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“Conflation of Hinduism and India with dirt, outdated customs, oppressive caste system, patriarchy and other-worldliness has been a recurrent theme in California textbooks.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.