The California’s State Board of Education (SBE) today voted to adopt a new framework for its history and social science school textbooks that would have richer content on ancient India and Hinduism. The framework that was developed over a period of last two years went through several rounds of public hearings and saw many controversies including the push by a few academics to rename ancient India with ‘South Asia’.
Hindu American organizations which participated in the framework adoption process expressed satisfaction at the incremental changes to the framework that now has mention of Vedic sages, Hindu teachings and philosophy, Bhakti saints, music, dance, art and scientific contributions of India. “While much needs to be done to bring content on Hinduism and Indian civilization on par with other religions and civilizations, we believe that great progress has been made in the last two years” said Sandeep Dedage, Director, Hindu Education Foundation USA. “We will continue to fight against Hinduphobia and correct biases and stereotypes about Hindus and Indians in the textbooks” he added.
The framework revision process also saw hundreds of Hindu American students who testified at the public hearings of the California Department of Education’s hearings seeking addition of more and positive content on Hinduism and India.
In the State Board of Education’s meeting on July 14th, many students testified that Hinduism is being depicted with demeaning images and pictures in textbooks and also that it is being singled out for negative portrayal on issues of caste and treatment to women. “What we seek is parity in the depiction of different religions and civilizations” said Tanvee Joshi a student from Cupertino.
State Board member Trish Boyd Williams asked the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) to look into the concerns raised by the students especially with the images representing Hinduism in textbooks and sought to know if they were being addressed adequately. Tom Adams, Executive Director of IQC assured that the new framework would address many of these issues that existed in the old textbooks.
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, first Hindu Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and over 41 academics including Barbara McGraw of Saint Mary’s college supported the community’s efforts in seeking a fair portrayal in the school textbooks.
“I strongly encourage you to consider the perspective of young Indian-American and Hindu- American students and whether the proposed framework accurately and fairly portrays that students history. If you agree that it does not, I hope you will consider making the appropriate modification” California Lt Gov Gavin Newsom said in a letter to the California State Board of Education.
The framework would be used as a guideline by the textbook publishers for the new textbooks that are expected to be adopted next year.