Arizona education board decision allows Sikhism to be taught at public schools

“As a proud Arizonan and Sikh mother with children in the public-school system, this is going to make a lasting difference in my sons’ lives,” said Sikh community leader, Anjleen Kaur Gumer

Anjleen Kaur Gumer and son Anaik Singh in material released by Sikh Coalition

October 22, 2018 (Phoenix, AZ) – Today, the Arizona State Board of Education voted 6-4 to approve new history and social science standards, which for the first time ever include Sikhism and several other world religions. As a result, the Arizona public school system has dramatically improved the state’s diversity education and religious literacy relating to minority faiths and marginalized communities.

“As a proud Arizonan and Sikh mother with children in the public-school system, this is going to make a lasting difference in my sons’ lives,” said Sikh community leader, Anjleen Kaur Gumer. “The Board of Education’s vote to approve a more inclusive history and social science standards signals a very positive step forward for all of our students.”

Since August 2017, the Sikh Coalition — a national Sikh civil rights organization — worked with Arizona’s Sikh community and allies to advocate for the inclusion of major world religions to enhance the social studies standards. In April 2018 the more inclusive standards received public support, but a last-minute proposal from Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas, threatened to eliminate every religion from the standards except Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

In response, 18 organizations comprised of faith leaders, teachers and community-based organizations joined the Sikh community in calling for the Arizona State Board of Education to follow through and approve the revised history and social science standards. Additionally, 3,119 people signed a national petition supporting the more inclusive standards, which was delivered to the Board of Education right before the vote.

“We are thrilled that Arizona has taken this step as we continue our efforts to create Sikh awareness in our nation’s classrooms for generations to come,” said Sikh Coalition Education Director Pritpal Kaur. “Arizona now becomes the eighth state to incorporate these critical  updates into their standards as we continue our work to combat bigotry and increase religious literacy across the United States.”

Following a short transition period, the new standards will be implemented from 2019 onwards and Sikhism will be taught in Sixth Grade Global Studies and High School World History courses.

“Every public school student should be given the opportunity to learn more about the diverse communities and faiths across our state,” said Arizona Council for the Social Studies President, William Reimers. “A more inclusive set of history and social science standards will have a profoundly positive impact for millions of students.”

For more background information on the Arizona social science standards process or additional interviews, please contact Mark Reading-Smith. For 17 years, the Sikh Coalition has worked to create safer and more inclusive schools for religious minorities across the United States. For more detailed information on the Sikh community, faith and traditions please see ourSikhism Reporter’s Guide.

See press release, ‘Sikh Community Celebrates AZ Board Vote To Improve Diversity Education’, HERE.


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  1. On one hand Sikh are fighting for the Punjabi language to be taught but on the other hand some Sikhs/Punjabis especially the educated and professionals appear to be reluctant to converse even among own selves in Punabi language. This is common in most meetings even all those attending are Sikhs/Punjabis.
    Recently Punjabi was not used in a Gurdwara Sahib at the end of BHOG when a lady and her daughter [both highly educated in English] were offering SHARTANJLI to their late elder family member.
    Just listen to any conversation in a Gurdwara [including during gurpurabs etc] or functions and one can hear in most cases PUNJABI IS NOT USED to converse but the conversion is in English. In some cases I have requested them to use Punjabi and some just gave a stare but the most polite just admitted that they are not able to converse in Punjabi. SIKHS SHOULD AT LEAST TRY EVEN IF IT IS BROKEN PUNJABI but then may be they are ashamed of their lack of Punjabi language or are proud of their English knowledge. No Malice intended or being personal and apologies if misunderstood.
    Gur Fateh