A University of Connecticut professor is working to create social studies and history curriculum that highlights the culture and history of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and more.
Jason Oliver Chang is an associate professor of history and Asian American studies for UConn’s political science department. In addition, Chang is the director of UConn’s Asian and Asian American Studies Institute.
Chang and his colleagues’ passion to create a broader curriculum which includes a more diverse range of cultural histories spurred from witnessing an uptick in anti-Asian hate and racism across the nation.
“I first began to explore the idea with Photographer Mike Keo who was the first AAASI Activist-in-Residence. What motivated us was witnessing the escalation of anti-Asian racism in our communities and across the country that made action more urgent,” Chang said.
With the knowledge that Connecticut’s state legislature passed a bill the year before which created mandatory Black and Latino Studies High School courses, Chang wanted something to be done for his community.
“I felt that was a viable path to introduce Asian American studies into public education,” Chang said. “I was also elected to the West Hartford Board of Education then and was learning about what a difference a more inclusive and equitable curriculum could do for our young people. Education became my focus for anti-racist social change.”
Thus far, Chang and his colleagues have been able to pass two laws. One that mandates the creation of K-8 social studies curricula which include Asian American and Pacific Islander studies, Native studies, LGBTQIA studies and Black and Latino studies.
The second law has made Asian American and Pacific Islander studies mandatory in all K-12 public schools across the state.
As of now, the curriculum has a due date of Jan. 15. The state-wide mandate of the passed laws will go into effect in 2025.
“This curriculum is necessary because Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been left out of U.S. history for too long. Telling the truth about their presence is vital to combating the stereotypes that shape most people’s experience,” Chang said.
While the proposed curriculum is not being created for college level students, fifth semester marketing and global studies student Kiana Truong believes that beginning to expose younger students to various cultural and racial histories is important.
“The U.S. is such a large melting pot of different races and ethnicities. Therefore, it’s valuable to learn about the experience of different racial groups in order to gain a better understanding of the American experience and the complexities behind it,” Truong said. “This aspect of history is often ignored in school curriculums.”
Chang is hopeful that the curriculum will extend beyond the state of Connecticut.
“We have been collaborating with many neighboring states to share resources and best practices. Although, each state has its own education statutes and requirements making it difficult to simply replicate one model everywhere,” Chang said.
For now however, Chang is eager to continue collaborating to enhance Connecticut’s future social studies curriculums and requirements.
“The amazing thing about the Connecticut Asian American and Pacific Islanders studies mandate is that it includes the requirement to teach local Asian American and Pacific Islander history and contributions,” Chang said. “The end goal is not just to have a representative curriculum, but to raise the voices of our communities and create stronger anti-racist schools.”