Pritzker signs law making Illinois the first state to require Asian American history to be taught in schools – NBC Chicago
Governor JB Pritzker enacted a new measure on Friday making Illinois the first state in the United States to require Asian American history to be taught in public schools.
Pritzker signed House Bill 376, the Teaching Equitable Asian American History or TEAACH Act, at Niles West High School in the suburb of Skokie.
The new law requires every public elementary and secondary school in the state to dedicate a program unit to the history of Asian Americans in the United States.
“We are setting a new standard for what it means to truly reflect our history,” Pritzker said in a statement. “It’s a new standard that helps us understand each other and ultimately bring us closer to the nation of our ideals.”
The program is to include “events in the history of Asian Americans, including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest, as well as the contributions of Asian Americans to promoting civil rights from the nineteenth century “, indicates the legislation.
“These events will include the contributions of Asian Americans to government and the arts, humanities and sciences, as well as the contributions of Asian American communities to the economic, cultural, social and political development of the United States. United “, by the new law. It will also be
The law comes into force on January 1 and the requirement begins with the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
The legislation, introduced in January by State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, was passed by the House in April and the Senate in May.
State Senator Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said education is part of a “multi-pronged” strategy to fight rising discrimination against Americans Asian and Pacific Islanders. Addressing this issue will also require better hate crime reporting, greater representation in government, and training people to be better bystanders who intervene when they witness anti-Asian harassment, he said. -he declares.
Villivalam – the first Asian American in the Illinois Senate – said laws like the TEAACH Act can help deter anti-Asian hate crimes and dispel the myth of the model minority that all Americans d of Asian origin are successful.
“We are also minorities,” said Vilivalam, who is of Indian descent. “We have to make sure that our problems are also caught in the same prism (like other minorities) and we stand together. “
Supporters of the TEAACH Act have expressed hope that the legislation could help combat stereotypes and ignorance about Asian Americans who they believe dehumanize and marginalize the group and create an environment in which the acts hatred and violence against Asian Americans are accepted.
The bill gained momentum following a series of mass shootings, first in several Atlanta-area spas in March that killed eight people, including six Asian women, and then in a FedEx establishment in Indianapolis in April which killed four members of the Sikh community. .
“Unfortunately, this truly brutal increase in anti-Asian violence has played a role in people’s willingness to act,” said Grace Pai, organization director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice ‘Chicago, who helped draft the legislative text, worked closely with the sponsors of the bill and coordinated outreach efforts.
Under the new law, the superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education could prepare free educational materials for local school boards to use in developing curricula on the history of Asian America. But the bill leaves most of the details to the different districts and schools.
One of the bill’s sponsors was Illinois State Representative Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, who became the first Asian American to be elected to the Illinois General Assembly. in 2016. Mah was also one of the first professors of Asian-American studies at Northwestern University, after students there went on hunger strike to demand the creation of an Asian-American studies program. in the 1990s.
Mah said she hopes teaching Asian American history in schools will help dispel the stereotype that Asian Americans are lifelong strangers. During the debate on the bill, she recounted that she was sitting outside the Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, when a group of middle-aged children passed by and one of them walked past. asked, “Who are the Ching Chong?” While the others laughed.
“Asian Americans tend to experience this otherness,” she said. “People see us as not belonging to the country, not as ‘real’ Americans.”
Sohyun An, a professor of social science education at Kennesaw State University whose work is grounded in critical race theory, said the way schools teach Asian American history has implications in the real world.
In 2016, An examined how the history of Asian Americans is taught in 10 states and found that history lessons on Asian Americans tend to focus almost exclusively on early Chinese immigrants and Japanese internment camps during World War II. These lessons reinforce stereotypes that Asian Americans are “forever foreigners” and teach students that Asian Americans are “an economic and military threat to the United States,” An said.
These racist stereotypes of Asian Americans fueled the rise in anti-Asian violence during the pandemic, she said.
“What is written in the classroom, what is included or not included – or when they are included, how they are represented – is not just an academic or academic debate,” An said. “It’s a question. of life or death. “
Albert Chan, a history professor at Skokie, said a close reading of American history shows events such as the Atlanta-area shootings or the anti-Asian hatred stoked by former President Donald Trump are not new. Since the 1800s, Asian Americans have been described as dirty and disease carriers, and Asian women as sex workers, Chan said. Such characterizations have been used to stoke resentment against Asians living in America which has already escalated into violence.
“It’s a resurgence of those old stereotypes,” he said, “that are now exploding in these acts of violence against Asians.”
An said what is often missing from school curricula are lessons highlighting the history of Asian Americans fighting for civil rights, including the unionization of Filipino farm workers in 1965, the ruling by the California Supreme Court of 1885 in Tape v. Hurley who desegregated schools for Chinese Americans, and the Yellow Power Movement of the 1970s. Instead, Asian Americans are described as a “prosperous, hardworking, law-abiding and compliant minority.” , which serves to erase their long history of resistance to oppression, An wrote in an article in Theory & Research in Social Education.
Education experts call the lack of representation and accuracy of programs “program violence.” An said the phrase refers to how the lack of representation at school “is killing the mind and humanity of non-white youth” and sends a message to white students that others are racially inferior and unworthy. from this country.
“The dominant white group (uses) the model myth of the minority to control minority groups that suffer under a white supremacist system,” An said. “They pit minority groups against minority groups, so they fight while they should be united to fight this whole system. “