By Ed Diokno
GROWING UP in an immigrant household, I remember my parents would always refer to our white neighbors as the “Americans.”
This was funny, because my father fought for the U.S. during World War II and defended the Stars and Stripes in Korea and worked for the the city we lived in. How American can you get?
The image they had of themselves were as foreigners – not “Americans.”
In school, we were told about our American forefathers, Manifest Destiny, the building of the transcontinental railroad, about grand ideas, inventions and bravery of historical figures, all of whom were European descendants. It’s no wonder we held “Americans” in such high regard. No wonder the Euro-Americans hold themselves in such high esteem. They built themselves a society in which all the institutions supported and perpetuated this myth.
A California bill awaiting the governor’s signature could dramatically change this single-lens perspective.
Assembly Bill 101 seeks to widen the lens through which history and literature is taught in California schools. Authored by a coalition of Asian, Latino and black lawmakers, including Assemblyman Chris Holden, Luis Alejo and Rob Bonta, the potentially game-changing bill was passed by the Assembly and state Senate and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 8.
If the governor signs the bill, it would the first step in easing a lot of tension America is undergoing because the country’s shifting demographics wherein we see the white population shrinking and the communities of color getting larger. By 2040, demographers estimate Euro Americans would be in the minority in California.
A study by Dr. Christine Sleeter revealed that an alarming gap between the real diversity of California’s students and the people students see, read about and read from in these textbooks. For example, despite our state’s diversity, Dr. Sleeter found that “in history/social science [textbooks], representation of whites ranged from 41-80 percent, African-Americans from 2-28 percent, Latinos from 0-4 percent, American Indians from 1-10 percent, and Asian-Americans from 0-8 percent.” Compare these percentages to the 2014 student demographics in San Diego Unified School District: 23 percent white, 10 percent African-American, 46 percent Latino, .3 percent American Indian and 3 percent Asian American.”
“Based on the National Education Association (NEA) publication, The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies, the inclusion of ethnic studies in a curriculum has a positive impact on pupils of color.
“Ethnic studies benefit pupils in observable ways, such as pupils becoming more academically engaged, increasing their performance on academic tests, improving their graduation rates, and developing a sense of self-efficacy and personal empowerment.
Thandeka K. Chapman & Tricia M. Gallagher-Geurtsen with the California Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education, San Diego regional network, wrote an opinion piece for the San Diego Union Tribune:
Unfortunately, the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition says they have heard this bill has lukewarm support by the Governor’s office and with than a week to go, he may veto the bill. Here are two things you can do right now to help passage of AB101:
Then dial 1 for English & 4 to speak with a rep. Use/Share this ESN number so we can keep track of how many calls are made.2. Email Governor Brown:
(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.