Bill would demand Asian American and Pacific Islander education in Florida schools
Amid a wave of hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, a pair of Democratic bills would require Florida public schools to teach immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity, culture and community contributions.
The invoices, HB 281 and SB 490, were intended to better represent an understanding of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in state-wide lesson plans of American history. They also reflect growing efforts by the legislature to impose – or ban – specific subjects that teachers should include or avoid in classrooms.
The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Anna eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, said the thriving Asian and Pacific Islander community in Orange County inspired the proposal.
“It’s a growing community that has often been overlooked and neglected, and we want to change that,” she said.
The prospects for passing the House bill next year are unclear: it has been forwarded to the House Education Committee and three subcommittees for review. The Senate bill has been referred to the Education and Appropriations Committees, as well as to another subcommittee.
The Justice Department cited a sharp increase in anti-Asian sentiment since early 2020, including an increase in incidents of bias, physical attacks and hate crimes against Asian Americans.
In March, the harassment came to a head when a Georgia man killed eight people, including six Asian women, in a series of spa shootings in Atlanta. The gunman was on his way to Florida when he was arrested.
The murders sparked a nationwide wave of support for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Mimi Chan, a martial arts activist and instructor at Wah Lum Kung Fu Temple in Orlando, said it inspired her.
Chan, leader of the Make Us Visible FL group, said it wasn’t until she left school that she realized what her lessons were missing. She grew up in Orlando.
“I don’t even know my story unless I research it myself,” she said.
Chan said his group works with the Asian American Education Project, a non-profit organization that develops lesson plans, guides, and other resources to help instructors teach the history of Asian Americans and the Pacific Islands. Eskamani said she had looked at similar initiatives across the country, including Illinois, which last summer became the first state to require the teaching of Asian American history.
This bill was passed by the Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature 108-10. All 10 Illinois lawmakers who voted against the bill were Republicans.
Political debates in Florida raged over classroom instruction. Govt. Ron DeSantis has been outspoken against critical race theory, and the Education Department in June banned teaching in public schools. Florida Republicans passed a new law last year requiring teachers to include lessons about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riots, when up to 60 black people died in violence because of their efforts. to vote.
The leader of a conservative group that opposed the teaching of critical race theory, Keith flaugh of the Florida Citizens Alliance, said he opposed Eskamani’s bill, which he compared to Critical Race Theory, an academic view that racism is deeply fundamental in laws and American culture.
“It seems to go in the direction of a more critical racial theory and division,” Flaugh said.
Eskamani said the political controversies over critical race theory were part of a campaign of disinformation. She said educating lawmakers on the differences between critical race theory and history will be key moving forward.
“History is fundamental,” she said. “History cannot be changed.”
A key in the language of the bill is “contributions”, that a 2016 to study showed that it was lacking in Asian American education.
The study examined the K-12 social studies standards of 10 states to better understand the extent of the current presence of Asian Americans in the curriculum. He found that two main events, the Japanese-American internment camps and early Chinese immigration, were systematically presented. There was little or no mention of Korean Americans, Taiwanese Americans, Pakistani Americans, or any other ethnic group that falls under the umbrella of “Asian American”.
The author of the study, Sohyun An, wrote that this passive positioning of Asian Americans in the history of the United States helped to reinforce the idea of them as perpetual aliens.
“The invisibility of the Asian American experience in the official script of United States history sends the message that Asian Americans are not legitimate members of this nation,” he said. he declares.
The 10-state agendas included the landmark Brown v. Board of Education. A high school student at Apopka High, Colin Poon, 14, remembers learning about the case in her seventh-year civics class. However, he said there was no mention of Tape v. Hurley, a case in 1885 in which a Chinese-American family successfully sued the San Francisco Board of Education to allow their 8-year-old daughter to attend an all-white elementary school.
“It’s kind of like we’re non-existent in a way,” he said.
Poon has been working with Chan’s group since the summer and said it helps him stay in touch with other Asian American and Pacific Islander students across the state. He said giving students an accurate view of history should be something both Democrats and Republicans accept.
“It’s not something that’s just progressive – it’s necessary,” he said.
the reporting by Thomas Holton; produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. The rapporteur can be contacted at [email protected].