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Back to May Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 268 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MAY 2008

Groups Lobby California To Teach Their Version of History
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The California legislature has looked at several bills either encouraging or requiring schools and textbook companies to include the history of certain groups in books and curricula. California lawmakers are currently considering a bill to require textbooks to teach students the history of the Hmong people, a Southeast Asian people group. Many of the roughly 180,000 Hmong people who now live in the United States fought against Communism in Laos and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, in a "secret war" initiated by the U.S. government. The Laotian and Vietnamese governments retaliated against the Hmong with chemical and biological warfare and other genocidal tactics.

Five years ago, California passed a bill to encourage the teaching of Hmong history. Now Assemblyman Juan Arambula is urging the legislature to require textbooks to include a section on the Hmong people and the secret war. The Assembly Education Committee voted 6-0 in favor of Arambula's measure. The three Republicans on the committee abstained, fearing that such a bill would encourage more and more ethnic and other groups to lobby for special recognition in textbooks and school curricula. This could burden schools that are already struggling to teach students the minimum they need to know. "We're just trying to teach the basics to get our high school exit exams passed," said Bob Huff, one of the Republicans on the committee.

Assembly Democrats have also introduced a bill this year calling schools to recognize Italian-Americans' role in California's history, and another one encouraging them to teach students about American Indian history and present tribal and sovereign governments. While many groups have noble histories and have made important contributions to state history, a spate of such laws requiring schools to teach about them all could create an unwieldy and fragmented history curriculum.


 
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