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 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
Sonya Raj Urs
Communications and Program Associate
Web Developer, Web Designer, Graphic Designer
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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