Choi Mi-young who is changing curriculum
Yoko story: the truth of So far from the bamboo grove
Mi young Choi Kim is the President of Korean Schools Association of Northern California. She has led eliminating "So far from Bamboo Groove" from California Department of Education: CDE curriculum and add correct content about Korea in CDE framework on the behalf of her organization's members and professors. Let's figure out how she has done this works and the reason why she started this activity through below special interview.
Q : Would you introduce yourself and your organization?
A : My name is Miyoung Choi Kim, and I currently serve as the President of KSANC. And I'm also the principal of Dasom Korean School in Milpitas, California. I have worked for an educational foundation where we develop English books and multimedia materials for EFL students all over the world. I live in Santa Clara, California, with my husband Besides, my job, I have been a teacher at Korean schools for the last 17 years in the USA as a volunteer basis.
KSANC, a nonprofit organization, is organized for Korean schools in order to teach Korean language, history, and culture as well as to promote teaching skills needed at Korean schools to all the teachers at Korean schools. KSANC was established in 1991 with just a few schools. Now it has grown to 50 schools, about 400 teachers, and over 4000 grade school students. If you want to know more about KSANC, please visit our website at www.koreanschoolca.org.
Q : What kind of activity does your organization do beside teaching jobs?
A : We also try to spread correct information on Korea to our local communities in the USA. Let me introduce one example of this activity. As you may know, the book So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Kawashima Watkins, a Japanese American writer, describes how she bravely fled from Korea at the end of World War II to return to Japan and how she overcame her hardship after the war as a young girl. It may be a well-written novel but it contains historical inaccuracies and negatively unbalanced portrayals of Korean people. Even though the author has acknowledged that she changed the dates and some details in order to make the story more dramatic, for students it could be their only exposure, or one of their few exposures, to Korean people. The book's one-sided and inaccurate portrayals could cause students to have hateful or racist impressions on Koreans and Korean culture. In the beginning of 2007, this book began to surface by a young Korean-American girl, Alex, who stopped going to school insisting that she wasn't going to use this book for her English class. Finally, the school eliminated the book from the reading book list. Later the movement spread to many different States in the USA, and so this book has been removed from the recommended reading lists of schools in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas. We found that the book was in the English reading book list recommended by California Department of Education (CDE) and it was widely used among 5-8th graders in California.
We sent about 20,000 petition letters including letters from Los Angeles Korean communities to CDE board members and educational committee. At the public hearing which was held on November 5, 2008, five Koreans, including myself, shared our opinions with the board members and audiences on why the book, So Far From the Bamboo Grove, must be eliminated from CDE's recommended reading book list. After the board members listened and discussed, they unanimously decided to eliminate the book from California curriculum so that California schools will not use this book as a reading curriculum any more.
Q : Along with this case, would you introduce another work too?
A : After eliminating Yoko story from the CDE curriculum, we wanted to add some content about Korea in CDE framework. It is very important to introduce Korean culture and history to both Korean-American students and to the other communities, because America is the world's largest multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country, so understanding and sharing each other's cultures are, I think, very important.
When we did some researches on social science and history framework of CDE, we found that Korea and its culture are mentioned only twice in 13-year public school curriculum in California. Then we could understand why people from other communities know almost nothing about us.
Working with Mrs. Connor, the president of Korea Academy for Educators, Professor Duncan at the University of California in Los Angeles, and other activists, we stared the process of adding Korean history and culture content in History and Social Science Framework of CDE. We again sent petition letters and attended public hearings and tried our best to convince board members and the committee to include Korean history and culture to a greater extent in the updated Framework.
Finally, CDE decided to add Korean history and culture in CDE history and social science framework. It includes as below.
Newly added Framework
People Who Make a Difference
• To deepen student understanding and engagement, students can read Dear Juno, a story about a young Korean boy who now lives in the United States and is corresponding with his grandmother in South Korea. The book is written by Soyung Pak.
California:A Changing State
• The Koreans immigrated and arrived in the second half of the 19th century. See how these people provided a new supply of labor for California's railroads, agriculture, and industry and contributed as entrepreneurs and innovators, especially in agriculture.
World History and Geography: Medieval and Early Modern Times
• Buddhism, introduced in earlier centuries from India, spread widely in China during the Tang period and began to alter religious life in neighboring countries, Korea and Japan as well.
• About 2,500 years ago, Korea introduced rice cultivation to Japan.
• Between the third and sixth centuries, when China was politically fragmented, many Chinese and Koreans migrated to Japan in search of refuge and for some, opportunity. Those new comers introduced many innovations, including advanced metallurgy, writing, silk production, textile manufacture, paper-making, and Buddhism.
• Japanese merchants imported luxury goods from Korea
• The printing press using moveable metal type developed (technology developed separately in Korea) seventy years earlier than Europe
United States History and Geography Growth and Conflict
• The Gold Rush in California and agricultural labor in Hawaii spurred Korean immigration to the United States.
World History, Culture, and Geography: The Modern World
• Since the 1980s, much of Asia (particularly China, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan) has become a notable economic success story.
United States History and Geography: Continuity and Change in the Twentieth Century
• The United Nations' intervention in Korea war, also including Linda Granfield's I Remember Korea and Rudy Tomedi's No Bugles, No Drums, examples of oral histories that represent soldiers' and refugees' experiences during the Korean War.
• The movements toward democratic government in such countries as Spain, Poland, Argentina, Chile, Philippines, South Korea, and so on…
• The nature of dictatorial communist rule in the Soviet Union should be compared to authoritarian regimes today in Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, Sudan, and China, with attention to similarities and differences
Q : What is your organization's future plan?
A : Annually we plan many projects for students and for teachers, and we record our works. I'd like to accomplish them with happy heart, knowing that it will someday benefit Korean-American students and teachers. All the teachers at KSANC are working for students, their happiness and welfare. In future we will expand our project and open it not only to American students but also to students in other countries. As I mentioned above, we have a special project coming up this year: To publish Korean culture and history book for Korean school students and teachers. I know that this can not be accomplished without help from Korean school teachers and other organizations. Thankfully, many organizations such as National Institute for International Education (NIIED), VANK, Overseas Koreans Foundation and others are helping us financially in publishing the book. Even though it started with a small step, I believe this book will help to facilitate and improve student's learning process in Korean schools, and I hope it can be used eventually in regular schools later. Thank you so much for reading this story about us and our work. Please keep an eye on our work, progress of KSANC, and our students and teachers.