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Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton has been appointed to the Illinois Inclusive American History Commission by the Illinois State Board of Education, the district announced Wednesday.
The commission is charged with addressing deficiencies and inadequacies in the perspective and content of traditional history course material and instruction that affect students statewide.
Signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker on March 8, the Education and Equity Workforce Equity Act established the inclusive history commission and builds on efforts to improve education and career outcomes by supporting public schools, making college education more affordable, investing in vocational training and expanding the teacher workforce with an equity focus on communities disproportionately affected by decades of disinvestment.
“In this journey to get the legislation passed, Ms. Meleika Gardner and I repeatedly stated that we need to do away with the textbooks that continue to mis-educate our children about the history of this country so we can begin to eliminate structural and systemic racism,” said State Representative La Shawn K. Ford, who was also appointed to the commission.
Ford said legislation authorizing the commission was passed “in close collaboration between the Illinois Black Caucus and Gov. J.B. Pritzker” and said the law “paves the way for the elimination of social studies textbooks that contain misinformation and the creation of new resources and curriculum to teach Illinois students the truth to ensure we are able to face our common issues with a unified front. That is the mission, and I’m looking forward to working with the commission to enforce the mission.”
The commission is comprised of more than 20 school leaders and elected officials with representation across Illinois. The panel was created to provide assistance to the State Board of Education in revising social science learning standards under subsection (a-5) of Section 2-3.25, including:
- Reviewing available resources for use in school districts that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of this state and country.
- Providing guidance for each learning standard developed for educators on how to ensure that instruction and content are not biased to value specific cultures, time periods and experiences over other cultures, time periods and experiences.
- Developing guidance, tools and support for professional learning on how to locate and utilize resources for non-dominant cultural narratives and sources of historical information.
“I want to ensure that I have a pulse on our community to ensure its diverse voices are heard and represented as it relates to the education of our children,” Dr. Horton said. “To help achieve this goal, I have appointed Ms. Meleika Gardner, a well-renowned community engagement specialist, to chair the Community Advisory Committee.”
Evanstonian helped draft law creating history panel
Dr. Horton said he thanked Gardner, an Evanston community member who co-authored the legislation creating the commission, for recommending his appointment to the panel. “I am looking forward to working with the leadership on the commission,” he said.
Gardner and Ford’s work on the legislation has opened the door to new curriculum and resources for social studies. The commission will work to assure schools throughout the State are teaching the new curriculum and using the newly available resources.
“Working in public engagement, I understand the importance of community input and how powerful it is. I am honored that Superintendent Dr. Horton has appointed me chair of the Community Advisory Committee to hear the voices of a diverse group in regards to the education of our youth and I look forward to working with the committee and Dr. Horton,” Gardner said. “I truly believe systemic racism is rooted in our history/social studies curriculum taught to our children K-12 throughout the country. It explains why Black people and people of color are treated the way they are in this country because white men are seen as the only creators and heroes. We know this is not true.
“With amazing leadership being appointed to the commission like Rep. Ford and Superintendent Horton, I know the legislation will be enforced in the state of Illinois and, ultimately, bring better race relations among children who will be taught to respect the contributions and true history of everyone who built America. New curriculum is long overdue. Meeting with Dr. Horton and Rep. Ford, I see their fire and vision for the new curriculum. I have a great deal of respect for their leadership. The mis-education ends now.”