Illinois is now the first state to require public schools to teach a unit of Asian American history.
Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act (TEAACH) into law last Friday. Per a statement, the legislation—set to take effect in elementary and high schools across the state in the 2022-23 school year—calls for instruction on Asian American history in Illinois and the Midwest, as well as contributions made by Asian Americans in such diverse fields as the arts, sciences and civil rights.
State legislators introduced the bill amid a surge in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Last year, reports Masood Farivar for Voice of America, anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 of the United States’ most populous cities increased almost 150 percent over the previous year. Many in the AAPI community attributed the uptick at least in part to the racist language used by former President Donald Trump and his allies when describing the coronavirus. More recently, writes Kimmy Yam for NBC News, researchers documented a 169 percent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes during the first quarter of 2021.
“Asian American history is American history. Yet we are often invisible,” says State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, who co-sponsored the legislation, in the statement. “… Empathy comes from understanding….