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Raising ‘visibility’: Bills aim to add Asian American history to Wis. schools’ curriculum

State lawmakers are hoping to bring Asian-American history to schools across Wisconsin, a move they say would also raise “visibility.”
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 10:43 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - State lawmakers are hoping to bring Asian American history to schools across Wisconsin, a move they say would also raise “visibility.”

Senate Bill 379 and Assembly Bill 381, if passed, would require school boards around the state to provide curriculum on Asian Americans, or as the bills specify, “Hmong Americans and Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans” (APIDA).

The act 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,” Kabby Hong, an English teacher at the Verona Area High School said.

“When I was growing up, I did not know that Asian Americans had any history in this country,” Hong, who identifies as Korean American, said. “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.”

Lawmakers and leaders from advocacy groups have also shown their support for the proposed legislation.

“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 said. She added, 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.”

At its core, the bills are about “increasing visibility,” Rep. Francesca Hong (D - Madison) said. “When other students learn about Asian American experiences, they are benefiting just as much as the Asian American students.”

Both bills are in their respective education committees.

Rep. Hong said the community is demanding action, starting with a public hearing.

NBC15 did not hear back from Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, chair of the Assembly’s education committee. Only the chair has authority over which bills get public hearings, according to a staffer with the committee’s vice chair.

Besides this legislative route, the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB), which represents all locally elected school boards in the state, is working on another channel to include Asian American history and culture into curriculum.

WASB passed a resolution Wednesday encouraging public schools to create learning material and professional training about Asian Americans. The group also requests state Legislature to fund the development of a curriculum.

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