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Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii creates high school curriculum on nisei WWII veterans

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The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and the Go for Broke National Education Center on Thursday announced the formal launch of a new high school curriculum examining the sociopolitical effects of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Hawaii and the history of local Japanese American soldiers in World War II.

The “Can Hawaii’s Aloha Spirit Survive a War?” curriculum was developed in collaboration with the state Department of Education.

“Through this new expanded curriculum, students will have an opportunity to learn a different narrative of World War II, especially here in Hawaii, from the perspective of the nisei veterans,” Gov. David Ige said in remarks at the launch announcement, held at the cultural center in Moiliili.

Ige thanked those responsible for developing the study course “for ensuring that we can provide the voices of the thousands of nisei veterans into our educational system in a meaningful way.”

Mitchell Maki, president and CEO of the Go for Broke National Education Center, said the process of creating the curriculum began about two years ago.

“The focus always was, ‘Let’s tell a very specific story, a very regional story, about Hawaii,’” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “This isn’t the story of the incarceration camps. This isn’t about what happened on the mainland. It’s the story of what happened to our young men here in Hawaii.”

For Maki the aloha spirit is a key component of that story. “What these men did wasn’t solely because they were Japanese Americans. They were sons of Hawaii. They had the aloha spirit. They entered into the war with a sense of purpose, with a sense of responsibility, to defend our nation and to defend their home,” he said. “It really is a story that should resonate with all children of Hawaii.”

The curriculum, which meets two DOE Common Core standards in social studies, was created in collaboration with Rosanna Fukuda, DOE’s educational specialist for social studies, and other volunteers.

“We have a curriculum that is timely, it’s relevant and it’s a much-needed curriculum,” said Betsy Young, a JCCH volunteer and former educator who contributed to the curriculum’s creation. She said the topics covered are a “vital part of Hawaii’s history and our nation’s history that needs to be told and retold and never forgotten.”

In partnership with the Nisei Veterans Legacy and the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, the curriculum will be introduced to high school teachers throughout the state at two online training orientations next week, with the goal of implementing it in classrooms during the 2021-22 academic year, which starts Aug. 3.

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