Wisconsin could join growing list of states mandating Asian-American history in schools
If passed, the state would join Illinois and New Jersey in the mandate.
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A group of Wisconsin lawmakers, Reps. Patrick Snyder, Francesca Hong, Katrina Shankland, Ron Tusler, and Sen. Eric Wimberger, are hoping to bring Asian-American history to schools through two pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 379 and Assembly Bill 381 would both require school boards to offer curriculum on “Hmong Americans and Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans.”
One of the authors of the bills, Rep. Francesca Hong, the first Asian-American legislator in the state’s history, told Asian Hustle Network that the goal at its core is about “increasing visibility.”
The pair of bills would amend current state law, which says school boards must provide learning material on American Indians, Black Americans and Hispanics.
“I feel like you can’t have a sense of pride in yourself and who you are without understanding your history,” said Kabby Hong, English teacher at Verona Area High School.
“When I was growing up, I did not know that Asian-Americans had any history in this country. And the events of the last two years with the explosion of hate crimes has really shown how much we need to do to educate not only our students but our community as well,” Hong said.
According to Rep. Hong, what would actually go into the curriculum would be up to the school boards to decide for themselves. The statute is broad and only requires schools to provide an instructional program to give better understanding of human relations.
“This is a very broad, basic first step that we need to take to really talk about how Hmong Americans and Asian Americans have a vital role in the Wisconsin identity and how it’s through this type of education and enrichment that we can build empathy and really help our workforce as well,” Hong said at a press conference in May 2021.
Lawmakers and advocacy group leaders have also shown their support for the proposed legislation.
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) is working on another way to include AAPI history and culture into the curriculum, aside from the legislative route.
WASB passed a resolution encouraging public schools to create learning materials and professional training about Asian-Americans. The group also requests the state legislature to fund the development of a curriculum.
According to the U.S. Census, Wisconsin has the third largest population of Hmong-Americans.
“To be aware of the struggles of the AAPI community and in this case here also the Hmong-American community," Yee Len Xiong, Executive Director of the Hmong American Center in Wausau, told Wkow News.
“The fact is APIDA are not included and are invisible in many public policy resource decisions,” Lorna Young, AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin executive committee member, told Asian Hustle Network.
“The amended law will benefit all students so that as they move on to college and/or into the work world, they are able to learn to relate to and understand people of APIDA backgrounds that are different from their own,” Young said.
If the pair of bills pass, Wisconsin will become the third state to require AAPI history to be taught in public schools, following Illinois and New Jersey.