In order to be a well rounded, educated, participating citizen in the community today, it is essential to be well grounded in the knowledge of one’s own history. It has been said that the victors write the history, so I encourage you to develop a critical eye to the interpretation of historical events and to emphasize the interpretation of history from multiple perspectives. For example, in our Asian/Asian American History class this semester, we will study Asian Americans and their contributions to the social and cultural diversity of the United States. During in-class discussions and dialogue, I will ask you to examine your stereotypes and perceptions on such topics as “define American culture and history” or “why does ‘American’ usually mean ‘white’?” What are the forgotten, little known and perhaps “silenced” or “ignored” histories of communities of people like you and me? Since this course focuses on the historical and political factors that have shaped (and continue to shape) the culture, institutions and society of the U.S. (and worldwide), we examine the role and contribution of workers, immigrants, women and people of color. I encourage active discussion, exchange and dialogue in these areas.
Why teach Ethnic Studies? Why Asian/Asian American Studies? At first glance, I can’t really say that I come to Laney College with any clear conscious method or plan, but through sixteen (16) years of teaching at a variety of different settings and places, I have found a few things that seem to work. If I have any method at all, it would have to be a deep-felt enthusiasm for the subjects I aspire to teach. I can honestly say that there is no other professional activity that I find more enjoyable or rewarding than teaching. When a student gets an insight into a difficult process or completes a term paper or a fantastic display at the AAAS Faire and sees a satisfying piece of work, these “EUREKA!” moments are rewarding both to the student and to me for the role I’ve played in nurturing it somehow.
In the best situation, I try to convey two complementary things. The first is a fascination and excitement with the scope of the academic subject or scholarly research presented, and the thrill of developing and using new methods for learning more about the past (as well as the present and future projections). The second is the sense of students being my partners in learning, and of doing scholarly or community work alongside me. Everyday, I am a “giver” of encouragement. I learned this second aspect of my teaching from the best of my own university professors, who made me their junior partner in teaching, and encouraged me as a capable intellectual actor ready to tackle the big issues (and to stand confidently in front of a room full of strangers without shaking). In essence, I was supported, helped, coached, encouraged and taught how to learn—all very significant early work experience and critical exposure. And therefore, while I am teaching at Laney College, I desire to “give back” to others.
Together, as partners in education and learning, we will consider redefining American history as a multicultural one, and to raise one’s consciousness and awareness about historical patterns and connections in the past to present by “putting ourselves in the context of history.” In terms of media literacy, how does the image of “William Hung” today reflect issues and topics of yesterday? Does Proposition 187 of the 1990’s have a message that is similar to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882? I encourage exchange and dialogue in these areas. Likewise, in the context of world history, I ask you to consider the “push and pull” factors in determining why Asian Americans immigrated to the U.S. (i.e., Opium Wars in China and demand for cheap labor in California; How does cultivation of sugar cane as a cash crop remake Hawaii?). Some of the multicultural videos I employ in this course are: “Slaying the Dragon,” “Carved in Silence,” “Ancestors in Americas,” “Thousand Pieces of Gold,” “The Joy Luck Club,” “Picture Bride,” “Sikhs of Yuba City,” “Dollar A Day, Ten Cents A Dance,” “A Family Gathering,” to name a few.
I encourage you to continue taking classes in Asian American Studies because “making history” continues and is on-going. The Peralta Community College District offers ASAME 45A, 45B, 32 and others, but consider not stopping there! Other schools, universities and colleges (check online and distance learning as well) in the SF Bay Area offer quite a lot, with dozens of courses in the A/PI specialty! Also, you might join a community outreach and educational group ranging from government/politics, civil rights, health initiatives, employee relations, etc. I know for a fact that the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (www.aiisf.org) is looking for volunteers! There is much to do, and accomplish via community groups and volunteer activities. Consider this class only the beginning!
In our class together this term, I hope to get to know each of you, and that we will respect one another. Respect in the classroom also includes respecting opinions with which you may disagree. I request that we agree to some guidelines to support and help each other learn: 1) Respect yourself and others; 2) Step up, step back: If you like to talk, try to “step back” to give others a chance to participate. If you’re a quiet person, try to “step up” and contribute more; 3) Try it on: You may hear a perspective that you do not agree with. “Try it on” from their perspective first; and 4) Speak for yourself, not for others: Try “I think” or “I feel” or “I believe” or “in my experience” instead of “women think” or “white people think.”
More than anything, I feel that I have something to offer and share, and I am deeply concerned about the future. I am delighted to be your instructor this semester, and I am hopeful that we will have a productive, successful and engaging class together. Do let me know if I can assist you in any way.
|2012 AAAS Faire|
L-R: Jinhong Yao, Dingyao Huang, Janine Fujioka and Ngoc Ly @ 2012 Spring AAAS Faire