Meng Introduces Legislation to Promote the Teaching of Asian Pacific American History in Schools
Oct 5, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, announced today that she introduced the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act (H.R. 8519), a bill to promote the teaching and learning of Asian Pacific American history in schools across the United States.
The announcement of the bill’s introduction comes on this day, 42 years ago, when President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. This week-long celebration was later extended to a month after President George H.W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress in 1990.
“For decades, our children’s social studies textbooks have misrepresented, or excluded, the history of Asian Pacific Americans,” said Congresswoman Meng. “Our children are graduating from high school without learning of the important contributions the Asian Pacific American community has made throughout our nation’s history. They are also graduating without learning of the disenfranchisement and discrimination Asian Pacific Americans have faced at the hands of the United States government. I firmly believe we cannot fully empower our students to be strong and empathetic leaders without teaching them all of America’s history – both the good and the bad. Our school teachings need to reflect the diversity of the American experience and accurately portray the history of Asian Pacific Americans. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”
Asian Pacific Americans have made immeasurable contributions to our nation throughout its history. As far back as the 1700s, APAs have played an integral part in shaping American society. They have shaped the face of infrastructure, created the pillars of our economy, and bravely laid down their lives in service to their country. However, for generations, Asian Pacific American history has been poorly represented in our K-12 education system and social studies textbooks.
The Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act would require Presidential and Congressional Academies to include Asian Pacific American history as part of their American history and civics programs offered to students and teachers. Every year, hundreds of teachers and students attend these academies for an in-depth study in American history and civics, which includes visiting sites of historical importance.
Additionally, the Congresswoman’s legislation would encourage the inclusion of Asian Pacific American history in national and state tests administered through the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and promote collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Center to develop innovative programming regarding Asian Pacific American history.
"History is collective memory that gives us a sense of connection to place, time, and community--and we applaud Rep. Grace Meng's efforts to water and grow this sensibility such that students understand that America's history includes the important experience of generations of Asian Americans,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation. “From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1884 to the Japanese Internment, to the murder of Vincent Chin to the Immigration Act of 1965, to one of the most critical labor movements started by Filipino-Americans, to the indignities suffered by the South Asian, Muslim and Arab communities after the 9/11 terror attack, we hope that Asian American history is seen as a national asset that links the contemporary experience of our students to that of earlier generations to enhance our understanding and love of our diverse nation."
“Asian and Pacific Islander American history is, unequivocally, American history,” said Soukprida Phetmisy, Senior Managing Director of Teach For America’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Alliances. “Throughout all of history, there have always been Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) folks fighting for equity alongside Black, Indigenous, people of color, and historically disenfranchised communities. Oftentimes, these stories of solidarity and activism have been invisibilized or erased. But we were there. We will continue to be there.”
“The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has played an essential role in building and shaping the United States for more than a century,” said Dr. Abraham Kim, Executive Director of the Council of Korean Americans. “Today, AAPI leaders are trailblazers in American politics, culture, economics and innovation. Despite the valuable contribution of this vibrant community, very little is taught about the AAPI community in our academic institutions. Our children and future generations should learn how AAPI communities are a driving force for this country's richness, energy and prosperity. Thus, we applaud Representative Grace Meng's legislative effort to help close this education gap about the AAPI community in our schools.”
“Southeast Asian American history is American history,” said Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). “The relationship between the United States and the people of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam began decades before they even arrived in this country, when Southeast Asians worked alongside the US military in the Vietnam War, Cambodian Civil War, and Secret Wars in Laos. Southeast Asian Americans today are a vibrant, diverse, and growing community of refugees, immigrants and their children, whose trajectories were shaped by American political influence and whose past, present, and future are inextricably tied to the country they now call their home. This history must be represented in our schools. SEARAC thanks Congresswoman Meng for the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act and urges members of the House to support the bill.”
“Because of our race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender or sexual identity, and other elements of our identities, people in power often choose not to see or hear us and our experiences have been ignored for far too long,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum. “Our history -- from the Page Act of 1875, which was specifically designed to prevent Asian women from immigrating to the United States and starting families, to Rose Bamburger, the Filipina American who co-founded the country’s first lesbian civil rights organization in 1955 -- deserves to be told. We applaud Rep. Meng for her own historic leadership and for this legislation, which ensures that our history is not only not forgotten but used to impart important lessons on future generations.”
"For far too long, the histories, experiences and contributions of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) in our nation have been overlooked and been ‘othered,’” said Juliet K. Choi, Executive Vice President at the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum. "Thanks to Rep. Meng's leadership, this bill would help to change that narrative through the education of our history and uplifting of AANHPI voices. Racism and xenophobia are public health issues, especially recently as we’ve seen a rise in anti-Asian hate due to the coronavirus. We hope that with more education and discourse, we can create a healthier and safer community for all."
Meng’s legislation is endorsed by Teach for America; Asian American Federation; National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA); OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates; Council of Korean Americans (CKA); Indian Diaspora Council; Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO); Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum; Japanese American Citizens League (JACL); National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD); National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF); and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).
Original cosponsors of the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act include Reps. Judy Chu, Mark Takano, Ted Lieu, Nydia Velázquez, Gregory Meeks, Thomas Suozzi, Al Green, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Yvette Clarke, Ed Case, Jaime Raskin, Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Bobby Rush, Grace Napolitano, Doris Matsui, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, David Trone, Brad Sherman, TJ Cox, Luis Correa, André Carson, Tony Cárdenas, and Jackie Speier.