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HEF’s Response To Last Minute Alarmism By Fringe Hinduphobic Group ‘South Asian Histories For All’

A fringe hinduphobic group named ‘South Asian Histories For All’ (SAHFA) tried to derail the textbook adoption process by writing a last-minute alarmist letter to the California’s State Board of Education alleging among other things that the framework was not being followed and that histories of Dalits, Sikhs and Muslims were being erased. Incredibly the fringe group’s letter asks for the deletion of a whole section on Hinduism while accusing others of erasing history. It does not give any evidence to its allegations that others were erasing history. Activists of the fringe group also tried to create a ruckus at the board meeting alleging that they were being assaulted and were not allowed to speak. In fact, many of SAHFA members spoke twice violating the board’s procedure on public testimonies which allows a person to only speak once. They also got into verbal fights and made allegations against California Department of Education’s (CDE) staff and security officials.

Read also the letter by Hindu American Foundation’s legal team to the CDE.

SAHFA’s alarmist claims and false allegations failed to deter the board which stayed on course with the agenda. Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF) did a quick analysis of the revisions submitted by SAHFA and submitted the analysis to the board on November 9th when the meeting started. We believe that this helped the board take a decision against SAHFA’s changes.

Contrary to SAHFA’s propaganda, we found that the changes that they had suggested were completely violative of California’s laws and procedures, especially the History Social Science (HSS) Framework document which serves as the guide for preparing the textbooks and California’s codes for Social Content. HEF presented these findings to the Board and commended the board for not giving in to the last minute alarmist propaganda of the fringe hinduphobic groups. Here is HEF’s letter and the details. Below is the summary. A more detailed response to their other allegations is forthcoming.

Summary

  1. In 32 of the 43 proposed revisions that SAHFA has suggested, the original text from the textbook drafts complies with what is mandated by the HSS Framework. In most cases, the text is nearly identical to what is mandated by the Framework document, while in others, the text is clearly included in order to comply with the Framework. SAHFA appears to be seeking deletions and/or modifications of text that conforms with the Framework, thereby leading to potential violations of Category 1.2 and 1.12 of the HSS adoption criteria. In the table below, we have quoted the text from the HSS Framework (adopted by the State Board of Education on July 14, 2016), along with the page and line numbers for your reference.
  2. Two changes are based on old revisions of textbooks drafts, and are thus moot, as either the publishers and/or the Instructional Quality Commission have changed the text.
  3. None of the edits cite any scholarly references. 
  4. Many of SAHFA’s suggestions adversely reflect upon Hinduism,  thereby placing several textbook drafts in jeopardy of violating  Category 1.10 of the HSS adoption criteria and the Social Content citations. 
  5. Given SAHFA’s contentions about the erasure of history, it is indeed ironic that nine of the total 43 edits call for deletions of content from the textbook drafts. They even suggest the deletion of significant portions of the section on Hinduism in one of the textbooks. 
  6. While they claim to talk for the “lower castes”, we do not see in their edits any suggestion to add the cultural or religious contributions of “lower castes”. It is rather because of the efforts of HEF that Hindu sages and saints from so-called “lower castes” were included in the framework in 2016.

We are glad that State Board of Education (SBE) took our plea into consideration, stayed on course with its agenda and rejected the hinduphobic revisions by SAHFA.

HEF supports the recommendations by 39 top academics to correct California textbooks

Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF) sent supports the recommendations of an academic coalition led Prof. Jeffery Long Professor Jeffery Long, Ph.D and 38 top academics of Social Sciences and Religion from universities across America. We sent our support letter to the Department of Education. Here are the letters by academics.

Academic Submission_HSS Textbook Adoption_9.25.17

Final Academic Coalition Letter_HSS Adoption Submission_10.31.17

 

California Commission Suggests Corrections To Textbook Drafts After Complaints Of Bias Against Hindus

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.

Pictures of slums in ‘Ancient India’ section of textbook drafts.

“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.

Demeaning Portrayal Of India In Proposed California Textbooks Causes Uproar

 

A picture from Ancient India section of Discovery Education History Social Science  textbook draft

Sacramento, California., May 18, 2017. Indian-American students and parents from across the state gathered at the California Department of Education (CDE) to oppose negative portrayal of Hinduism and India in proposed school textbooks. At the public hearing conducted by the Department, they expressed anguish at the recurring problem of adverse reflection of Hinduism and India, pointing out factual inaccuracies and demeaning portrayals in the textbook drafts by key publishers. As part of California’s textbook adoption process that approves school textbooks, the drafts from ten publishers were made available for public review last week.

Parents who spoke at the hearing indicated that many of these drafts continue to violate the California law, and provisions laid down by the California Department of Education for instructional material in public schools. Many expressed concern that such adverse reflection was leading to Hindu children being subjected to bullying in classrooms and sought the rejection of some drafts.

“It is disappointing to see that even after a decade of building awareness by the Hindu-American community, textbooks especially by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), McGraw-Hill, Discovery and National Geographic continue to use orientalist narratives to portray Indian civilization” said Shantharam Nekkar, Director of Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF). “Some textbooks continue to depict Hinduism and ancient India using pictures such as cows eating trash, slums and poverty stricken people” he said.

