In another nod to the state’s diversity, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a pair of bills on Tuesday to make sure Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are recognized by including them in the statewide school curriculum.
The bills Murphysigned — S4021 and S3764 — will ensure the contributions, history, and heritage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are included in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Social Studies for students in kindergarten through Grade 12.
S4021 will create an AAPI curriculum requirement for schools and S-3764 will establish the Commission for Asian American Heritage within the Department of Education.
“The members of our Asian American/Pacific Islander community have contributed so much to our state and nation,”Murphy said in a statement.“By teaching students about the history and heritage of our AAPI community, we can ensure that the diversity of our state is reflected in our curriculum and create a more tolerant and knowledgeable future for New Jersey.”
Sponsors of the bills, all Democrats, say the measures were long overdue as Asian Americans have largely been absent in classroom instruction.
“Members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have made countless contributions to our state and country, yet they are made virtually invisible by our history books,” Assembly sponsors Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, Mila Jasey, D-Essesx, Britnee Timberlake, D-Essex, and Sterley Stanley, D-Middlesex said in a joint statement.
“Excluding the rich history of the AAPI community from our schools’ curriculum not only prevents students from gaining a full understanding of our nation’s history, but also opens the door for racial biases that can turn into violence and hatred,” they said. “By expanding the K-12 curriculum to include lessons on the history and contributions of the AAPI community, we can help break down persisting negative stereotypes and show the over 140,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander students in our state that their stories and experiences matter.”
Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan saidthe Commission on Asian American Heritage will also serve as “an invaluable resource to enhance classroom instruction throughout the state.”
Others said the inclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders into the K-12 curriculum comes at a critical time as hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased. Some reports have indicated the nearly 2-year old pandemic originated in a livestock market in China and spread globally.
“People of Asian descent experienced discrimination long before 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic clearly exacerbated acts of hatred and bigotry,” said state Sen. Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen, who sponsored the Assembly bill to set up the commission before joining the Senate last week. “Even more frightening is the fact that many incidents go unreported, leaving open the question of just how many people have experienced harassment, or even violence. Hate has no home in New Jersey.”
AddedAssemblyman Rob Karabinchak, D-Middlesex: “There’s never been a more important moment for us to broaden children’s understanding of the world around them and promote inclusivity and respect.”
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