By Ed Diokno
Although approved by the state legislature in 2011, it was not until July of this year that State Board of Education approved the curriculum that would teach this largely ignored topic in California classrooms because of the tendency of most U.S. school books to view history through an Eurocentric persepctive.
In 2014, the Bataan Legacy Historical Society (BLHS) started working with the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) of the California Department of Education to implement AB199.
With the support of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, BLHS was able to expand the scope of the proposed curriculum framework to include World War II in the Philippines. On May 19, 2016, the IQC’s History Social Sciences Committee approved all of the recommendations made by BLHS.
Torlakson is married to Mae Cendana Torlakson, who is seeking to become California’s first Filipina American Assembly member in this November’s election.
Chapter 16 of the 11th Grade U.S. History will include the following:
- The Philippine Commonwealth; the creation of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) comprised of Americans and a majority of Filipinos;
- the disruption of the timetable of the Imperial Japanese Army by the USAFFE Forces despite suffering from massive disease and starvation and fighting without any air support;
- The Bataan Death March and the thousands of casualties; the role of the Filipino and American guerrillas during the liberation;
- The American soldiers who were transported in hell ships to labor camps in Asia;
- The Battles of Leyte Gulf;
- The destruction of Manila during a month-long battle to liberate the city, which resulted in a death toll comparable to that of the Tokyo firebombing or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and inflicted more damage than the Luftwaffe bombing of London.
It is believed that this will be the first time that the Filipino role in fighting WWII in the Philippines will be taught to high school students in the United States.
California’s new history curriculum framework has the potential to act as a model for teaching this seminal point of WWII history in the U.S. BLHS has formed a curriculum steering committee to create a sample template that schools can use to implement Chapter 16 of the Grade 11 U.S. History.