Illinois signs law that would make it first state to require Asian American history lessons

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Illinois will make history as the first state to officially require Asian American history lessons in the public school curriculum.

Setting a new standard: On Friday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act (TEAACH Act), making it mandatory for public schools to include a unit studying the “events of Asian American history,” reported CNN.

  • Introduced by Sen. Ram Villivalam and Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, the TEAACH Act (HB 376) will amend the Illinois School Code so that every public school in Illinois will be required to teach Asian American history.
  • The new bill, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, allows each school board in the state to decide on the “minimum amount of instructional time” needed to count as a unit.
  • Units will cover Asian Americans’ contributions in advancing civil rights from the 19th century onward, the “contributions made by individual Asian Americans in government and the arts, humanities, and sciences” and the “contributions of Asian American communities to the economic, cultural, social, and political development of the United States.”
  • Gong-Gershowitz said that the bill will ensure that the 100,000 Asian American K-12 students in Illinois “see themselves accurately represented,” reported USA Today.
  • In a tweet, Villivalam called it a “milestone” that “ensures that the experiences of our communities are accurately reflected in the classroom.”

A model for other states: According to Asian American Education Project co-founder Stewart Kwoh, 10 states are deliberating bills similar to what he called a “pace-setting legislative measure” in Illinois.

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  • “There’s a national movement to pass some kind of ethnic studies,” Kwoh was quoted as saying. “There’s a struggle in terms of how the ethnic studies will be presented. The schools are being forced to catch up to the interest.”
  • In March, California’s Board of Education adopted a curriculum for ethnic studies for its K-12 students that includes Asian American history, according to CNN. The model curriculum serves as a guide and is voluntary for schools.

Featured Image via WGN News

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