The Asian American Education Initiative is co-organized by the College of Education and the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Illinois, co-sponsored by the New American Welcome Center and the Asian American Culture Center. The mission of the Asian American Education Initiative is to promote social justice in education by bringing Asian American literature to classrooms and increasing the visibility of Asian American history in the curriculum at schools in the Urbana-Champaign area.
Asians/Asian Americans and their legacy and contributions throughout history are virtually absent in the current K-12 curriculum in the U.S. Educators in a few states, nationwide, may cover the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese Incarceration in social studies coursework. Due to this omission, many Americans have little to no understanding of Asian American history, and many Asian Americans themselves do not know their own history, either.
Asian/Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in Illinois, with a population of nearly 720,000 in 2019. Yet there is still no content visible in the curriculum regarding Asian American history. In July 2021, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act (TEAACH) into law, requiring public schools to teach Asian American history starting in the 2022-23 school year and making Illinois the first state in the nation to mandate teaching Asian American history in public schools.
At the University of Illinois, we are launching our Asian American Education Initiative to echo the need of teaching Asian American history in local schools. It aims to celebrate the value of Asian Americans in American history and their contributions to the community by bringing Asian American literature to local K-12 schools in the Urbana-Champaign area, inviting award-winning Asian American writers, authors, and poets to share their stories with children and teens in the classrooms (virtually), and working with teachers to introduce Asian American literature and history into the current curriculum.
Through this initiative, we hope to (i) increase our community’s appreciation of Asian Americans and their contributions to society, (ii) help children and families develop a deeper awareness of the rising incidents of violence against Asian descendants and critical thinking about social injustice, and eventually, (iii) bring everyone together in our community to embrace our diversity.