Sikhism made part of Tennessee public school curriculum

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The Golden Temple in Amritsar

The Tennessee State Board of Education recently added the study of Sikhism to the Social Studies curriculum in public schools.

According to a July 28 document from the TSBE, the change in the curriculum was made after the Sikh Coalition, a non-profit advocacy and humanitarian group, reached out.

Among Indian-Americans in the United States, Sikhs have been among the subgroups most victimized by hate crimes since 9/11. This Aug. 4 will be the 5th anniversary of one of the deadliest attacks on the community, when a white supremacist killed 6 members at a Wisconsin gurdawara. Several advocacy groups have worked successfully to push for the inclusion of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in the FBI’s data-gathering efforts on hate crimes. This year a a high profile National Sikh Campaign was launched to raise awareness about the Sikh faith and its devotees.

“The Sikh Coalition reached out to Board members regarding the inclusion of Sikhism in the standards. In consultation with the educator committee, Board staff added Sikhism to the study of world religions (CI.18) in the high school elective Contemporary Issues,” the board meetings minutes show.

’The new standards will give thousands of high school students in Tennessee access to educational content about the Sikh community, a major step toward creating awareness about Sikhs among our fellow Americans for generations to come,” the Sikh Coalition said in a press release.

“I am thankful to the Tennessee State Board of Education for including Sikhism in our state curriculum,” said Prem Singh Kahlon, a leader in the Tennessee Sikh community, is quoted saying in the release. “This is a positive step toward expanding Sikh  awareness, and I appreciate the support of local gurdwaras, our friends in the interfaith community and the Sikh Coalition.”

Last October, the Sikh Coalition requested the inclusion of Sikhism in the education standards in the curriculum, and worked with local grassroots groups to carry out a comments campaign, and engage directly with the board members. When the demand was not met, the Sikh Coalition appealed the decision and rallied Tennessee gurdwaras and interfaith groups to send a joint letter demanding the inclusion of Sikhism, the Sikh Coalition said. The Tennessee education board reversed course and approved Sikhism in the revised standards on July 28.

Among the organizations that worked on the campaign were the Southeastern Sikh Religious Society, Mid South Sikh Sabha, and Sikh Sangat of East Tennessee. The interfaith groups involved the Congregation Sherith Israel, Islamic Center of Nashville, the United Religions Initiative, and St. Peter Catholic Church.

“Tennessee now joins a growing list of states – including New York, New Jersey, Texas, California and Idaho – that have worked with the Sikh Coalition to include accurate information about Sikhs in their public school curricula. We look forward to adding to this list in the months and years,” the Sikh Coalition said.

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