Illinois Lawmaker Proposes for State History Curriculum to Include Perspectives of Minorities

Under a proposal unveiled Friday, a commission would be created to revise curriculum to include the contributions made by minority groups

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Illinois Rep. Lashawn K. Ford on Friday proposed legislation to include the perspectives of marginalized communities in history classes at Illinois schools months after first calling for changes in statewide history curriculum.

In February, the state lawmaker from Chicago's West Side introduced House Bill 4954, which calls for history classes to incorporate lessons about the American civil rights renaissance in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the study of pre-enslavement history.

Under Ford’s proposal unveiled Friday, a new commission would revise and add curriculum, including textbooks, that reframe social studies to include the contributions made by women and members of the Black, Jewish, LGBTQ-plus communities and other groups.

"We know that education and knowledge is the number one cure to bigotry," Perri Irmer, president of Chicago's DuSable Museum of African American History, said at a news conference with Ford and other community leaders Friday.

Schools would shift to civics teaching instead of history instruction during the 2021-2022 school year until recommendations from the commission are implemented, according to a news release from Ford. The commission would be expected to complete its work by the end of next year, with new curriculum fully adopted by June 30, 2022.

"To the detriment of many, the teaching of history has often been viewed through the lens of one perspective,” Ford said in a news release. “This limited narrative has rarely taught our children about the marginalization of women, people of color, persons with disabilities and other minority groups."

At Friday's news conference, Ford said history lessons as they are taught currently are rooted in white privilege and spread misinformation.

"We have to reverse the damages and effects of the traditional historic narrative that fails to account for all of us," he said.

Even though the bill has yet to receive a vote, Ford has pleaded with state leaders to immediately expand curriculum.

"This is a problem that exists across our country, but Illinois has an opportunity to become the leader," he said.

While it's unknown how much support the bill will receive in Springfield, Ford hopes the State Board of Education will make adjustments to the proposal before a vote takes place.

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