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The Freeman Foundation: Supporting the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia for 20 Years

Houghton and Doreen Freeman. Courtesy: Graeme Freeman

I vividly remember the first time I met Houghton “Buck” Freeman (former Chairman of the Freeman Foundation) in New York City nearly 20 years ago. A short time after this meeting, he and his wife, Doreen (former Trustee of the Freeman Foundation), kindly took the time to visit me at Stanford University. I never imagined then that SPICE would have remained a grantee of the Freeman Foundation for so many years. I am now in touch with their son Graeme Freeman (President), grandson Alec Freeman (Senior Program Officer), and Shereen Goto (Director of Operations and Programs) of the Freeman Foundation. The Freeman Foundation has funded the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) since its inception in 1998, so this year marks its 20th anniversary. SPICE has been honored to contribute to the mission of the NCTA, which is “to encourage and facilitate teaching and learning about East Asia in elementary and secondary schools nationwide.” SPICE recently hosted NCTA summer institutes for middle school teachers (June 20–22, 2018) and high school teachers (July 23–25, 2018).

Rylan Sekiguchi, Gary Mukai, Shereen Goto, Jonas EdmanThe NCTA summer institute for middle school teachers—organized by Jonas Edman and Sabrina Ishimatsu—featured scholarly lectures, including one on ancient China by Professor Emeritus Albert Dien, who has been supporting SPICE teacher seminars since the 1970s. As has long been the tradition of SPICE, his lectures were followed by curricular demonstrations. Waka Brown engaged the teachers in “decoding” ancient Chinese characters that were found on oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty, 1600 BCE to 1046 BCE, which is one of the many lessons in SPICE’s two-part series on Chinese dynasties. Teachers found that Brown’s lessons made the subject matter content from Dien’s lecture accessible to their students. One of the participants, Eunjee Kang of San Lorenzo Unified School District, California, commented, “I am glad I participated in the program. I really enjoy any programs for Asian culture and history not only for my students but also for myself. The different pedagogical approaches to Asian culture and history that SPICE introduced to us were truly inspiring and very easy to bring to classrooms.” Representing the Freeman Foundation, Goto attended SPICE’s middle school seminar and had the chance to observe a lecture on feudal Japan and hear from teachers directly. To her surprise, she discovered that she had attended the same middle school in Honolulu as Rylan Sekiguchi.

The NCTA summer institute for high school teachers—organized by Naomi Funahashi and Sabrina Ishimatsu—also featured scholarly lectures, including one on U.S.–Korean relations by the Honorable Kathleen Stephens, former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2008 to 2011. Her lecture and the recent 2018 North Korea–United States Summit in Singapore stimulated enthusiastic questions from the teachers and fascinating discussions. Sekiguchi, who authored a three-part curricular series on U.S.–South Korean relations, North Korea, and inter-Korean relations, engaged the teachers in the lessons while referencing key points that were made by Ambassador Stephens. Commenting on the institute, Kimberly Gavin, University Preparatory Academy, San Jose, California, noted, “I realized that when it came to East Asian history, there were gaps in my knowledge, and I wanted to have a better understanding of it to be a more effective teacher. Between the readings and the conference itself, I filled up an entire notebook full of information!”

In a post-institute memo, Yoko Sase, The Nueva School, Hillsborough, California, stated, “I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Freeman Foundation for generously supporting us at the East Asia summer institute for middle and high school teachers at SPICE. I was immersed in such a depth of learning from the experts in their fields of East Asia throughout the program. I really appreciate that I not only deepened and expanded my knowledge on East Asia but also actually had the opportunities to practice thoughtfully designed SPICE curriculum lessons. Now I have a toolbox with amazing resources and materials that I have received from the institute, and I’m ready to use it in my classroom! This has been the best professional development I have ever attended!” The NCTA seminars are truly highlights of the year for the SPICE staff and Stanford scholars because it is a key channel through which SPICE curriculum on Asia and U.S.–Asian relations and Stanford scholarship are disseminated to students. Importantly, what an honor it has been to have worked with three generations of the Freeman family.