On Wednesday, the Illinois lower house passed a bill requiring public schools to teach Asian-American’s history, setting the scene for possible adoption of milestone lawmaking because of rising happenings of violence against people of Asian descent.
The bill, which would mandate teaching a unit of history of Asian-Americans in public elementary and high schools starting in the 2022-2023 school year, passed the Democratic-controlled United States House of Representatives by a vote of 98-to-13.
A Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, state representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz said that Asian Americans are a part of the American fabric, but they are often invisible. Moreover, empathy comes from understanding. They can’t do better unless they know better.
The Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act (TEAACH) will now go to the U.S. Senate for discussions and a possible floor vote. Advocates say if passed, it would make Illinois the first state to mandate a unit of Asian-American history in public schools.
Moreover, led by the Chicago branch of advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), supporters have been promoting the bill since early last year, but it gained traction in the legislature following the deadly attacks on Asian women in the Atlanta area last month.
Across the United States of America, Asian communities have been on edge because of a violence wave targeting them since lock-downs to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some community leaders have blamed former U.S. President Trump, who often referred to the COVID-19 as the China virus or Kung flu, for stoking a dangerous situation.
A GOP legislator says Local School Boards Should decide curriculum
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University (CSUSB), San Bernardino’s recent report revealed that while hate crimes overall in America had fallen slightly last year, crimes against Asian/Pacific Islander (API) had jumped by 145 percent.
A professor at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University, Sohyun An, who has researched how American kids are taught about Asian-American history, sees Illinois lawmaking as a step in the right direction. She said that schools that teach Asian-American history often do so to depict Asian descent people as either an economic or military threat.
Sohyun An said if they do not teach it or teach it in a misrepresented approach, it can lead to violence.
The bill calls on the Illinois Superintendent of Education to make instructional materials available to school boards, including curriculum established by the Public Broadcasting Service, to go with the ‘Asian Americans’ docu-series it aired in May 2020.
A Republican, Avery Bourne, was the only legislator to voice reservations on Wednesday (April 14), who stated that while she supported attempts to improve understanding of Asian-American history, she believed that local school boards should decide the curriculum.