New York City public schools will introduce a new curriculum teaching students about the history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) starting next school year.
The new curriculum, “Hidden Voices: Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States,” aims to help students relate to each other amid the rising Asian American violence in the city brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Thursday.
The new program will be implemented as shorter trial units across all grades in New York City public schools starting in the fall.
“It’s tragic when our babies are academically smart but not emotionally intelligent, and don’t develop the full personhood of who they ought to be,” Adams said at a press conference at the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) Tweed Courthouse headquarters. “That’s not education — that’s a robotic system that produces robots. We’re producing scholars, intelligent future leaders of this city and this country. That’s what this is doing today.”
The “Hidden Voices” curriculum is part of the DOE’s Hidden Voices Project, a collaborative effort between the DOE’s Social Studies Department and the Museum of the City of New York.
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“This new curriculum is a milestone in our ongoing support to AAPI students and families in our public schools and communities,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks.
Banks added that the curriculum would cover stories from historical AAPI figures, such as “Dr. Anandibai Joshee, the first woman of Indian ancestry to be a doctor of Western medicine in the United States; Representative Patsy Mink, who was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress; and Helen Zia, the Chinese-American journalist.”
He also added that the pilot curriculum is intended to help battle anti-Asian hate crimes in the city, which saw a 361 percent increase in 2021 compared to the previous year.
“One of the ways we combat racism and hate — and the mayor talks about this all the time — is by teaching and learning about each other’s stories and histories. We are not the other,” Banks told reporters. “We are all New Yorkers. We are all Americans.”
“This anti-Asian hate that we’ve seen so much of, it didn’t just happen the last couple of years. It’s been happening ever since the beginning of this country, ever since the first Asian Americans arrived at our shores,” State Sen. John Liu (D, NY-11) said.
“Asian Americans have been scapegoats for a lot of things in our entire history, whether it be economic recession, international warfare, global pandemic — we get blamed,” Liu added. “And the reason we get blamed, and therefore hated and attacked, is because of ignorance.”
Liu was among the many people who pushed the city government to include AAPI studies as part of the curriculum, introducing legislation requiring public schools to “provide instruction in Asian American history and civic impact.” A group of Asian American families penned an open letter with 2,800 signatories last year, demanding that the DOE teach the cultural curriculum in public schools. “I went through a lot of discrimination in schools, and I don’t think our kids should experience that,” Ting Yu, a representative for the AAPI literacy nonprofit Read Nation, told the New York Post. “If we’re still seen as foreigners, that’s not right.”
While Banks has yet to announce the specific schools where the pilot program would be introduced, he said it will be developed for all grade levels across all New York City public schools by fall of 2024.
New York joins a list of states that have announced plans to introduce AAPI studies as part of their public-school curriculum. These states include Ohio, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut.