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‘I’m as American as egg rolls and pork fried rice’ | Connecticut leaders, educators reflect on state mandating AAPI studies in public schools

Thousands of dollars will be allocated to regional and local districts to implement the curriculum.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut will set the tone for other states to hopefully follow in its footsteps. It is the first state to mandate Asian American Pacific Islander studies for public schools after the legislature passed a bill last year.

"What do they say about history? Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it," said Attorney General William Tong.

The attorney general was one of many dignitaries behind the bill mandating Asian American Pacific Islander studies to be offered in Connecticut schools.

Gov. Ned Lamont eventually signed it into law after it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate and House. The studies will be a part of the social studies curriculum which is set to begin in 2025.

Thousands of dollars will be set aside to help local and regional school boards develop their own curriculum.

Patrice McCarthy, with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said AAPI studies will be part of K-12 classrooms with no additional teachers hired or needed to specifically teach this topic.

"The model curriculum will be available for all districts and they can take that adapt it, they can use it as the department presents it," McCarthy said.

The curriculum was already implemented in colleges and universities and now elementary, middle and high schools will have the same access.

"It also helps to address some of the divisiveness that often stems from a lack of understanding of other cultures and other histories," added McCarthy.

For school districts like the town of Middletown, conversations are cranking on how they plan to teach this curriculum.

"We’re purchasing classroom libraries that are historically and culturally responsive – read-alouds where our teachers will be engaged and in 20 to 30-minute literacy activities that really explore the history and individuals of AAPI descent," said Middletown Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Stacey McCann.

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In Middletown, there are 5% of students identify as Asian American Pacific Islanders which translates to 226 students, McCann said.

Passing this bill was personal to both Tong and state Sen. Saud Anwar.

"The students would have the opportunity in high schools to learn about The Chinese Exclusion Act, the historical act. Also, they need to learn about the individuals who made a difference in the tallest building in the United States – something that was architectured by an Asian American," Anwar said. 

Asian American or more so specifically, Chinese-American. That is how Tong identifies himself. 

"I’m as American as egg rolls and pork fried rice," added Tong. 

Those were dishes served up at the Chinese restaurant where his parents met. The business was called Hong Kong Kitchen and it was located on Blue Hills Ave. in Bloomfield. 

Though no longer there, his childhood was spent mostly at the restaurant as he recalled coming in and out of the swiveling doors that connected the kitchen to the dining room. 

His parents worked early mornings and late nights.

"Those are the Chinese people I know. Fierce, strong, courageous," added Tong. 

He hoped people similar to his parents' work ethics would be talked about in future classrooms. 

"We didn’t see ourselves reflected in textbooks … in the many stories that were told in the history class. It just didn’t include us," added Tong. 

Inclusion was the driving force behind Raised Bill 5282, the education that has been made mandatory.

Carmen Chau is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at cchau@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


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