On behalf of Hindu Education Foundation (HEF), we would like to submit our edits to the draft for the framework for your consideration. The draft narrative for the framework suggests that it endeavors to “shift from teaching Western Civilization, a narrative that put Western Europe at the center of world events in this period, to teaching world history.” We welcome this resolve which is momentous and presents a historical opportunity to correct the imbalance
that has existed for many decades.
Unfortunately, we are yet to see this resolve translate into any concrete corrections to the framework, especially in the chapters on Hinduism and ancient India. We still see inaccuracies in the draft narrative such as using the words ‘Brahman’ and ‘Brahmin’ interchangeably, which mean two completely different things, confusing the concept of Dharma with the concept of Karma and many others. Also, we see errors of emphasis such as singling out ancient India as patriarchal while not mentioning the same about European civilizations which have been equally or more patriarchal.
Some problems also arise out of inaccurate understanding of phenomena in Indian culture that do not have parallels in the Western world and hence are simplistically translated or compared to a known Western phenomena. Furthermore, Hinduism is
not portrayed on par with the Abrahamic religions and is presented more from the narrative developed by South Asian studies departments that were set up as part of the ‘Area Studies’ program during the cold war period to study different regions of strategic interest to the US. This narrative could be more suited for developing an outsider’s view of foreign cultures and developing geopolitical strategies, but it does not adhere to the goals of Californian Law and the Standards which aim to enable children to be “aware and accepting of religious diversity.” So, with all due respect to the accomplishments of South Asian scholarship in America, the resolve to shift from a “narrative that put Western Europe at the center of world events” also involves shifting from the ‘Area studies’ narrative to a more holistic and culturally sensitive
understanding of nonWestern cultures. These cultures also deserve an accurate and dignified portrayal, with emphasis on their accomplishments in art, aesthetics, philosophy and science. We understand the observation made in the draft narrative that “Decentering Europe is a complicated process, because themes, periods, narratives, and terminology of
historical study were originally built around Europe.” But we believe that it is more urgent than ever, especially considering that this imbalance is manifesting itself as negative stereotypes and bullying against Hindu children who face them on a constant basis, as many children themselves have reported to the Instructional Quality Commission in the earlier hearings.
We humbly urge you to consider these edits in the revised draft of the framework and help provide Hindu children the dignity that they have been denied for far too long.
Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF) is working towards correcting misconceptions, stereotypes and biases against Hindus and enriching the understanding about Indian civilization and Hinduism in America.