Illinois is set to become the first state to mandate the teaching of Asian American history to public school students.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act into law Friday, amid the nationwide rise of hate crimes against the community since the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the recent rise in acts of violence and bigotry against the Asian American community, teaching students about rich culture and important contributions of the Asian American community throughout history will help combat false stereotypes,” a Friday statement from the Democrat’s office read.
The bill — which will go into effect at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year — requires the teaching of the community’s contribution to “government, arts, humanities, and sciences,” and the “economic, cultural, social, and political development of the United States.”
The law mandates that “every public elementary school and high school” include a “unit of instruction studying the events of Asian American history, including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest, as well as the contributions of Asian Americans towards advancing civil rights from the 19th century onward.”
The measure allows for school districts to decide the “minimum amount of instructional time” on the subject to satisfy the law.
“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,” State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz said.
Nearly 3,800 hate crimes against Asian Americans were reported nationwide during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center.