APAC proposes curriculum changes



Members of APAC presented about necessary changes.

The Asian Pacific American Club (APAC) organized a presentation to the English and History departments on Tuesday, May 3 at 3 p.m. to push for increased representation in both curriculums.

A number of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students and faculty members presented to teachers and administrators in the MLK room. According to the presenters, their goal was to push for support for the AAPI community at the high school through an improved curriculum.

The presentation started off with a quote from Illinois State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz: “Empathy comes from understanding. We cannot do better unless we know better. A lack of knowledge is the root cause of discrimination and the best weapon against ignorance is education.”

The presenters addressed why they thought an increase in AAPI curriculum would be important. Junior Olivia Lee said because of numerous racist incidents at the school recently, students are demanding change. AAPI members of the high school think integrating AAPI curriculum would be a great way to start.

“This year has been abundant with uncovered swastikas, use of the N-word by non-Black students, and disrespect to the AAPI community with very little follow up. After an extremely successful student-led walkout and bills in place to adjust BHS’s response to hate speech, we are longing for even more change and including more AAPI history would be a great place to start. This request is not new, but now it is even more urgent,” Olivia Lee said.

The presenters shared statistics through surveys that were sent out to the student body. Out of a sample size of 57, 80 percent of AAPI students wanted more AAPI history and stories intertwined in the curriculum. The same survey revealed that 72 percent of these students have experienced microaggressions and 27 percent have experienced blatant racism at the high school.

More than 20 percent of the student body identifies as AAPI but only 4.7 percent of the staff is AAPI. Senior Yuki Hoshi said it is important to have a diverse curriculum because of how few AAPI students see faculty members who look like them.

“The ability to see yourself and feel represented in the school curriculum makes students of color feel less alone and less othered. Having AAPI history taught and reading books about AAPI communities creates a more welcoming environment for students – especially when there is such a lack of representation among staff,” Hoshi said.

According to junior Lila Yoon, AAPI students feel like the school does not value AAPI experiences. They said the AAPI students feel unrepresented because of a lack of inclusion and stereotypical content.

Two goals the presenters have for the future English curriculum is highlighting more AAPI success and understanding stereotypes. Senior Jean Hur said while it is important to acknowledge the struggles that come with being AAPI, the success, celebrations and joys should also be recognized.

“Right now the few books about Asian identity focus on the struggle of being AAPI. Shifting the focus of the stories we read about the AAPI community from hardship and struggle to success and joy will give students a more rounded understanding of the AAPI experience,” Hur said.

Hoshi said diversifying the curriculum will help cultivate an anti-racist school community.

“Education on people different from yourself helps you better understand the United States and the people living here. Asian-Americans are Americans and this isn’t foreign history. All of this circles back to the importance of empathy. English classes talk so much about windows and mirrors but how can AAPI students see themselves if the mirror is covered?” Hoshi said.

Hoshi said that last year’s vigil was a turning point for many AAPI students, helping them realize the importance of demanding what is right. She believed that it influenced their presentation’s creation.

“I think for me last year especially around the Atlanta shootings, despite the fact that BHS is more than 20 percent Asian, I did not feel safe nor feel that representation was there. I had to do school while seeing people like me and my family getting murdered,” Hoshi said. “I felt invisible and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that. The vigil was a turning point for a lot of us. That was the first time we demanded space. In doing so we realized this could be bigger. We could keep going with this momentum that we created. I think it had a domino effect leading up to this presentation.”

Senior Sam Lee said he hopes that the presentation will lead to change and AAPI students finally feeling represented.

“One of the things is just making sure students feel seen and gratified. For me from K-8 and into my high school experience, I almost felt like the environment created was not meant for me to advocate for myself and I was supposed to accept everything and not make this type of change. We know change does not happen overnight. You have to start small. You have to be persistent,” Sam Lee said.

Senior Lily Lockwood said she hopes that future AAPI students will have better high school experiences and not feel the invisibility that so many current AAPI students feel.

“I want future classes to look back and say ‘these people did that and now I don’t have to worry about it because I’m getting what I deserve.’ I don’t have to make a giant presentation to people to be like this is what I deserve. We shouldn’t have had to do this presentation. But we did,” Lockwood said.

Hoshi said the main goal is to eventually have a greater influence on the community outside of the high school.

“Whatever happens in Brookline has an influence on the community surrounding it. When information is implemented at BHS, that news will get to other districts. People will start hearing about this,” Hoshi said. “It really all starts with planting the seed and the ripple effects that come afterward.”