Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed legislation requiring that Asian American history be taught in public schools starting in the 2022-2023 school year. Illinois is the first state in the nation to hold such a requirement.
The Teaching Equitable Asian American History (TEAACH) Act comes at a time when growing numbers of Asian Americans have become the targets of hate crimes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Asian Americans are facing hate incidents at a higher rate than ever reported before, and the Democratic governor says teaching students about Asian American history will help combat false stereotypes.
"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," Pritzker said last Friday after signing the legislation into law.
The new curriculum will add a new unit for every public elementary school and high school to learn about Asian American history, and the story of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest, specifically.
The bill focuses on the contributions of Asian Americans
Required topics that will be covered in the new school year include the Asian Americans advancing civil rights and the contributions Asian Americans have made in government, the arts, sciences, economics and politics.
"Asian American history is American history. Yet we are often invisible. The TEAACH Act will ensure that the next generation of Asian American students won't need to attend law school to learn about their heritage," said State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, who sponsored the legislation.
"Empathy comes from understanding. We cannot do better unless we know better. A lack of knowledge is the root cause of discrimination and the best weapon against ignorance is education," she said.