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.