
I like that everything is there for the lesson and the connections to history that is often taught in class, so a teacher could easily integrate the Asian American history in with their district curriculum. I am glad there is both 3-5 and 6-12 because often younger students are left out of lessons like this.
- Math Teacher, Nebraska
These workshops helped me to better understand Asian American history.
- Special Education Teacher, California
My school community has a very small APIDA population, but this is an extremely important topic to bring back to my students. Discrimination and hatred is felt by many marginalized groups in this country and the story of the APIDA community can be connected back to the group of students that I work with. The knowledge that Black and Asian people have had a strong history together was somewhat new information to me. This speaks to how working together is always better than against one another.
- Middle School English Language Arts Teacher, New York
Lessons against hate must be known to all to fight it effectively.
- High School Math Teacher, New York
I know I can't use everything, but I look forward to looking through your lesson plans. THANKS for making my job easier.
- High School English Teacher, California
America, although flawed, learns from her past, and remains the greatest country on earth.
- Educator, Nevada
I feel better qualified to talk to my young students about acceptance and empathy, no matter their skin color/how they look
- Special Education Teacher, California
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