An Illinois lawmaker and community leaders are calling for the immediate removal of history books and suspension of history lessons in their school districts because they say current materials and lesson plans “lead to white privilege and a racist society.”
State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford joined a group of Evanston leaders Sunday to ask the state to cease its current history lessons, saying current history books and curriculum practices “unfairly communicate our history” and “overlook the contributions by Women and members of the Black, Jewish, LGBTQ communities and other groups,” Ford said in a statement to CNN.
“Until a suitable alternative is developed, we should instead devote greater attention toward civics and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved,” he said. “I’m also alarmed that people continue to display symbols of hate, such as the recent display of the Confederate flag in Evanston.”
The call to action isn’t new for Ford and community leaders. It’s an ongoing initiative that started in February when Ford helped introduce HB 4954, which calls for amending the school code to include commemorative holidays to observe the principles of non-violence and human and civil rights.
Meleika Gardner, a board member at We Will, an organization fighting for women and children’s rights in local legislation, created an amendment to Ford’s bill to add a school code making the study of the American civil rights movement, pre-enslavement history and additional areas of study to the Black History portion of the curriculum mandatory rather than an elective, she told CNN.
“It’s just very damaging,” she said of the current curriculum. “It feeds into systemic racism if you’re fed that information.”
Gardner testified before the house committee in March for the bill. Sunday’s news conference was the third time the group has gathered to talk about the importance of the bill and change in curriculum.
“We want to keep it fresh in people’s minds,” Gardner said. “With everything going on in the climate, with George Floyd, this is the perfect time now because people are starting to wake up.”
Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said he isn’t comfortable speaking about education, curriculum and whether or not history lessons should be suspended, but he does support HB 4954, according to a statement.
“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.”
Ford told CNN the General Assembly is out until November but he hopes to see movement on HB 4954 when it returns.