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    Monday, July 22, 2024

    Poll finds most AAPI adults think the history of racism should be taught in schools

    FILE - A row of school buses rests in a parking lot, April 7, 2020, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. About 7 in 10 AAPI adults approve of K-12 public schools teaching about the history of slavery, racism and segregation, according to a new poll from AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. A similar share also support teaching about the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States, while about half support teaching about issues related to sex and sexuality. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

    Washington — U.S. schools should teach about issues related to race, most Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders believe. They also oppose efforts to restrict what subjects can be discussed in the classroom, according to a new poll.

    In the survey from AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 71% of AAPI adults favor teaching about the history of slavery, racism and segregation in K-12 public schools. The same share also said they support teaching about the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States, while about half support teaching about issues related to sex and sexuality.

    AAPI Democrats are more supportive of these topics being taught in classrooms than AAPI Republicans.

    Still, only 17% of AAPI adults think school boards should be able to limit what subjects students and teachers talk about in the classroom, and about one-quarter of AAPI Republicans are in favor of these restrictions.

    The results indicate that efforts to politicize education through culture war issues have not gained strong inroads in Asian American communities, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at the University of California, Riverside, and founder of AAPI Data. Across the country, conservative members of state legislatures and local school boards have made efforts to restrict teaching about race and gender in classrooms.

    “Even as parents are concerned and engaged in various ways with K-12 education, the culture wars are not something that resonate with AAPI parents,” he said. “I think that's important because there's so much news coverage of it and certainly a lot of policy activity.”

    AAPI Americans are a fast-growing demographic, but small sample sizes and linguistic barriers often prevent their views from being analyzed in other surveys.

    Glenn Thomas, a 53-year-old father to three children in public schools who identifies as a political independent and is Japanese and white, said that while he does not oppose classrooms covering topics like race and gender, he does not think they should be the sole focus of how curriculums are designed.

    “I'm kind of old-school, reading, writing, arithmetic,” he said of how schools approach topics like gender and race. “I don't think it necessarily needs to be taught as separate curriculums.”

    Thomas, whose family has lived all over the country because of his career in the military, said the influence of politics and external actors in public schools varied greatly depending on where they lived. In Florida, where he currently lives, he thinks the state government too heavily influences local schools.

    Nationally, 39% of AAPI adults say that they follow news about their school boards, while just 13% say they have attended a local school board meeting and 18% have communicated in-person or online with a local school board member. When it comes to elections, 28% have voted in a local school board election.

    While those percentages are roughly consistent with the general public, AAPI adults are slightly less likely to say they have voted in a local school board election.

    Because a high percentage of Asian Americans are immigrants, Ramakrishnan said, many did not grow up in the same political system as the United States, where there is a high level of local control and influence over schools. A lack of outreach from mainstream institutions may also contribute to a lower level of engagement, he added.

    “It takes a fair amount of effort to learn how the system works and how to have influence in that system," he said. “Given the high level of interest that (Asian American and Pacific Islander) parents place in education, you would expect higher rates of participation.”

    Varisa Patraporn, a Thai American mother of two public school children in California, said that she is a consistent voter in local elections, given the importance of those individuals in making decisions that affect schools. In Cerritos, where she lives, candidates tend to host events and send out mailers during elections, reflecting a robust campaign for seats on the school board.

    Patraporn said that while she has communicated with school board members, she has not attended a school board meeting. Part of that, she said, is because the meetings happen in the evening and are harder to attend for parents who have young children or other obligations. That means the parents who do attend and speak up can have a disproportionate amount of sway.

    Patraporn said that she wants the school curriculum to be more diverse and inclusive, despite pushback from some parents who do not want discussions of race in the classroom. She said she often supplements her children's reading to expose them to a wider range of perspectives beyond what they get from their assignments.

    “Those conversations have started, but there's a lot of resistance in our community to that,” she said. “There's a lot of resistance in terms of being fearful of what it means to actually talk about race.”

    Ramakrishnan said the polling data indicates an opening to engage AAPI communities more intensely with their local educational institutions. According to the poll, about two-thirds of AAPI adults see the schools that children attend as extremely or very important to their success in adulthood. And about half say parents and teachers have too little influence on the curriculum in public schools, similar to the general population.

    “This is a community that still sees college as a good deal, as an important pathway toward mobility and success, and is concerned about the quality of K-12 education as well,” he said. “We have a ripe opportunity to engage and boost participation in these Asian American Pacific Islander communities when it comes to educational policy.”

    The poll of 1,068 U.S. adults who are Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders was conducted from April 8-17, 2024, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based Amplify AAPI Panel, designed to be representative of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander population. Online and telephone interviews were offered in English, the Chinese dialects of Mandarin and Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

    The Associated Press’ education coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

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