A bill that would require public schools to teach Asian American history is making its way through the Illinois General Assembly.
The Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act in a 98 to 13 vote.
“Asian Americans are a part of the American fabric but we are often invisible,” said Democratic state representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, who co-sponsored the bill. “Empathy comes from understanding. We cannot do better unless we know better.”
The bill, if eventually approved, would require public elementary and high schools to include Asian American history lessons in their curricula starting in the 2022-2023 school year.
Chicago’s chapter of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice advocacy organization has tried to push the bill through the state legislature since 2020, but the measure gained traction after a spell of what are deemed hate attacks against Asian Americans, culminating in the Atlanta parlor shootings last month that left eight dead, six of whom were Asian American.
The motive for the Atlanta shootings, however, has not been determined, even as many were quick to blame the rhetoric of Republican leaders and former President Donald Trump for fueling anti-Asian hatred.
The bill states that starting in 2022/23, “every public elementary school and high school shall include in its curriculum a unit of instruction studying the events of Asian American history…”
Schools will teach about the “contributions of Asian Americans toward advancing civil rights from the 19th century onward,” including about the contributions of individual Asian Americans, as well as the Asian-American community’s contribution to the “economic, cultural, social, and political development of the United States.”
Kennesaw State University professor Sohyun An, who has studied how schools in America represent Asians, said they are either perceived as a military or a financial threat.
“If we don’t teach it or teach it in a misrepresented way it can lead to violence,” An said.
Republican state Rep. Avery Bourne was the only lawmaker who expressed concerns about the bill, claiming she supports teaching Asian American history but believes that decision should be up to school boards to decide, according to NBC News.
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Author: Damjan Tutarkov
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