Utah, Mississippi become the latest states to Introduce Sikh Studies in their School Syllabus
Activists, policy makers and social commentators have always maintained that the best way to combat bigotry and to make any society more inclusive is to introduce a holistic understanding of different faith practices and cultures early on.
The latest development of introducing Sikhi in state social studies syllabi in Utah and Mississippi may be the right step in this direction.
Earlier this month, Utah and Mississippi became the 15th and 16th states in the United States to include Sikhi or practices and introduction of the Sikh faith in their school curriculum.
The new subject would make it possible for public school children to learn about Sikh faith, history, and contributions to American life alongside other major world religions.
Read: North Carolina university allows Sikh students to wear kirpans (November 22, 2022)
New York based, advocacy organization Sikh Coalition worked with community members, gurdwaras, allied organizations, and state education officials to achieve this, according to a press release.
On Dec 15, the Mississippi State Board of Education (MSBOE) voted in favor of new social studies standards that include Sikhi for the first time ever. These new standards will give approximately 457,000 students in the state the opportunity to learn about the Sikh community.
In January, the Sikh Coalition made an initial request for Sikhi to be included in the new standards, and community members advocated for the same at the first MSBOE meeting of the year.
In September, the Sikh Coalition then facilitated a sign-on letter in support of inclusion with three Mississippi gurdwaras, as well as another formal letter of our own. And finally, in November, hundreds of individual advocacy emails were sent to the MSBOE.
The coalition was also actively working with religious studies faculty at Mississippi State University to advocate for Sikhi’s inclusion in the standards.
Earlier this month, on Dec 1, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) also voted in favor of new social studies standards that similarly include Sikhi for the first time ever— reaching another 606,000 students across that state.
Read: Medical firm sued for denying religious accommodation to Sikh employee (October 5, 2022)
The results are a culmination of years of back ground work being done in this direction. The initial request for for Sikhi to be included in the new standards back in May of 2020.
After that, in December 2021, a drafted a sign-on letter advocating for the same, followed by the submission another formal request, was sent to the concerned authorities.
The coalition also has been facilitating the public testimony of multiple Sikh community members and students at a USBE meeting.
Read: Recent Education Advocacy Victories Ensure More U.S. Public Schoolchildren Can Learn About Sikhi (December 21, 2022)
Harman Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Education Manager, talking about the new inclusion said, “These victories don’t just reduce bullying and bigotry or help Sikh kids feel seen in their classrooms–they also make for a more well-rounded education for students from all backgrounds.”
It may be interesting to note that today, more than 24 million students across the United States have the opportunity to learn about Sikhi in school.