As this year’s Asian & Pacific Island Heritage Month comes to a close, History Unboxed® is bringing you a guest blog post by Rachel Juliette on the importance of teaching Asian & Pacific Islander history, not just during the month of May, but the whole year through.

 

The U.S. has always had deep ties with Asia, but most schools don’t discuss this in depth. Professor Sohyun An of Kennesaw State University tells TIME that Asians were part of the United States before many white European immigrants came to the country. Unfortunately, most K-12 American history texts barely discuss this history or its effects on Asian people in and outside of America today.

It’s time that educators change the usual narrative by teaching children about the truth behind Asian American history. Here are a few reasons why it matters:

Prevents prejudice and violence against Asians

Some people may think that Asian American history may be irrelevant to them. However, it’s actually critical for students to learn about the history of Asian Americans because it can help prevent prejudice and violence against Asians in the U.S.

The Organization of American Historians (OAH) pointed out that teaching Asian American history is necessary because prejudice against Asians has sometimes led to violence. In fact, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 339% in 2021 alone. OAH believes that people can prevent these anti-Asian hate crimes and support the mental health of Asian American children by properly teaching Asian American history in school. These historical lessons can correct systemic discrimination as well as prevent the racist and sexist stereotypes against Asians by educating people about the real reasons why Asians are in the United States. By educating kids about this part of history, teachers can protect present and future generations from hate crimes.

Enlightens students about the impacts of colonialism

It’s also important to teach children about Asian American history because this can help students understand how U.S. colonialism affects the everyday lives of Asians and even their perception of themselves.

This is especially relevant for Filipino Americans because the U.S. colonized the Philippines for 48 years. To this day, Manila reflects the history of the Philippines and its colonial past through local culture, places, and even food. You can read about the effect colonialism has on the history of language in the Philippines in our previous blog post. Due to the East meets West culture of the Philippines, both Filipinos in the mainland and in the U.S. enjoy parts of U.S. culture like eating American foods. However, U.S. colonialism also negatively impacted the mental health of Filipinos by making them associate their self-worth with having Eurocentric features or their mastery of English. As a result, many Filipino Americans grow up with self-esteem issues because they were made to believe that their skin was too dark or that speaking Filipino was bad. By learning about this part of history, students can learn how wars shape cultures and perceptions, even after many decades.

Encourages Asian Americans to embrace their identity

Asian Americans may develop better self-esteem and mental health if their history is properly recognized in school. Including Asian American history in curriculums will encourage young students to learn about their identity and embrace their roots.

To illustrate, Korean American students may be prouder of their heritage if they learn cool things about Korean history, such as how astronomy advanced under the reign of Queen Seondeok. Despite living in the U.S., they may even become interested in studying Korean calligraphy after learning about how it connected Korea to other countries.

But it’s not just Asian American children who could benefit from learning about Asian American history. Students of different backgrounds could also be interested in learning about different cultures and beliefs, especially if schools show the importance of these diverse histories.

So if you haven’t started discussing these topics in your school, this could be your chance. Start thinking of short programs or activities that can teach students more about the many links between the U.S. and Asia throughout history, and they could foster a deeper understanding and respect for each other.

Ready to learn more about Asian & Pacific Island history? Check out a few of History Unboxed’s® books and hands-on history kits!

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