MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) passed a resolution encouraging school districts across the state "to develop an educational curriculum and professional training to teach the history, culture, and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the economic, cultural, and social development of Wisconsin and the USA."
WASB will now ask the state for funding to help districts develop the curriculum and train staff.
The resolution started with the Milwaukee School Board, which introduced it to WASB. But the push for the curriculum in schools came from the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Coalition of Wisconsin.
"I think if you know a student's life experience, culture, food, holidays they celebrate, I mean that really draws into [students] sense of belonging and identity," said E Her Vang with the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin. Vang is Hmong American and also works for and educational non-profit.
Recent census data shows since 2010 the AAPI population in Wisconsin grew by 36%.
"AAPI have been in Wisconsin contributing to our culture and our economy for over 100 years," said Lorna Young with the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin and the Organization of Chinese Americans.
Although the resolution only encourages schools to take up AAPI curriculum, the majority of Wisconsin schools will take it up. Some schools have already implemented AAPI curriculum.
"Some schools might not be able to put together full courses, but in Eau Claire they got a full course in Hmong history and culture that they've run for four years already. But others can just fold in content in terms of the current courses like American history, because AAPI are part of American History," Young said.
Both Young and Vang said they didn't have AAPI courses in school until they got to college. They hope this resolution changes that for today's and future students.
"I think it's a step forward for the future generation. I also really hope that other communities that feel like, 'we want to talk about our culture too,' that it motivates them to do that," Vang said.
Once schools begin to implement AAPI curriculum Vang and Young said lessons could potentially include things like the way different Asian cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year (which is on Feb. 1st this year), or the history of how Hmong refugees ended up in the United States after helping American troops in the Vietnam War.
"The reason why we're here, I think, is one of the most important, because the question that Asian Americans often get is, 'where are you from? No, where are you really from?' I think if that was taught, that question wouldn't be asked as much because you may have already known," Vang said.
They say the benefits of adding an AAPI curriculum isn't just for those in that community, but for all students.
"To learn how to navigate working with other people who are different from them is an important life skill, so I think it's something that everyone will want to do in one way or the other," Young said.