Video: We discuss the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act on “Chicago Tonight” with Grace Pai of Asian Americans Advancing Justice of Chicago; and state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz. (Produced by Marissa Nelson)
(CNN) — In the midst of a right-wing attack on creating a more inclusive education in the U.S., Illinois just became the first state to require Asian American history to be taught in public schools.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act on Friday, set to go into effect Jan. 1.
“Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to creating more inclusive school environments. We’re making Illinois the first state in the nation to require that Asian American history will be taught in public schools, including a unit about the Asian American experience,” said Pritzker in a statement. “We are setting a new standard for what it means to truly reckon with our history. It’s a new standard that helps us understand one another, and, ultimately, to move ourselves closer to the nation of our ideals.”
The new bill will require schools to add a unit to the curriculum studying the “events of Asian American history,” including the contributions of Asian Americans in advancing civil rights since the 19th century, and “contributions made by individual Asian Americans in 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,” the bill reads.
The bill does not lay out specifically what each school should teach, writing that each school board should determine the “minimum amount of instructional time” needed to qualify as a unit and satisfy the law.
Similar moves have been made around the country. In California, the state Board of Education adopted a model curriculum for ethnic studies for its K-12 students in March, after years of debate. The curriculum included instruction for Asian American history, however the curriculum is voluntary for schools and serves mainly as a guide.
Still, it’s a significant bill, especially as the reevaluation of how history is taught in the US continues to be undermined by some conservative politicians under the guise of “critical race theory,” claiming that such education is divisive and teaches students to hate white people.
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Note: This story was originally published July 11, 2021. It has been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight” conversation.