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“Conflation of Hinduism and India with dirt, outdated customs, oppressive caste system, patriarchy and other-worldliness has been a recurrent theme in California textbooks.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