Press Releases

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.”