PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An Illinois law requiring schools to teach about the contributions of Asian Americans in Illinois went into effect at the beginning of the year. It is the first state in the country to do so.
The Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History Act (TEAACH) requires all public elementary schools and high schools in Illinois to have a unit dedicated to Asian American history. The new law comes amidst a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, especially in San Francisco.
In Illinois, education is locally controlled. That means it’s up to the school district and teachers to implement requirements, according to Peoria County Regional Superintendent Beth Crider.
Crider said there won’t be a separate class, but important Asian American figures and literature will be incorporated into history classes.
“That might mean a new textbook that’s introduced, that might mean a new curriculum segment or chapter,” she said. “Quite honestly, we need to rethink the way that we teach history because all voices need to be heard.”
Crider said Asian history is American history, and she’s glad more diverse voices “are finally getting a say.”
“I am excited about the state of Illinois changing the way that they’re going to teach history. I think that is very exciting. It’s been so narrowly focused, that bringing all the different voices to the table is good for all kids,” she said.
Pastor Marvin Hightower, president of NAACP Peoria, said history is important because learning from the past “helps us move past where we are actually today.”
“People have been putting these roadblocks in the way to teaching the complete history and nothing wrong with teaching the complete history. It’s not about downing one group or the other. It’s about getting to know who we are and what we contributed to this to this country as well as this state,” he said.
Hightower added education is the ticket out of poverty.
“One way out of poverty is to get your education so that you can go on and to become who you want to be, and then ultimately it makes for a better community,” he said.