An Important Fight for the Inclusion of Asia, Asian, and AAPI Content

By Chamiya Carnathan and Penelope Morris

We are DC high school students who have been studying Japanese with Globalize DC since summer 2021. Back in 2021, in the depths of the pandemic, a group of students from our online Japanese program (including the two of us) advocated for the new DC social studies standards, which were soon to be updated, to be more inclusive of Asians and Asian Americans. During and after the pandemic, anti-Asian hate crimes rose substantially. In order to combat anti-Asian hate and violence, we concluded that people need to be taught about Asia, Asians, and AAPI content in order to feel compassion and understanding for these communities.

In June 2021, Penelope, alongside other students from Globalize DC, testified before the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) to discuss the improvements that the new standards needed. In December 2022, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) released the first draft of the new standards. We were extremely unsatisfied with the draft, because OSSE did not respond to our suggestions at all. In fact, the standards regressed in the amount of content for Asia, Asians, and Asian Americans. After we discussed what could be improved, the two of us (now in Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program) testified before SBOE in January 2023 to again demand that the standards include more Asians and Asian Americans. We advocated for standards that include specific AAPI and Asian content and the introduction of Asian/AAPI content in earlier grades. After a very strenuous rewriting process, OSSE released a revised draft of the new social studies standards on March 29th, 2023, and we were deeply pleased by the outcome.

After reading this latest draft, we compiled a list of all the standards that explicitly mentioned Asia, Asians, and Asian Americans. We were especially happy about the specificity and amount of this content. In grade 6, OSSE revised the standards to analyze cultural elements of a country located in Asia and its significance for and influence on other societies. Although the standards analyze cultural elements of only one country located in Asia, it is a very important step to add cultural aspects of Asia. We were also pleased to see that OSSE modified the standards to name some specific elements of Asian culture, such as Sikhism and the philosophical writings of Wang Yangming, compared to the vague nature of the previous draft.

In World History 2, OSSE included a lot more standards that discuss a variety of countries such as South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, China, Cambodia, and many more. More people related to Asia are also discussed such as Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, and Zheng He. In Government and Civics, United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, and Korematsu v. United States are included, which are cases that helped shape America. Overall, OSSE has most definitely added a lot more countries and specific people to the social studies standards.

Instantly, we recognized that OSSE fulfilled our suggestion of introducing Asian/AAPI content in earlier grades. In grade 1, the standards introduce Asian communities as well as other communities to explain how they have shaped and defined Washington, DC. The standards also introduce specific community leaders, including Lee Yick and Liliʻuokalani. In grade 2, OSSE expanded Asian history in the periods between 1100 and 1400. In grade 3, OSSE included greater representation of AAPI history in Washington, DC. In grade 5, OSSE included all Asian immigration during this time period, as well as additional standards about the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

In conclusion, these new standards are what we wanted to be included. They highlight the impact that AAPI communities have had on Washington, DC, as well as expanding Asian history, which will build understanding and compassion among the younger children. Our greatest hope is that teachers will make great use of these standards and incorporate field trips and create other opportunities for children to learn about Asian/AAPI communities firsthand. These standards pair well with excursions to learn about many different communities that make up our city and nation.

We want to give special thanks to Dr. Sohyun An, a professor of social studies education at Kennesaw State University and an expert reviewer for these new standards, for using her expertise to advocate, alongside Globalize DC, for the inclusion of Asia, Asian, and Asian American content. We would also like to thank the members of the State Board of Education and OSSE for listening to our suggestions and taking them seriously.  

You can find the latest full draft of the K-12 social studies, along with other background information on the revision process, here.

Now recruiting HS students and staff for this summer’s Japan in DC Program!

Globalize DC is very happy to once again be able to offer our Japan in DC program in summer 2023, thanks to continued support from the United States-Japan Foundation. We are currently in the process of recruiting up to 20 super interested DC public high school students and two Program Leaders to make this exciting program a reality. Our goal is to complete our selections by the end of this month. Please read on and share!

About the JAPAN IN DC Program: Over six weeks (June 26-August 4), students will move around the city to explore and experience a wide variety of people, places, organizations, businesses, government agencies, and cultural institutions in DC with connections to Japan. This is a really fun program – and life-transforming. Students will document their experiences through writing, photography, and other creative expression. This free program will be offered in partnership with the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP), which allows registered students to earn summer pay for participation. The deadline for students to apply to MBSYEP has now passed.

To Apply for JAPAN IN DC: Globalize DC will select students for JAPAN IN DC through a citywide application process.  The program is open to DC public high school students (DCPS or charter). Click below for more program details and to submit an application. We plan to accept up to twenty (20) students.

Spread the word: Please help share this information with interested students and parents, as well as teachers, partners, and others who can help us spread the word to DC high school students throughout all 8 wards of the city. You can use the link to our JAPAN IN DC webpage, which will be updated with new information as it develops.

And here’s a downloadable 2023 JAPAN IN DC STUDENT FLYER.


We are currently recruiting two Co-Teachers to lead this summer’s JAPAN IN DC Program. Ideal candidates would be secondary teachers, international education professionals, JET alumni, graduate students, or others with relevant experience. This is a fun program, for students and adult leaders, with significant movement across the city. High energy, dedication to high school student learning, and knowledge of DC geography a must.

Anyone with questions can email Thanks for helping us spread the word about this great (paid) summer opportunity for DC teens.

An Evening at the Japanese Embassy

By Aitana Camponovo

On Thursday March 23rd, I was invited by Education Counsellor Taichi Kaneshiro to spend an evening at the Embassy of Japan in Washington DC. Apart from enjoying fresh sushi and great company, this event was hosted to bid farewell to the graduates of the LEAP exchange program (Long-Term Education Administrators Program), who had been working in America for the last year and to congratulate them on their hard work. While representing Japanese Plus, I had the pleasure to meet a wide variety of officials from all over DC and Japan and to get to know the LEAP graduates. Funny enough, without having to even leave my very own city, I had the privilege to stand on Japanese soil that night. 

The highlight of the evening was speaking with the LEAP alumni in Japanese. They were fascinating individuals who shared valuable perspectives with me that night. It turned out they had been dispersed all over the country, one being in New York, others in Alabama and Arizona, but had rejoined as a group in Washington DC before they would board one final flight back home to Japan. When I told them I would be joining them in Japan very soon to study abroad, I asked for some advice. Surprisingly, they shared they were worried about going home because of how much they felt America had changed them; they of course missed their families, but would miss America more. It seemed they too were conflicted, but for reasons different from mine. 

This April, I will be studying abroad in Chiba, Japan for a semester through a program called AYUSA. One week prior to this evening, I had been solely focused on preparing for my exchange trip, so much so that I did not take any time to stop and breathe for a second. My world at that point was nothing but what was coming up in the next two weeks. I was finishing all of my final exams in March, months early, and already beginning to say my goodbyes to close friends and teachers. Though it was a stressful time full of late night studying and packing lists, the dinner that evening was like a breath of fresh air. Visiting the Japanese Embassy for the first time taught me the meaning of the phrase “the world is your oyster.” The world of Japan is not just a language website on my phone or late night study sessions. I realized that if only I opened my eyes a little more, I would see there is a lot more out there than what I previously thought; I just have to be willing to look for it. 

I am very grateful to have been invited to such an event, and I am excited to attend many more in the future once I return from Japan. It was especially an honor to be the youngest one there, and I am thankful for everyone in the Japanese Embassy who made that special evening possible.