The experiences of these Japanese or Korean picture brides as well as Chinese paper sons reflect the importance of community development as a way to survive in spite of exclusion.
A more recent example of the theme of community-building is the secondary migration of Southeast Asian refugees after their initial resettlement in the United States. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, federal policy mandated the dispersal of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos across all fifty states in order to promote rapid assimilation and to discourage the formation of ethnic concentrations.
Not surprisingly, after their initial resettlement, Southeast Asians moved to areas like Texas and Southern California where they found the warmer climates, to which they were accustomed, and longstanding Asian communities. Many Cambodians settled in Lowell, Massachusetts during the 1980s, for example, because of job opportunities, availability of human services, and the presence of a Cambodian Buddhist temple. Despite the federal policy of dispersal, Southeast Asian refugees moved on their own to create new communities which enhanced their survival, security, and adjustment to American society.
By focusing on the theme of building community in the curriculum, students can see beyond the often distorted, stereotypic images of Asian communities as evil, mysterious, exotic places filled with gangsters, warlords and prostitutes, which Hollywood movies and network television so often portray. Furthermore, students learn to appreciate the value of ethnic communities because of the important roles they play in enabling people to survive. In contrast, dispersal and forced assimilation lead to isolation and failure.
As extensions, students can form their own Asian American or other community clubs in school and/or develop relationships with existing community organizations. Lessons on the community theme can also be easily developed in terms of immigrant history and literature using such historical novels as Yoshiko Ushida’s Picture Bride
and videos such as The New Puritans: The Sikhs of Yuba City
Geography and mathematics lessons can be developed using population figures for various locations to show changes over time, involving students as neighborhood and community researchers.