United Sikhs collaborates with NYC’s Department of Education on school curriculum

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NYC Officials Assemblyman David Weprin, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, NYC Human Rights Commissioner Gurdev Kang Singh and NYC Community Affairs Commissioner Marco Carrion (Courtesy: United Sikhs)

The advocacy organization, United Sikhs, is collaborating with New York City’s Department of Education to create lessons on Sikhism for fifth and sixth graders.

The lesson plans are entitled Creating Political Cartoons: Civil Rights in the USA and The Teachings of Sikhism, in which the students will learn about the lives of Americans of the Sikh faith, through U.S. civil rights and world religions.

“Sikh children are bullied at more than double the national rate. With the new lesson plans, we hope to improve overall awareness about the Sikh community at a critical time in childhood development – the early middle school years,” Dr. Gurparkash Singh, the national director of community empowerment, education and development of United Sikhs, is quoted saying in a press release. “We are proud to partner in this effort in New York, the most diverse city in the world, and thank the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and Department of Education for embracing our community in NYC public schools,” Singh added.

“As we work to strengthen instruction across our schools, it’s important to provide students with a rich understanding of multiple cultures and communities. I thank United Sikhs for their collaboration, input, and feedback in developing these lesson plans in the DOE’s Passport to Social Studies,” Phil Weinberg, deputy chief academic officer for the DOE, is quoted saying in the press release.

For the 5th-grade lesson, local cartoonist Vishavjit Singh, better known as “Sikh Captain America” and the artist behind Sikhtoons.com, provided a political cartoon including thought-provoking news headlines and comic strips of “turban and beard-armed men freely roaming the streets of New York.”

The lesson encourages students to consider common civil rights violations which Sikhs and other groups experience and draw their own illustration related to U.S. Civil Rights and current events.

For the 6th grade, The Teachings of Sikhism will be a part of a larger unit on religions around the world. United Sikhs Staff Attorney Jaspreet Kaur met DOE’s Social Studies team to help develop a lesson plan that provides a detailed history of the religion and insight into the everyday lives of Sikhs, the organization said.

“Sikh Americans — from Bhagat Singh Thind, who beginning in 1920 fought for the right of South Asian Americans to gain citizenship, to Simritpal Singh who gained permission to wear his Turban and Beard while serving as a Captain in our nation’s Army – have been on the forefront of American History for generations. Which is why it’s so critical to ensure that the history if Sikh Americans and the values brought to our country through Sikkism are a part of our schools’ curriculum, especially in New York,” State Assemblyman David I. Weprin, is quoted saying in a press release.

“I’d like to applaud the Department of Education, Mayor’s Community Affair Unit, NYC Commission on Human Rights, and United Sikhs for reaching this significant milestone for diversity in New York City and thank them once again for their continued work to make New York a more inclusive city,” Weprin added.

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