Coming Soon: The Museum of Me

In another bow to ethnic division, on June 13, 2022, President Biden signed into law a bill (H.R.3525) authorizing a commission to build a possible National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) museum in Washington, D.C.

Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York) in May 2021, the bipartisan bill cleared the House on April 26 and the Senate on May 18, both by unanimous consent.

The signing was couched as a way to counter Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders remaining on the margins of American education, with little mention in classes beyond the topics of Pearl Harbor, immigration and the U.S.’s territorial interests in the Pacific. A museum would be key to combating the stereotypes and misconceptions that drive anti-AAPI discrimination, supporters say.

If built, an AAPI Museum would follow on the National Museum of African American History & Culture, which opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2016.

It would also supplement the National Museum of the American Latino. Legislation calling for the Smithsonian to establish that museum passed in Dec. 2020.  “The new museum will be the cornerstone for visitors to learn how Latinos have contributed and continue to contribute to U.S. art, history, culture, and science.,” according to the Smithsonian. “Additionally, it will serve as a gateway to exhibitions, collections, and programming at other Smithsonian museums, research centers, and traveling exhibition services.”

At the rate things are going, today’s pandering politicians, who, as Blake Smith, says, eagerly “offer cultural victories instead of substantive ones,” will eventually advocate the creation of museums for every single ethnic group in America. Where they will be put in an already crowded mall is unknown. 

Some might argue that recognition of America’s diversity through such museums is a good thing. I’d offer a “Yes, but”… There’s no question that education about our multifaceted country can combat stereotypes and misconceptions, but excessive focus on identity is not such a good thing when it exacerbates divisiveness and encourage a splintering of the populace.

Oregon’s new K-12 Ethnic Studies standards, for example, were well-intentioned, but are a prime example of identity politics run amok. 

Kindergarten Standards, for example, include the following: *Describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups” and *Develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability.” Good grief!

Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, clearly sees the K-12 education universe as nothing more than an assemblage of distinct and maligned minorities. This is the kind of identity politics that foments perilous division of our state and our country. Rather than emphasizing common values and interest, Gill’s identity politics stresses differences and creates a feeling of ‘zero-sum’ competition between groups. 

One problem with this kind of identify politics is that it leads to even more minority designations. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition,” says Amy Chua in Political Tribes.

And that leads to an AAPI Museum.

As for highlighting Asian Americans with a new museum, one problem is they are far from a monolith. Instead, they have a complex history and cultures.  Even the term “Asian American” encompasses dozens of ethnic groups of Asian descent. Just Southeast Asians, for example, includes Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Hmong, Laotian, Burmese, Indonesian and Malaysian. 

 An analysis from Common App, a nonprofit that allows prospective students to apply to more than 1,000 member colleges using one application, noted that the term Asian American can refer to around 50 ethnic groups. “While Asian American was a term established by activists in the 1960s as a means to build political power, it’s also been criticized for obscuring the immense diversity among those it purports to cover…,” notes a Vox article, part of an Asian American identity series.

The analysis also points out a “prominent shortcoming” of the “Hispanic” category for completely concealing the racial identities of its members. The analysis found that, in 2021, half of the applicants identified as white.

What are craven politicians going to endorse next? A German Museum and an Irish Museum? The high immigration numbers in the 1800s were largely fueled by Irish and German immigrants.  A Hungarian Museum? The Hungarian revolution in 1956 led to a burst of Hungarian refugees coming to the United States, including some families who settled in my hometown in Connecticut. Maybe an Eastern European Museum?

The 1959 Cuban revolution drove hundreds of thousands of Cubans to the United States. Given their concentration in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other politicians seeking the Cuban vote could probably be counted on to endorse a Cuban Museum on the National Mall.

The way things are going, we’ll end up with a Museum of Me. Or a Museum of You.

Oregon’s New Ethnic Studies Standards: Identity Politics Run Amok

The Oregon Ethnic Studies Bill signed into law
Gov. Kate Brown signs ethnic studies bill

Say it ain’t so, Colt.

Colt Gill, appointed by Governor Brown as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, serves as Director of the Oregon Department of Education.

Oregon HB 2845, signed into law by Governor Kate Brown in June 2017, called for an advisory group to create recommendations for ethnic studies standards. A panel of K-12 teachers aligned the recommendations to 2018 social science standards for use in the classroom. After engaging with the public, the Oregon Department of Education made adjustments to the standards. 

The new standards were approved for classroom use in March 2021. School districts will be required to address the ethnic studies standards beginning in the 2026 – 2027 school year.

The theory behind the new standards was that commonly used textbooks and classroom lessons had too narrow a focus of the history, politics, and human geography and that students would benefit from a more complete and inclusive understanding of U.S. and Oregon history. 

So far so good.

Then not so good.

The Kindergarten Standards with Ethnic Studies, yes kindergarten, start off with the following:

Civics and Government

* Engage in respectful dialogue with classmates to define diversity comparing and contrasting visible and invisible similarities and differences. 

 *Develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability. 

History

* Identify examples of unfairness or injustice towards individuals or groups and the “change- makers,” who worked to make the world better. 

Historical Thinking

* Make connections identifying similarities and differences including race, ethnicity, culture, disability, and gender between self and others. 

Social Science Analysis

* Identify possible solutions to injustices 

The questionable guidance continues for later grades. First grade standards, for example, include: 

*Define equity, equality and systems of power” 

*Describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups.”

How, in heaven’s name, do 5-year-olds conduct “respectful dialogue” over “visible and invisible similarities and differences.” How and why should they “develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups,” and identify racial, ethnic and cultural differences?

How and why should 1st graders “define…systems of power”?

“In reality, the point of the exercise is to make children hyper-sensitive to racial differences and encourage them to internalise an identity-based consciousness,” Prof. Frank Furedi wrote in Spiked. “The main objective of this curriculum is to introduce youngsters to an identitarian worldview. When small children are exposed to topics suitable for mature adults it is clear that indoctrination rather than education is taking place.” 

Did anybody outside the education establishment read these standards before they were adopted?

Is this really how Oregon parents want their children taught?