Ohio Senator And OU Alumna Wants Asian American History Taught In Schools

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Last month, Illinois became the first state to mandate Asian American history in its K-12 curriculum.

Now, an Ohio University alumna elected to the Ohio Senate is fighting for a similar provision — one that she says is long overdue.

“We’ve been in this country for years, hundreds of years, and our history has never really been talked about,” Sen. Tina Maharath said.

Maharath, who serves Ohio’s 3rd Senate District, is the daughter of two Southeast Asian refugees. She was the first Asian American woman elected to the Ohio Legislature in 2018.

Headshot of Senator Tina Maharath
Sen. Tina Maharath (D-3rd) [The Ohio Senate]
Last week, Maharath introduced the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act.

“To discuss the contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders bring to our state — whether that be politically, economically or even culturally,” Maharath said.

The bill would require Ohio public schools to develop Asian American history curriculums, while still giving lots of flexibility to local administration.

“It’s all local control, so each district and each school shall determine that minimum amount of instructional time,” Maharath said. “It’s not something we’re going to enforce heavily, but we are trying to enforce that the topic gets touched on in general.”

While this is the first time such legislation has been introduced into the Legislature, she said she does not anticipate much in the way of opposition.

“I am optimistic that we will receive bipartisan support. I am requesting co-sponsorship from both sides of the aisle.”

Pittaya Paladroi-Shane, the World Languages Coordinator at Ohio University and a professor of Maharath’s, believes this is an opportunity to build cultural appreciation for Asian Americans.

“I would like them to come to my class with a sense of appreciation, that they’re going to learn something new, something that will make them become more well-rounded.”

And that doesn’t just apply to American students, but also students of Asian descent.

“Why (would) I want to be proficient in Thai if I don’t actually appreciate my own culture, my own history, and how I see myself,” Paladroi-Shane said.

She said that appreciation is more important now than ever before.

“Especially during the pandemic, the Asian American has been the target group for racial attacks and also racial injustice, and even hate crimes.”

The bill will receive its first committee hearing after the Legislature returns to session Sept. 7. Maharath hopes the legislation will be signed in time for the 2022 school year.