“Conflation of Hinduism and India with dirt, outdated customs, oppressive caste system, patriarchy and other-worldliness has been a recurrent theme in California textbooks. The systemic bias only seems to reinforce itself each time” Nekkar added.

 

 

 

 

A picture of cows eating trash in the ‘Ancient India’ section of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) 6th grade History Social Science textbook draft.

California mandates the textbooks to be based on the framework laid down by the Department of Education. The framework was revised last year amidst many controversies, including attempts by a few academics and groups to replace the word ‘India’ with ‘South Asia’. Over the past two years, the Department had made several updates to the framework based on inputs by scholars, students and community members, mentioning Hindu concepts like Yoga and Dharma, Sages Vyasa and Valmiki, and Indian achievements in science and technology. Hindu groups pointed out that many of these changes have not reflected in the textbook drafts.

“Some publishers continue to single out and denigrate Hinduism while ignoring new additions to the framework that can help present Indian civilization on par with other civilizations and cultures” said Sharat Joshi, a parent from San Jose. “Negative portrayal of Hinduism has led to several instances of bullying of Hindu children in classrooms.” he added.

The Department of Education will send its recommendations to the State Board of Education (SBE) later this year for its approval. The textbooks recommended by the board are expected to be adopted by school districts starting early next year.

HEF condemns Hinduphobic attacks on Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard

Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF) expresses serious concern over the attacks on Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard targeting her Hindu faith.

Angela Kaaihue, the GOP challenger to Tulsi Gabbard for the Congressional district of Hawaii, had, in statements issued last week, said that Gabbard, who is the first Hindu member of  Congress and another former Congresswoman who practices Buddhism “worship the devil” calling Gabbard a “pathetic Hindu 1000 GODS leader” referring to the many gods worshiped within Hinduism. Kaaihue had also shared a Facebook post suggesting that “a vote for Tulsi Gabbard is a vote for Satan”. The post has since been deleted.

gabbard

Screenshot from Kaaihue’s Facebook post that was later deleted(Courtesy: www.rawstory.com)

HEF condemns the attacks on Congresswoman Gabbard which serve as a clear instance of Hinduphobia. “Attacks on Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard,  especially on her Hindu faith, are a reflection of religious prejudices that originate from an impoverished view of a religion and culture that is practiced by nearly one-sixth of the world’s population” said Sandeep Dedage, Director Hindu Education Foundation USA (HEF). “Hinduism’s inherent pluralism allows multiple ways of seeking the divine which is reflected in its multitude of paths and deities. It is indeed sad that such wonderful ideas are seen with contempt and hostility” he added.

“Ignorance and bias go hand in hand. Hence there is an urgent need to create awareness about Hindu culture that can serve in preventing such biases”.

HEF also welcomes the statement by Fritz Rohlfing, chairman of Hawaii Republican Party distancing himself and his party from “racially-bigoted and religiously-intolerant descriptions” that are “offensive, shameful, and unacceptable in public discourse.”

California’s new school textbook framework to have richer content on India and Hinduism

SBE

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.

‘India’ Restored in California Textbooks

protest

In a significant move, California Department of Education’s (CDE) Instructional Quality Commission (IQC),  has restored the mention of ‘India’ in the new Framework for History Social Science textbooks in California.

Earlier this year, the Commission had proposed to replace instances of ‘India’ by “South Asia” in its school textbooks at the behest of an academic group named ‘South Asia Faculty Group’ (SAFG). This group was led by academics  Dr. Kamala Visweswaran of University of California at San Diego , Dr. Lawrence Cohen and Dr. Robert Goldman of University of California at Berkeley. The academics had suggested that all mentions of ‘India’ before 1947 had to be replaced with expressions like “South Asia”.

The suggestions were opposed by another group of 41 academics led by Dr. Barbara McGraw of Saint Mary’s College of California, and Dr. Diana Eck of Harvard University who called the proposal “anachronistic” and “not historical.”

Over a hundred Indian American children and parents testified at the public hearing today at the CDE, opposing the proposal, and seeking restoration of the word ‘India’.

The commission also restored the mention that Hindu sages Valmiki and Vyasa were born non-Brahmins, a change that had been sought by the Hindu American community.

“Coming from an underprivileged community myself, I am really proud that our collective efforts were able to bring the contributions of Sage Vyasa and Sage Valmiki back into the Framework,” said Sandeep Dedage, coordinator for the Hindu Education Foundation USA. “We’re also pleased that the academically questionable recommendation of the South Asia Faculty Group to replace ‘India’ with ‘South Asia’ was also rejected.”, he added.

The commission also agreed to replace the word “untouchable” with “Dalit”. Hindu Education Foundation which endorsed the word called the description of “untouchable” unacceptable and said that the word “Dalit” can be used in the textbooks wherever historically accurate to do so.

HEF believes that these changes are important ones but a lot more needs to be done to bring the content on Indian civilization and Hinduism on par with how other civilizations are depicted in the textbooks.

HEF raises serious concerns over last minute addition of adverse edits against India and Hinduism in California textbooks