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.