Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a mandate that every Illinois public elementary and high school is required to teach a unit on the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and their history in Illinois and the Midwest, beginning during the 2022-23 school year. Anti-Asian violence has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act was signed into law on July 8 and mandates “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 toward advancing civil rights from the 19th century onward.”
There are over 100,000 Asian American students in Kindergarten through 12th grade in Illinois who have never learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act signed in 1882 that restricted immigration for decades or the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The bill’s co-sponsor Illinois State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz didn’t learn about America’s anti-Asian racism until she was in law school, and at the signing ceremony said,
“The TEAACH Act will ensure that the next generation of Asian American students won’t need to travel across the county or attend law school to learn something about their heritage.”
“There’s a national movement to pass some kind of ethnic studies. There’s a struggle in terms of how the ethnic studies will be presented,” said Stewart Kwoh, co-founder of the Asian American Education Project. “The schools are being forced to catch up to the interest.”
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