Oklahoma board adds Sikhism to social studies standards
(Okla.) Beginning next fall, Oklahoma will become the ninth state to include the study of the Sikh religion as part of their K-12 curriculum.
New social studies curriculum standards approved earlier this year by the Oklahoma State Board of Education but released to the public last week will officially add content about the Sikh religion as well as the experience of Sikh Americans.
“The accurate inclusion of Sikhism in more state standards across America is part of the Sikh Coalition’s efforts to ensure that all children feel represented, included and safe when they go to school,” said Pritpal Kaur, education director of the Sikh Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group that has lobbied state education board nationwide to adopt similar content.
There are an estimated 500,000 Sikhs living in the U.S. with more than 25 million worldwide, making it the fifth-largest globally.
But there have been ongoing complaints within the Sikh community, especially here in the U.S., that their religion is too often wrongly described as a subset of either Islam or Hinduism. The Sikhs, which dates back to 1469 A.D., is a separate and independent religion.
The Sikh Coalition, based in New York City, first organized in the wake of 9-11 in response to the growing number of hate crimes suffered by members of their community. Since then, the group has actively lobbied state and national policymakers in a variety of areas to improve awareness of the Sikh religion.
One key focus has been on schools, where Sikh children still face on an almost daily basis bullying and even physical attacks.
According to a 2014 report from the coalition, more than 50 percent of Sikh students surveyed reported being bullied in school. “Some respondents said they believed they were bullied because of their religion and race, and because other students thought they looked like terrorists,” the coalition reported. “Requiring the inclusion of accurate information on Sikhs and Sikh Americans in school curricula was one recommendation the report made to address the issue.”
The states that have updated their content standards to better reflect the Sikhs religion are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas.
The Oklahoma standards were approved by the state board in February and will be rolled out in the 2019-20 school year with full implementation expected by the 2020-21 school year.