SACRAMENTO — A bill that passed the Assembly with unanimous bipartisan support Thursday encourages California schools to teach students about the racial significance of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The Assembly approved AB1912 with a 71-0 vote and no debate or discussion. It now heads to the state Senate.
The bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, asks state education officials to include Obama’s election in history and social studies standards laying out what students are expected to learn.
High school history students already learn about recent presidents. But Holden says lessons about Obama also should focus on what his election meant for racial equality and civil rights.
He said on the Assembly floor that the 2008 election “should not just be a mere footnote within textbooks, but rather focus on the significance of Americans overcoming our nation’s past and acknowledging that Americans are moving in the right direction.”
The bill says the election was a “historic step in the effort towards equality in the United States” and that previous elections in the nation involved intimidation and physical violence that prevented millions of African-Americans from voting. It also commends Obama for his work as a community organizer who registered voters after he graduated from Harvard Law School.
The state Board of Education is expected to update academic standards during the 2015-16 school year and does not have to follow lawmakers’ recommendations. Textbooks could be updated within five years, likely after Obama leaves office.
The state hasn’t updated its guidelines for teaching social studies classes since 2005. A 2009 effort was cancelled because of limited money.
The state education department must first finish guidelines for schools to implement rigorous new expectations for math and language arts under Common Core State Standards before addressing social studies.