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The Sikh Coalition Avaaz
September 13, 2012
@Saffron Press

Governor Signs Bill that Allows Curriculum Process to Move Forward

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill this past weekend which significantly raises hopes that public school children will learn about Sikhs in California.

The bill, Senate Bill 1540, grants state education officials permission to complete a near finished draft of the state’s History-Social Science “framework.” This Framework provides teachers with the information they need in order to teach students the content standards for each subject area. Of note, the current draft Framework includes seven references to Sikhs including Guru Nanak, Sikh immigrants and their struggles, Dalip Singh Saund, and Bhagat Singh Thind.

Now that SB 1540 has been signed, this draft Framework can be completed. It is our hope that the Sikh examples that are currently included will remain in the final version.

The Sikh Coalition would like to recognize Dr. Onkar Singh Bindra (Sacramento) for championing this important achievement. Dr. Bindra worked with countless state Assembly Members and Senators to ask that Sikhs be included in California’s school curriculum. The Sikh Coalition sincerely thanks Dr. Bindra for his leadership.

What Did It Take To Pass This Bill?

California’s Curriculum Framework Timeline

Since 2010, the Sikh Coalition has supported three different bills that were introduced in both the Assembly and Senate to ensure that the draft Framework could be completed. The timeline below chronicles the efforts of the Coalition, guided by Dr. Bindra, to make this happen.

July 17, 2009 - A committee of teachers and other educators appointed by the State Board of Education had been meeting to review the current History-Social Science Curriculum Framework and to recommend revisions. On this day, several Sikh examples are included in the draft History-Social Science Framework. These examples include:

  • Grade 2: Families Today and in the Past – The children’s book, The Boy With Long Hair by Pushpinder Singh is included as a teaching resource to help students understand the religious practices, dress, morals, etc. of different cultures.
  • Grade 4: Immigration – Sikhs are included along with the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Filipinos as immigrants who supplied labor for California’s railroads and agriculture in the second half of the nineteenth century. They are also recognized as entrepreneurs and innovators.
  • Grade 4: Immigrants’ Contributions to California and US History – Dalip Singh Saund (a Sikh American) was the first Asian American to serve in the United States Congress.
  • Grade 7: Historical Developments of the Reformation – In South Asia, Sikhism arose as a new religion founded by Guru Nanak, a social reformer who challenged the authority of the Brahmin and Mughal Empires.
  • Grade 9: Sikhism has been added to the list of religions that is included in the elective course, Survey of World Religions.
  • Grade 11: 1920s – The case United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind is discussed which restricted the right to naturalization based on race.

July 28, 2009 – Governor Schwarzenegger signs a bill which stops all work on instructional material adoptions and curriculum framework revisions effective immediately and continuing until the 2013-14 school year. This suspends any further action on the History Social Science Framework revision process.

February 18, 2010 – The Coalition’s first attempt: Upon Dr. Bindra’s urging, a bill is proposed by Assembly Member Carter which calls for an adoption of the revised History-Social Science Framework. At Dr. Bindra’s request, the Sikh Coalition reaches out to the Chair of Assembly Appropriations Committee to pass this bill when it arrives in this committee. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass out of the Assembly Appropriations committee.

February 19, 2010 – The Coalition’s second attempt: At Dr. Bindra’s request, the Sikh Coalition supports a Senate bill asking that the curriculum framework be adopted. The Coalition writes letters of support and places phone calls to the Senate Education Committee, Assembly Education Committee, as well as the Assembly Appropriations committee to pass it. This bill would also require the State Board of Education to adopt the revised curriculum framework for history-social science and science in 2011. In addition, the Coalition sends emails to California Sikhs urging them to support this bill and calling them to action. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass out of the Assembly Appropriations committee, either.

February 24, 2012 – The Coalition’s third attempt: Since the prior two bills had died, Dr. Bindra approaches Senator Hancock to introduce SB 1540. She did, along with five co-authors. SB 1540 would resume the unfinished work on the History-Social Science Framework and see it through to completion. The Coalition writes a letter of support to Senator Hancock.

August 23, 2012 – SB 1540 passes through the California Assembly and Senate, and is now on the Governor’s desk. The Sikh Coalition creates an online petition and letter writing campaign for California constituents to contact the Governor, urging him to sign this bill. Last week, the Coalition delivered close to 500 petition signatures to the Governor’s office.

September 8, 2012 – Governor Brown signs SB 1540, allowing the Curriculum Commission to complete the revision process of the draft History-Social Science Curriculum Framework which includes Sikhs in seven distinct areas in the framework.

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“What we have achieved is the result of community efforts. For the bills to allow resumption of revision of the Framework for History-Social Science, during the last three years, I sought and readily received strong support from the Sikh Coalition. All other Sikh organizations, who I requested for writing letters and making phone calls, also helped readily. I appreciate the support of all, especially of the Sikh Coalition." 

Dr. Onkar Singh Bindra

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