A new pilot program teaching New York City students the history and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) will be introduced in the next school year at a number of public schools, city officials announced Thursday. 

The curriculum, called “Hidden Voices: Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States,” is part of the Department of Education’s Hidden Voices Project and reflects the growing numbers of AAPI New Yorkers. 

“Since 1990, the number of API residents in NYC (including both immigrants and non-immigrants) more than doubled, from 490,000 in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2019,” the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs said in a report last year. In the 2020-2021 school year, 16.5% of the 1.1 million public school students identified as Asian, according to the DOE.

“This new curriculum is a milestone in our ongoing support to AAPI students and families in our public schools and communities,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks at a press conference at the DOE’s Tweed Courthouse headquarters Thursday. 

“This curriculum will cover stories from numerous AAPI figures and a multitude of communities who have left their mark on this country,” Banks said, with lessons structured around historical figures like Dr. Anandibai Joshee, the first woman of Indian ancestry to be a doctor of Western medicine in the United States; Representative Patsy Mink, who was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress; and Helen Zia, the Chinese-American journalist.

While the specific schools have not been selected, Banks said the pilot curriculum will be developed for all grade levels with plans to roll out across the school system by the fall of 2024.

Banks noted the pilot program was also aimed at combating anti-Asian sentiment, which has led to a surge in violence – in 2021, hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers were up 361% over the previous year.

“One of the ways we combat racism and hate – and the mayor talks about this all the time – is by teaching and learning about each other's stories and histories. We are not the other,” Banks said. “We are all New Yorkers. We are all Americans.”

State Sen. John Liu, who chairs the Senate Committee on NYC Education, added that the anti-Asian sentiment may be fueled by long-standing “ignorance” of the political and historical contributions of AAPI people. 

“This anti-Asian hate that we've seen so much of, it didn't just happen the last couple of years. It's been happening ever since the beginning of this country, ever since the first Asian Americans arrived at our shores,” Liu said. 

“Asian Americans have been scapegoats for a lot of things in our entire history, whether it be economic recession, international warfare, global pandemic – we get blamed,” Liu said. “And the reason we get blamed, and therefore hated and attacked, is because of ignorance.”

He added, “It's easy to blame people that you don't know or you don't understand.”

Mayor Eric Adams said the program’s existence is due to the perseverance of Liu - who has introduced legislation to make AAPI education required throughout New York state - and other advocates for developing the curriculum for the city school system.

“Thank you to all the members of the AAPI community who never gave up, never surrendered,” Adams said at the press conference. “You knew that you were on the right path. You accomplished a historical goal today.”