A group of community leaders in Illinois are working with a state lawmaker to abolish the current history curriculum in their local school districts because they believe it leads to “white privilege and a racist society.”
CNN reports that state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford, and several community leaders in Evanston, Ill., said the current history curriculum being taught in schools helps “lead to white privilege and a racist society.” This is a continuation of an effort Ford began in February when he introduced HB 4954, a bill that would create commemorative school holidays that celebrate the tenets of non-violence and bring awareness to human and civil rights.
Meleika Gardner, a board member at the women and children’s rights organization We Will, wrote an amendment to Ford’s bill that would make the study of the American civil rights movement and pre-enslavement history a mandatory part of the curriculum. Gardner has said that the lessons students are taught now are, “very damaging,” and feed “into systemic racism if you’re fed that information.” In March, Gardner testified before the state House committee in support of the bill. Sunday marked the third time the group has convened to advocate for the passage of the bill and for change to the local curriculum, according to CNN.
In a statement sent to CNN, Ford said that the current curriculum and history books being used “unfairly communicate our history” and “overlook the contributions by Women and members of the Black, Jewish, LGBTQ communities and other groups.” He added that until an alternative is developed, the schools should focus on teaching civics “and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved.”
Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty has refrained from saying whether or not he believes the current curriculum should be abolished but has released a statement saying he backs the bill. “I am interested in learning more and believe the history of Black people should be taught to all children and include all groups, Women, LatinX, and Native Indians who helped to build America,” Hagerty wrote.
The general assembly doesn’t return until November, at which point Ford and Gardner are hoping to see further progress on HB 4954. “We want to keep it fresh in people’s minds. With everything going on in the climate, with George Floyd, this is the perfect time now because people are starting to wake up,” Gardner told CNN.