Wisconsin schools may soon be required to teach Hmong and Asian American history to students if a new bill passes.
Earlier this month, Republican State Senator Jesse James of Altoona and other Wisconsin legislators introduced Senate Bill 240, which would require schools to include instructional program information related to Asian Americans and, more specifically, Hmong Americans.
Hmong history is Wisconsin history as far as I’m concerned. They fought alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War and were forced to find refuge in other countries to avoid persecution. Many chose to make our state their home, including places like Eau Claire and Wausau. When we tell their story, we are telling our story. I think the importance of that cannot be overstated.
School boards in Wisconsin are currently only required to teach students human relations in regard to Hispanics, American Indians and Black Americans.
The new bill was read and referred to the Committee on Education on April 14, reported WQOW. It has reportedly received bi-partisan support, including a co-sponsorship from Democratic Representative Jodi Emerson of Eau Claire.
Students and teachers have been advocating for an Asian American studies curriculum in schools for years.
Kabby Hong, a teacher at Verona Area High School and a member of the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin, told The Cap Times that it is not just about inclusive curriculum, but it is also for non-Asian American children to understand that “this country is built upon a multicolored, multidimensional group of people who have bought into the American dream and ideal.”
Hong also pointed to a lack of education as a source of the increase in hate crimes toward the Asian American community during the pandemic.
First and foremost, I think the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and viewing Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners is directly connected to our invisibility in schools and in our culture. Too often, these perpetrators of these hate crimes right before their attack tell the victim to go back to where they came from, to go back to your own country, and the premise behind that is that somebody with an Asian face is not an American and I think that is hugely problematic.
There are currently 19 states that have passed laws requiring Asian American studies to be taught in public schools.