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Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian groups want to know why their history is left out of K-12 education standards

A professor said these education gaps could make stereotypes more prevalent.

COLORADO, USA — The social studies and history standards for Colorado K-12 schools are getting an update – but at least 56 Asian American, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian groups want to know why their history is left out of the most recent draft.

According to the letter, addressed to the Board of Education and obtained by 9Wants to Know, the removal of a requirement to teach students about the legacy of Asian American, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian groups is another chapter in a painful legacy of being minimized in the country.

“Asian Americans have experienced historical erasure from American history, with the majority of the public unaware of the long history and impacts we have made in this country,” the authors wrote. “By continuing to exclude us and even intentionally removing us from the Academic Standards for Social Studies is negligent and would increase harm to our community.”

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were not mentioned in the standards draft at all.

A 2019 law requires schools to update their standards every six years related to the contributions of minorities to history. Asian Americans are among the groups specifically named as required teaching. The 1192 Commission was formed in response.

According to Dr. Floyd Cobb, associate commissioner of student learning at the Colorado Department of Education, the standards are used by schools across the state as a launching point to build their curriculum. He said schools can always go into more detail than the standards dictate. 

“School districts are required or given the authority to meet or exceed the Colorado Academic Standards,” Cobb said. “They set a floor of expectations. They are by no means a ceiling or a limit.” 

It is still early in the process and months from being voted on by the board. But the removal in the draft alarmed Dr. Mike Hoa Nguyen, a professor of education at the University of Denver.

“It's important for us to make sure that our schools are getting the most accurate accounting of what's going on,” he said. “Historically, that way, we don't make the same mistakes again today.”

For example, the revised draft of the standards no longer included a requirement to teach about the model minority myth. According to the letter, the stereotype is that Asian Americans are a “successful minority” that did not experience racism. That is not true. Nguyen said a lack of education can fuel misconceptions and stereotypes. 

Credit: 9Wants to Know

The removal of Asian Americans from the standards gives credence to another common stereotype about the community, according to Nguyen. That is known as the “forever foreigner” myth.

Credit: 9Wants to Know

“This stereotype assumes that Asian Americans are all recent arrivals to the United States or they're all immigrants, that none were born here,” he said. “When in fact Asian Americans have arrived to the United States well before even the establishment of the United States, as a country, and contributed significantly to all aspects of U.S. history including the Civil War.”

Credit: 9Wants to Know

In other parts of the revised draft, mention of lessons on Latino and LGTBQ+ were also removed from the standards. 

The school board will discuss the committee’s findings on June 9, according to the agenda for the batch of meetings in Estes Park.

Reach investigative reporter Zack Newman through his phone at 303-548-9044. You can also call or text securely on Signal through that same number. Email: zack.newman@9news.com. Call or text is preferred over email.  

Read the full letter here:

Read through all of the recommended revisions here:

   

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