24 million students can now learn about Sikh faith in US schools
The greatest way to counteract intolerance and to make any society more inclusive is to teach a holistic awareness of other faith practices and cultures early on, activists, policymakers, and social commentators have always said. The most recent development of Sikhi being included in state social studies curricula in Mississippi and Utah may be the proper step in this regard. Earlier this month, Utah and Mississippi became the 15th and 16th states in the US to introduce Sikhi or Sikh activities into their educational curricula. The new curriculum would allow students in public schools to study other significant world religions alongside the Sikh faith, history, and contributions to American culture.
According to a press release, the lobbying group Sikh Coalition, which is based in New York, collaborated with locals, gurdwaras, affiliated groups, and state education officials to accomplish this. New social studies standards that for the first time ever include Sikhi were approved by the Mississippi State Board of Education (MSBOE) on December 15. With the help of these new standards, the state’s 457,000 pupils will have the chance to learn more about the Sikh community.
Community members argued for the same at the first MSBOE meeting of the year. In January, the Sikh Coalition submitted an initial request for Sikhi to be included in the new standards. Three Mississippi gurdwaras signed a letter in support of inclusion in September, and the Sikh Coalition also helped coordinate the signing of a formal letter of our own. And finally, the MSBOE received hundreds of individual emails of support in November. In order to promote Sikhi’s inclusion in the standards, the group actively collaborated with religious studies experts at Mississippi State University.
The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) also voted in support of new social studies standards earlier this month on December 1, reaching additional 606,000 students throughout that state. These standards similarly cover Sikhi for the first time. Read: Medical facility sued for failing to accommodate Sikh employee’s religious practices (October 5, 2022) Years of research have been done in this direction, and the results constitute the conclusion of that labor. In May 2020, Sikhi was first requested to be covered by the new criteria. Then, in December 2021, a draft of a sign-on letter requesting the same was sent to the relevant authorities, followed by the submission of another formal request.
The group has also been assisting the USBE meeting’s public testimony of numerous students and members of the Sikh community. Read: More American public school students will be able to learn about Sikhi thanks to Recent Education Advocacy Successes (December 21, 2022) Speaking about the new inclusion, Harman Singh, Senior Education Manager for the Sikh Coalition, said that “these victories don’t just lessen bullying and intolerance or help Sikh kids feel seen in their classrooms—they also contribute to a more well-rounded education for students from all backgrounds.” More than 24 million kids in the US have the option to study Sikhi in schools today, which may be interesting to note.