On September 10, a new, interactive, free curriculum, “What Does It Mean To Be An American?,” was released to the public online by the Mineta Legacy Project and the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE). The target audience is high school and college students.
From the outset, the two sponsoring organizations planned to create both the documentary film, “Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story” (2018), and an online curriculum that would take themes from Mineta’s life and career and present them in ways that would show students the importance and contemporary relevance of those themes. The result is a curriculum with six key subject areas: Immigration, Civil Liberties & Equity, Civic Engagement, Justice & Reconciliation, Leadership, and U.S.-Japan Relations. When the curriculum was conceived, more than five years ago, the sponsors did not know that our country would be grappling with these issues, more so today than when they started their journey.
Although the curriculum was designed for high school and college classrooms, the lessons and activities are easily adaptable for distance learning situations. The six themed modules are packed with more than 300 graphics and 23 videos.
In the Immigration section, students will see Norm talk about his own family’s immigration experience and can compare it with videos from other students who share their family experiences.
The Japanese-American incarceration experience is used as a case study in the Civil Liberties & Equity section. It includes interviews with Muslim American students and young college-age Black men, who talk about their experiences in this country.
Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton offer their perspectives on civic engagement and leadership.
And in the Justice & Reconciliation lesson, a 99-year old Nisei woman speaks openly about the resentment and anger she felt about being incarcerated until the Civil Liberties Act and its apology helped her to come to terms with what had happened.
In the U.S.-Japan Relations lesson, former U.S. Ambassador John Roos shares what his priorities were during his tenure in Japan. It also profiles a high school Jewish-American student who explains why he enrolled in a program to learn more about Japan and what he had hoped to contribute to it.
The curriculum developers encourage teachers to use it in their classes. After promoting the videos across the next several months, they will have completed what they set out to do: to tell the story of Norman Y. Mineta and to inspire others to follow his lead. A brief, 3-minute trailer of the curriculum is on YouTube and provides a taste of the new social studies educational program.