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LETTERS

A notable gap in teaching of Asian American history

Phoebe Tian, 14, of Lexington, in front row, third from the left, is joined by a chorus of area Asian students to sing a song she wrote called "We are Proud to Be Asian" during a rally on Boston Common in April.
Phoebe Tian, 14, of Lexington, in front row, third from the left, is joined by a chorus of area Asian students to sing a song she wrote called "We are Proud to Be Asian" during a rally on Boston Common in April.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Bedford school saw the need and created literature course

Deanna Pan’s article on the lack of Asian American history being taught in area schools (“For Asian Students, US history a sore subject,” Page A1, June 17) explains why Bedford High School created an Asian American literature course five years ago. Spurred on by the growing Asian American student population at our school, we saw the need to address the educational gap Pan’s article reveals.

Although the course is in the English department, we cover a great deal of Asian American history, and use Helen Zia’s “Asian American Dreams” as our main text, as well as a nearly daily viewing of Boston Globe articles that cover Asian American issues. Had Pan’s article appeared two days earlier (the last day of classes), it would have been discussed by our students in class.

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The course is popular, and we’ve heard from authors Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nicole Chung, Jamie Ford, and Celeste Ng, each of whom expressed surprise and delight when they learned about the course and how much our students enjoyed reading their works. They couldn’t believe there was an Asian American literature course in a high school, and they all said they wished there had been one when they were that age.

There is also an Asian American lit course at Newton North, but that is the only other one we could find when we first started doing the research to build our course’s curriculum. What is great (and exhausting) about teaching the course is that the curriculum expands at an astonishingly rapid rate as more and more tremendous new work by Asian American authors and filmmakers is created and often rediscovered or uncovered from the past.

Dan Niven

Acton

The writer teaches English at Bedford High School.


History is not a morality tale — teach accordingly

Re “For Asian students, US history a sore subject”: For all its noble intentions, the article falls into the trap of expecting — even demanding — that history generate uplifting ethno-racial narratives. Whether one conceives of history as tragedy or as human nature superimposed on random events, it most assuredly is not a morality tale.

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Before bemoaning that Asian Americans are seldom “shown as heroes in the sweeping arc of the American story, or as change-makers who battled systemic injustice and advanced the cause of civil rights,” one would do well to remember that Asian Americans constituted less than 0.5 percent of the population until the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.

Perhaps I’m a bit antediluvian in outlook, but attempts to transform evenhanded historical instruction into politically convenient yarn-spinning should be met with cool skepticism.

Alex Czarnecki

Lexington