The lack of representation and education in Asian and Asian-American history creates a disadvantage among California’s K-12 students and children throughout the United States, said Bruce Carter, San Gabriel Valley director of the California School Boards Association.
There are two major problems in K-12 schools in California: the lack of Asian-American history in the curriculum and text materials, and a shortage of Asian-American teachers, said Eunai Shrake, a professor in the Asian American Studies Department at CSUN.
“Asian-American students don’t find Asian-American teacher role models because there is a lack in the K-12 schools,” Shrake said.
Carter said students lack the skills that are required in the business market today.
“In the long run, most businesses will require knowledge of other cultures and languages, and our students are at a disadvantage if they do not speak other languages,” Carter said.
Several major companies in the United States deal largely with businesses in Asian countries, he said.
“California is such a (multicultural) state that if you’re not aware, especially in terms of business, you’re at a disadvantage,” said Gary Idama, an instructor at Gardena High School in Gardena. “Being able to interact with different people of different backgrounds is certainly important.”
U.S. companies doing business outside the country are at a great disadvantage if they do not know what is going on with target the countries they deal with, Idama said.
“You need to be able to advertise effectively and sell products within the U.S.,” Idama said. “The more you know about different cultures, the more culturally aware you will be.”
According to Carter, 600,000 students graduated with an engineering degree in China last year, and most students in China have learned to speak English.
“If (students) are more knowledgeable about other cultures, they could benefit greatly,” said Shrake, regarding international business.
There should be a statewide effort to incorporate Asian-American history and foreign language in American classrooms, Carter said, adding that California school systems should adopt some culturally-based curriculum about Asian-American history and curriculum.
“Students should be exposed to foreign language in the lower grade levels when children are more (susceptible) to learning,” he said.
Carter said there is now a considerable emphasis on literature and math in schools. He also said the reason for the emphasis is that standardized testing primarily focuses on English and math.
“I think all schools and teachers in schools – their judgment on success or failure depends on students testing in those subjects,” Carter said.
With the exception of a few, the vast majority of K-12 schools in the country do not include Asian-American history in their curriculum, he said.
Schools do, however, include African-American and Hispanic history in their curriculum, he said, adding that people have pushed for those ethnic histories to be taught in the classroom.
“If policy-makers encouraged other schools to build cooperative courses for teachers in the future, that would be great,” Shrake said.
Idama said schools are becoming more strict on what they can teach inside the classroom.
“The state has to create these guidelines (for the schools) and we cannot teach (cultural studies) unless the state says we can substitute it for social studies,” he said.
Gardena High School is one of the few schools in California that teaches Japanese foreign language classes.
Japanese has been a foreign language option for several decades at the school, Idama said.
“Gardena has traditionally been a Japanese-American community,” he said.
Valencia Bankston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.