Monday, November 14, 2011

California updates terminology in law to teach students about Pacific Islander American history (California news 2 of 4)

There was a lot of coverage this summer about a bill before the California state legislature, which would require the teaching of what some reporter's described as "gay history" in the state's public schools. Tucked into a few of the articles was this detail -- the bill would also require that students learn about the contributions of Pacific Islanders, or in other words "Pacific Islander American history." To quote a portion of a Christian Science Monitor article on the subject:
California already requires that when school districts adopt instructional materials, they seek to ensure that Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and European Americans are accurately portrayed. The new bill would add not only LGBT to that list, but also people with disabilities and Pacific Islanders.
I was curious, so I read the bill, and what the law was before this bill passed. Luckily, you can get all of this info online by visiting the California state senate's website.

Here's what I learned: California law already required that social science instruction is inclusive of the history and contributions of "Pacific Island people," which this bill changed to "Pacific Islanders." (The bill made similar changes to the terms used for other minorities.)

It appears that the change for Pacific Islanders is be more cosmetic than anything else, but it's a sign of progress that the bill's authors were knew enough to use more appropriate terminology.

Want to read the law for yourself? Click here: LINK

A larger question to ask: What would a course on Pacific Islander contributions to America look like? Would it include stories about the Native Hawaiians who immigrated to the Pacific Northwest to work for timber companies, or to harbors, deserts and mining towns in California? What about the Mormon Pacific Islanders who immigrated to Utah to follow their faith? Or would the focus be on big names, like King Kamehameha and Duke Kahanamoku, or modern-day entertainers like Dwayne Johnson (aka "The Rock")?

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