1st in the US: California high school curriculum to include WWII in PH
CALIFORNIA, United States – California high schoolers will soon learn about World War II in the Philippines and how Filipino soldiers fought alongside their American comrades as members of the United States Army Forces in Far East.
Thanks to the efforts of Filipino WWII veterans advocates, the California State Board of Education approved in July the inclusion of WWII in the Philippines in the revised history curriculum framework for the state.
The particular lesson will be part of the curriculum framework for United States History, Chapter 16, taught in the 11th Grade.
As approved, Chapter 16 will include:
- The Philippine Commonwealth
- Formation of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) under General Douglas MacArthur
- Disruption of the timetable of the Imperial Japanese Army by the USAFFE
- Bataan Death March
- Role of PH and US guerrillas during the liberation
- US soldiers transported in “hell ships” to labor camps in Asia
- Battle of Leyte Gulf and Battle of Manila
No secondary school curriculum framework in the other 49 states covers the subject, which is of personal interest to children and descendants of Filipino WWII veterans in this country.
Proponents say the curriculum will give Americans of every background who attend high school in California an understanding of advocates' clamor for equal compensation, and empathy for Filipino WWII veterans in this country, who are in their late 80s and with failing health.
"The lack of information on the Filipino defenders of WWII in the Philippines and the injustice that they suffered after the 1946 Rescission Acts were the catalysts that spawned the movement," explained Cecilia Gaerlan, author and executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society.
"This will be the first time in the US that this will be taught in high schools. We will also introduce it gradually in Grade 5 & Grade 8 in the actual curriculum template that we are now in the process of creating," Gaerlan said.
Gaerlan's father Luis Gaerlan Jr was a USAFFE member and Bataan Death March survivor.
“The approval by the State Board of Education is the culmination of many years of hard work from the Filipino community,” Gaerlan said, referring to the progress of her advocacy.
In 2011, she and her cohorts found allies in then-Assembly Member Fiona Ma and then-State Senator Leland Yee, who sponsored AB199, which "encourages for the inclusion of the role of the Filipinos during WWII in the history/social sciences curriculum for Grades 7-12." The Legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill.
Gaerlan and the Bataan Legacy Historical Society 3 years later initiated discussions with the Instructional Quality Commission of the California Department of Education to implement AB199.
The advocates modeled their efforts after the US forces that sought support from their Philippine counterparts last century in their mission to defend the region from Japan. They reached out to State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson, who advanced their objective to expand the scope of the proposed curriculum framework to include World War II in the Philippines.
Torlakson happens to be married to Mae Cendana-Torlakson, longtime elected board member of Contra Costa County's Ambrose Rec and Park District and now candidate for State Assembly.
This spring, the History Social Sciences Committee of the Instructional Quality Commission approved all of the recommendations by the Society. The State Board of Education later approved the final curriculum framework with the inclusion.
"Nearly 75 years since the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II, history was made on July 14, 2016," Gaerlan stressed. "The approval by the SBE is the culmination of many years of hard work from the Filipino community. This will be the first time that WWII in the Philippines will be taught to high school students in California and in the United States. California’s new history curriculum framework can become the model for teaching this seminal point of WWII history in the U.S. "
A curriculum steering committee is developing a sample curriculum template for schools to use as basis for implementing Chapter 16 of the Grade 11 US History, Gaerlan added.
The WWII advocates took a different route from the earlier successful effort to teach the contributions of Filipino pioneers, who 50 years ago led the unionization of farm labor in the state.
In 2013 Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 123, authored by first Philippine-born California state Assembly Member Rob Bonta, to require the state curriculum to include the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement in California.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor that ignited the war in the Pacific centered in the Philippines. Bataan Legacy Historical Society is commemorating the milestone with a series of events in San Francisco:
- September 29 - multimedia presentation on at the SF Asian Art Museum
- October 29 - conference featuring a panel discussion about WWII guerrillas and USAFFE soldiers
- December 7 - rites remembering Pearl Harbor at the SF War Memorial Building
- October 15 through December 15 - exhibition focusing on WWII in the Philippines at the SF War Memorial Building.