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The Experience of Japanese Americans in the United States: A Teacher Resource Manual (curricula)

Creators: Advisory Council to the Ethnic Heritage Project of the Japanese American Citizens League


The Advisory Council to the Ethnic Heritage Project of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) developed, printed and distributed this manual in 1975. It was one of the first efforts to provide K–12 instructional materials about the history and achievements of Japanese Americans in the United States. The aim of the manual was to counter existing teaching materials which contained information that "portray(ed) persons of Japanese ancestry in a distorted or stereotypic fashion" (page 6). In addition, the authors sought to see Japanese Americans represented in the educational system's instructional framework of cultural pluralism.

The manual was meant to be a practical resource and includes a historical summary, classroom learning activities, select primary source materials related to the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, a summary of socio-economic data about Japanese Americans (1970 Census), and an annotated bibliography.

The over fifty pages of historical background begins with information on the first Japanese immigrants in the late 1800s through contemporary issues of feminism, interracial marriage, and political participation in the 1970s. This section includes a chronology comparing significant events in the United States and Japan from 1616–1975. There is also a chronology of key events related to ethnic groups in America from 1513–1960 (pages 154-160). It is interesting to note that this manual was probably a prelude to the redress efforts in the Japanese American community.

In the preface to the learning activities section of the manual, the authors caution teachers about using three basic stereotypes about Japanese Americans: "the sneaky, inscrutable 'yellow peril'; the 'perpetual foreigner', and the 'model minority'" (page 57). They suggest teachers seek ongoing learning to build an appreciation of various ethnic groups, and point to understanding the diversity within the Japanese American community as especially important.

The majority of the manual is dedicated to learning activities organized by grade bands: K-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12. These activities are designed to encourage respect of different cultures, and reasoned decision-making based on evidence. Most activities are written in a grid format outlining key questions, a description of the activities, and a listing of related materials and resources. Although the materials and resources for the learning activities are noted, most are not provided within the manual.

Members of the JACL Ethnic Heritage Advisory include: Jeanette Arakawa, Carol Choye, Russell Endo, Lorna Hill, Charles Igawa, George Kiriyama, Mas Kodani, Junji Kumamoto, Tsukasa Matsueda, Mildred Miya, Kathy Reyes, Dale Shimasaki, Henry Tanaka, Izumi Taniguchi, and Mary Watanabe. Several consultants also contributed to the development of the manual: Eleanor Blumenberg, Donald Estes, Asa Hilliard, Mako Nakagawa, Franklin Odo, Leland Shimada, and Belle Ruth Witkin.

This manual was sponsored by the Bureau of Postsecondary Education (DHEW/OE), Washington, D.C. Division of International Education, and funded by a grant OEG-0-74-9155.

Authored by Janet Hayakawa , Densho