On June 11, 2019 the Michigan Board of Education made history by including Sikhism in their new social studies standards for public schools. Now, over 1.45 million students across the state will gain the opportunity to accurately learn about Sikhism.
Sikhism is the world’s fifth largest religion and has 500,000 followers in the United States alone. Now, with the approval of the new social studies standards, every Sikh child will be represented in their Michigan public school.
These new standards have also impacted thousands of Sikh students across the Nation. 17-year-old Eesha Randhawa is one of them. She believes “it’s extremely important to [implement education on Sikhism]. Denying students this can contribute to the erasure of the Sikh identity as a whole.”
But the Michigan Board of Education did not make this decision overnight. It took the efforts of many community members and organizations. Together, they influenced the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to make Sikhism more accessible and inclusive in classrooms.
The Sikh Coalition played a significant role in advocating for the accurate inclusion of Sikhism, according to a blog post. It is very important that the Sikh religion is taught accurately, because oftentimes the MDE would describe Sikhism as a “blend of other religions and not as an independent [religion].”
To combat this issue, over 400 Sikhs and 12 gurdwaras in Michigan lobbied to ensure that Sikhism is portrayed accurately in the new standards. Even at the June 11th Board of Education meeting, dozens of Sikh community members — including students — made public testimonies to emphasize the importance of learning the Sikhism religion in schools.
Pritpal Kaur, the Sikh Coalition Director contended that “teaching students about Sikhs is an effective and proactive way to combat bigotry”. She hopes that this education will empower youth to break stereotypes centered around Sikhism and promote acceptance.
The Sikh Coalition’s efforts are not exclusive to the state of Michigan. They have worked with communities in over 10 states like New York, New Jersey, California, and Texas. And they will continue to pursue their goal of including Sikhism in every state’s education standards.
Overall, the implementation of education on the Sikh religion will have a lasting impact on the students. And this is just one example of how schools efforts’ to be more inclusive. The hope is to educate students on various cultures, religions, and backgrounds so they can learn to respect all walks of life. As a result, there will be more open-minded, civically-engaged youth who will appreciate diversity for generations to come.