June 11, 2019 (Lansing, MI) – Today, the Michigan Board of Education voted to approve new social studies standards
, which for the first time ever include Sikhism.
The new standards will give over 1.45 million public school students in Michigan the opportunity to now accurately learn about the Sikh community. This is another significant victory in the Sikh Coalition’s multi-year national campaign to raise Sikh awareness in our nation’s classrooms for generations to come.
“As an educator and parent with children in Michigan public schools, these new standards are a milestone in creating safe and inclusive classrooms,” said Sikh community member, Harleen Kaur from Troy, Michigan. “The community organizing and advocacy efforts of the Sikh Coalition have ensured that Michigan’s public schools will teach my children’s classmates accurately about their faith.”
The Sikh Coalition has been working behind-the-scenes to ensure that Sikhism is taught in Michigan public schools and that it is taught accurately. When the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released a draft of the K-12 social studies standards for review in March 2019, it incorrectly described Sikhism as a blend of other religions and not as an independent religious tradition in one section, and fully excluded Sikhism from the list of world religions in another.
In response, the Sikh Coalition mobilized Michigan community members and gurdwaras to advocate for the accurate inclusion of Sikhism. Over 400 Michigan Sikh community members took direct action
asking the MDE to make corrections in the draft social studies standards; 12 Michigan gurdwaras signed onto a letter
requesting the MDE and members of the state standards writing committee make changes to the proposed standards; and Michigan Sikh community members attended MDE listening sessions across the state – including in Detroit, Oakland, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Grand Rapids – to advocate for accurate Sikh inclusion to enhance the social studies standards.
This collective action played a significant role in ensuring Michigan schools will now include accurate information about Sikhs, and include Sikhism in the list of major world religions. Additionally, the Sikh Coalition is very thankful to the dozens of Michigan community members who attended and made public testimonies at the June 11th Board of Education meeting.
“Teaching students about Sikhs is an effective and proactive way to combat bigotry and address the issue of bullying,” said Sikh Coalition Education Director, Pritpal Kaur. “We are grateful to community members all over Michigan for their tireless grassroots efforts in advocating for state standards inclusive of Sikhi.”
Michigan now joins a quickly growing list of states – including New York, New Jersey, Texas, California, Tennessee, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona and Oklahoma – that have worked with the Sikh Coalition to include accurate information about Sikhs in their public school standards. This means over 21 million students in these states have an opportunity to learn about Sikhs. The goal is to make sure Sikhism is included in every state’s standards over the next 10 years so every Sikh child is represented in their public school.
“I’m excited to go to school knowing that other children will better understand who I am,” said Michigan third grader, Avreen Kaur. “I’m really happy that people listened to us and included Sikhism in what they will teach in classrooms.”
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.