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Sikh Coalition 4.8 Million Students To Be Impacted (Sikhism In The Texas School Curriculum)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
(Austin, Texas) February 12, 2010 ? Over the past 8 months, the Sikh Coalition has partnered with Texas Sikhs to press the state to include information on Sikhs in the mandatory state-wide public school curriculum.

After months of intense work, the Coalition is excited to report that a preliminary draft of the new curriculum standards requires that information on Sikhs be taught.

The curriculum standards, however, have not yet been finalized and adopted. In addition, the Coalition believes that more sections of the draft curriculum should include information on Sikhs.

The curriculum standards will be formally adopted in May 2010. Today we provide you with an update on this campaign and the work ahead of us over the coming months.

A Campaign Begins - Why Texas?
During the spring of 2009 the Coalition identified Texas as a critical state to include information on Sikhs into its curriculum.

Why Texas? Textbook manufacturers often include information in their textbooks required by big states like Texas because they represent the largest book markets. In addition, Texas was just beginning the process of adopting new social studies curriculum standards. This process only occurs once every 10 years.

Drafting Proposed Language and Rallying the Community
Over the summer, the Coalition and the Sikh Research Institute conducted an exhaustive review of over 120 pages of the Texas state curriculum standards. After conducting the review, the Coalition drafted proposed language that would require information on Sikhs be taught in Texas public schools.

In July and September, the Coalition's Education Director visited Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio to explain the project and request the sangat's support. With the help of Manpreet K. Singh, Moni Katial, Izhaarbir Singh, Harpal Singh, Muntek Singh, Preeti Singhnarula, Komal K. Suri, Jagmit Singh, Aman Sangha, Rubinder Kaur, Moninder Chadha, Harmandeep Singh Wadhwa, and Juspreet Kaur over 400 Texan Sikhs wrote letters to the Board of Education urging them to include information on Sikhi into their standards. In November, the Coalition's Education Director along with several local Sikhs testified at a Board of Education meeting in support of adding information on Sikhs in the curriculum.

These efforts led to the current draft of the curriculum standards including Sikhism in two areas: 6th grade and World Geography. Nevertheless, there are two areas in World History where all major world religions are studied that do not currently include Sikhism. This was contrary to the Coalition's recommendations.

A Week in Texas to Meet with Board Members and Coordinate Hearing Testimony
In January, the Texas Board of Education scheduled another meeting to propose changes to the curriculum standards.

The Coalition's Education Director prepared an over 30 page binder explaining the need for information on Sikhs in the curriculum for the meeting. She then went to Texas to individually meet with Board Members to request that they support including information on Sikhs in the standards.

On January 13th, five community volunteers in collaboration with the Coalition spoke on the need to include Sikhism into the World History section of the standards. Each one of them touched on a different reason for including Sikhism in the standards.

Simran Singh, an Austin high school student, spoke about a time when he was escorted to the principal's office because one of his teachers thought he was wearing a 'du-rag', and did not know a patka's religious significance. Reverend Stephen Nickle of Trinity University shared with the board the positive implications of learning about faiths different than one's own. Gurvinderpal Singh, from San Antonio, talked about the advantages of working with people of diverse backgrounds in the business world. Both Shammi Gill and Manpreet K. Singh of Houston spoke about the need to educate young Texans on Sikhism so that there will be less bias-based bullying of Sikh children.

The next day, the 15 Board Members raised amendments to the current draft and discussed the merits of those proposed amendments. At that time, an amendment was raised to remove the study of Vaisakhi, Diwali, and the annual hajj from 6th grade. Fortunately, this amendment was voted down!

What is Next?
There will be another Board of Education hearing in March. At that time, the Board will raise more amendments to the draft, and vote on a new draft of the curriculum standards. The final reading and adoption of the new standards will be decided at a Board of Education meeting in May.

The Sikh Coalition is taking all necessary steps to ensure that Texas students learn about Sikh beliefs in a relevant and meaningful way. This will not only decrease bullying and bias-based harassment for our Sikh children, but will also give Sikh children a sense of pride that the study of their religion is valued and finally being taught in the classroom.

If you have any questions, please contact the Coalition at manbeena@sikhcoalition.org.
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