Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) has signed legislation mandating public schools teach Asian American history, making the state the first in the nation to do so.
The legislation, the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act, requires a unit of Asian American history to be taught in public schools beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.
As part of the curriculum, students should be taught “the contributions of Asian Americans toward advancing civil rights from the 19th century onward,” Pritzker’s office said in a statement.
The curriculum should also include “the contributions made by individual Asian Americans in government, 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 state will not design the exact curriculum for school districts, and each school board will determine how much instructional time will be spent on Asian American history.
The measure gained momentum amid a spike in anti-Asian hate during the coronavirus pandemic.
The issue was thrust into the national spotlight after a series of shootings in three Atlanta-area spas killed eight people, including six Asian American women.
The Illinois Legislature passed the bill in late May.
Illinois State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement that her legislation will “ensure that the next generation of Asian American students won’t need to attend law school to learn about their heritage.”
“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.