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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- None of the edits cite any scholarly references.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.