California’s Diverse 6.2 Million Kids Public School Population Requires Overhaul In History Books, ‘We Want To Make Sure They Are Accurate’

California’s public schools are wrestling with how the textbooks used in its public schools can be relevant to the Golden State’s hugely diverse population of students, many of whom come from immigrant backgrounds, ABC News is reporting.

The Instructional Quality Commission Thursday is expected to consider whether it will go ahead with a proposal to the California Board of Education that will guide publishers over how to choose the material they use in their textbooks. It has become increasingly difficult teaching world histories in California schools when most of the students are Asian, Latino or from families that just recently migrated to the U.S.

A prolonged debate has been going on about this plan for the past 10 years. Over the years, different ethnic groups have lodged complaints about how their people have been misrepresented in textbooks or portrayed in classroom discussions and want the records set straight.

A brand new history and social studies framework for over 6.2 million public schools students is the massive challenge before the Instructional Quality Commission.

Students of Japanese extraction argue that the mention of Asian “comfort women” incarcerated during World War II in history books should be expunged. In addition, a Hindu-American group has pitted itself against publishers who make references to the caste system and use the words “South Asia” when referring to India.

California diversity

Some other groups simply feel certain histories are being neglected and not given the attention that they deserve. For instance, there was the Philippines Bataan Death March in 1942, where 750 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos died when they were forced to walk 60 miles to prison. There was also the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago under the Ottoman Empire.

Eric Heins, the president of the California Teachers Association, agrees that these annals of history need to be revisited all over again.

“It’s about people’s stories and for so long, the stories have been narrowly told, so when there’s an opportunity to develop a new framework, we want to make sure they are accurate stories. It creates a much richer narrative and story about what makes California so unique in the United States.”

California boasts the largest K-12 population in the United States, and because of this, any revision in its textbooks spurs changes in other states. California has a cosmopolitan student population; it is 53 percent Latino, 25 percent White, 12 percent Asian, and 6 percent African American.

Education experts say they are not surprised with the clamor for historical changes in school textbooks, but warn that all the changes cannot be made and neither can all the materials be covered inside the confines of a classroom.

Chairman Bill Honig of the History-Social Science Subject Matter Committee revealed that the panel spent many hours taking the testimonies of over 90 people as well as considering suggestions from over 1,500 other people in the bid to build a better framework.

“We have people from every part of the world, but there is just not enough space to do justice to all these things.”

On top of all this, several lobbying groups are expected to make the trip to Sacramento and present their cases before the 18-member advisory commission. The groups include the Hindu American Foundation, which is opposing a recommendation by the South Asia Faculty group to the word “South Asia” in place of the word “India.” In recent times, “South Asia” has been used to describe regions that include India, Pakistan, and Nepal.

The foundation also contends that linking a person’s status to the caste system and saying that women and men and are not equal is embarrassing and sends the wrong message to Hindu students in sixth and seventh grades. Samir Kalra, the director of the foundation, said things needed to be done right because young people of an impressionable age could easily get confused over their identities.

California diversity

The Asian “comfort women” notion for American soldiers that is taught in high schools has also been hit with an avalanche of petitions. Opponents claim the women were paid prostitutes recruited by rogue soldiers and not by the Japanese military. Phyllis Kim, the executive director of the Korean American Forum based in California, said it was crucial that these things be clarified because kids of Japanese ancestry could be ashamed or bullied.

Executive director Cecilia Gaerlan of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society in Berkeley said she wanted people to know more about the brave American soldiers who defended the Bataan peninsula without food, water, or reinforcements for three months before being overrun by the Japanese military.

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