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Preface

What is the Korean diaspora? Who are Korean Americans? Who was the first Asian American to command a U.S. battalion? Who was the first American to win multiple Olympic medals in diving competitions over two different summer games and later became a medical doctor who served in a U.S. Army hospital? How were Korean Americans impacted by the 1992 LA Civil Unrest? How did it transform the Korean American community? How have Korean Americans and Korean pop culture contributed to the United States and the world?

These are some of the questions answered in this book. Along with answers that help students better understand Korean Americans and their contributions to the United States, the lesson activities and resources will empower students to think critically about socio-political issues surrounding them. Hopefully, by participating in the lesson activities, students will develop respect for cultural diversity and appreciation of inclusion and broaden their perspectives in this multicultural society.

 

Korean Americans are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States, and their history in the U.S. began in the late 1800s. According to the 2020 Census, Korean Americans  are California’s fifth-largest Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. As stated in the California Assembly Concurrent Resolutions No. 109 and No. 142, the Korean American community is “an integral part of mainstream American society,” and Korean American immigrants “have helped turn emergent areas within California into thriving and respectable communities.”

 

Nevertheless, their struggles, triumphs, and contributions to the United States are not part of the current K-12 school curricula and are not mentioned in the current K-12 history textbooks. If we aspire to create an “anti-racist learning community,” it is essential to have a well-balanced curriculum that represents diverse groups’ contributions to U.S. history, success stories, as well as challenges they faced as a minority, and how they overcame inequity and racial discrimination. Incorporating this information into teacher preparation and training is an urgent matter, too. To exclude the Korean American community from the curriculum is to dismiss a significant part of California’s history and the experience of people of color.   

 

As a university professor and teacher educator for over 25 years, I am constantly reminded of the lack of available teaching resources and materials to provide equitable and inclusive education. It is vital to highlight Korean American history, especially in Southern California, where many Korean Americans reside and where many great Korean Americans have worked and thrived. Our students will benefit from learning about role models such as Dr. Sammy Lee (an Olympic medalist and medical doctor who served in the U.S. Army hospital) and Colonel Young Oak Kim (a U.S. Army officer and the first Asian American to lead a combat battalion). As such, I have collaborated with scholars, educators, and community leaders to develop the Korean American Ethnic Studies Curriculum: Teaching Resources for K–12 Classrooms as the first step in creating a non-anti-Asian and inclusive society for all.

 

Anti-Asian hatred and violence are not new. Throughout U.S. history, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have been targets of discrimination and hate crimes. Although AAPI people have played a key role in major educational civil rights cases such as combating segregation (Tape v. Hurley, 1885) and in terms of the rights of emergent bilingual students in the United States (Lau v. Nichols, 1974), many teachers do not have sufficient knowledge of the history of AAPI people, and their significant contributions have not been taught to K-12 students. This is of concern, as an appreciation of the history of various racial and ethnic groups is vital to making students more engaged and responsible citizens.

 

Across the nation, the push for ethnic studies courses in public education is rapidly growing. Twenty states and districts have passed ethnic studies legislation, ranging from its incorporation in the current curriculum to mandated inclusion in social science or humanities curriculum to high school graduation requirements. In California, public education systems now require students to take and pass an ethnic studies course to fulfill graduation requirements. Assembly Bill 1460 was approved by California Governor Newsome on August 17, 2020, requiring each of 23 California State University (CSU) campuses to offer and require undergraduate students to take an ethnic studies course as part of their graduation requirements. Similarly, with the passage of California AB101 in 2021, the high school graduating class of 2029/30 must complete an ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement. The University of California (U.C.) system has proposed to include an ethnic studies requirement as part of the university’s A-G requirements for admissions. Ethnic studies courses help teachers integrate socio-historical, cultural, linguistic, and experiential knowledge into learning, creating authentic contexts for student learning.

 

Ethnic studies is “the critical and interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity with a focus on the experiences & perspectives of people of color within and beyond the U.S.” (UC Berkeley). Developing and implementing an ethnic studies curriculum would allow for a better understanding of all groups, including AAPI people, and help AAPI students to see “themselves and each other as part of the narrative of the U.S.,” according to Albert Camarillo, a Standford University historian. Camarillo notes the benefits of affirming the identities and contributions of marginalized groups, which he believes should be supported by the integration of an ethnic studies curriculum into public education.

 

California State Board of Education adopted the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) in 2021. Even though the current ESMC focuses on the four ethnic groups, ethnic studies is for all students. CDE (2021) states, “…by affirming the identities and contributions of marginalized groups in our society, ethnic studies help students see themselves as part of the narrative of the U.S.”

 

In this book, you will see that the Korean ESMC has been re-edited and categorized in chronological order from the Korean diaspora and early Korean immigrants to Korean Americans in the 21st century. Teachers can easily choose and combine the materials in this book with other lessons. We have also aligned the material with various content area state standards since ethnic studies is an interdisciplinary curriculum. We have included a teacher guide, up to three lesson activities, assessments, extension activities, and additional resources to explore each lesson further and for easier implementation of those lessons.

 

These teaching materials are just the beginning of our work and are not representative of all Korean American experiences. More Korean American ethnic studies curricula should be developed, and teacher training should be carried out concurrently. For this to happen, many educators, as well as people who are interested in Korean American studies, must work together for years to come. University professors specializing in content areas, teacher trainers, and classroom teachers can play essential roles in developing and validating the Korean American Studies curricula and teaching materials. In addition, schoolteachers, administrators, district staff, and community representatives should form a task force to discuss the implementation and dissemination aspects of these valuable educational materials. If you know of any other Korean American experiences that our K-12 students should learn from, please share your unique unsung Korean American heroes and their stories with us.

 

Finally, I extend my greetings to all who will benefit and gain valuable insights from this book, and I hope you will enjoy reading and learning. Again, my heartfelt appreciation goes to all those who have supported and encouraged me in many ways to produce these resource materials. Thank you, everyone!

 

Respectfully,

Grace Cho, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Secondary Education

California State University, Fullerton

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