Sacramento, California (Sep 29, 2017) – The California Department of Education (CDE) took important steps yesterday to suggest corrections to drafts submitted by publishers for the state’s History-Social Science textbook adoption, and rejected content from two publishers. The move came after the Hindu American, LGBTQ, and African American communities raised serious concerns about the biased and inequitable portrayal of their communities in textbooks at a public hearing held by the CDE’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC). The IQC is tasked with conducting the textbook adoption process. Hundreds of Hindu Americans joined LGBTQ and African American allies in seeking an accurate and equitable portrayal for diverse communities in California.
Hindu Americans specifically asserted that the textbook drafts demonized Hindus and Indians by promoting Orientalist narratives and including denigrating pictures of Hindu Deities, slums and poverty, and trash to represent ancient Indian civilization and Hinduism.
“While the disparaging images were rejected and a few positive changes were made, many of the textbook narratives still contain extensive inaccuracies and stereotypes. Moreover, several items that are mandated in the California History-Social Science textbook framework (state guidelines) for India and Hinduism are also being ignored by some publishers,” said Shantharam Nekkar of Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF). “We will continue to seek the accurate inclusion of our history, including Yoga, Hindu philosophy, Sanskrit and Tamil Sangam literature, Jainism, and the contributions by Hindu Dalit saints and sages.”
Thousands of parents, students, and community leaders joined week long protests across California last week, demanding accurate and equitable representation for India and Hinduism in textbooks. A petition signed by over 8,000 people demanding the withdrawal of biased and inaccurate content was also submitted to the Department of Education. The movement was supported by organizations such as Hindu American Foundation (HAF), Hindupedia, Bay Area Vaishnav Parivar (BAVP), Silicon Andhra, Bharati Tamil Sangam, Vedika Global and many other Indian American organizations.
“The struggle for dignity in textbooks has been going on for a decade now. We will continue with our movement,” said Dakshata Talekar of Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF).
Earlier this month, a coalition of 25 highly respected academics from prestigious universities across the US, submitted a letter to the CDE calling the textbook drafts “problematic” and urging the Department to make substantive improvements to the textbook drafts in order to better reflect accuracy and cultural competency.
Similarly, the efforts of the Hindu American community were supported by many public officials, including California Assemblymember Kevin Kiley and the California State Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus led by Assemblymember Ash Kalra.
“We’re extremely thankful to Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley and Ash Kalra, and the State API Legislative Caucus for supporting the Hindu American community’s ongoing quest for equality and dignity in California textbooks, said Samir Kalra, Esq., Senior Director at the Hindu American Foundation.
The Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) will send its recommendations to the State Board of Education (SBE) for its approval. The textbooks recommended by the board are expected to be adopted by school districts starting early next year.