Authorities in California have suggested corrections to the proposed school textbooks in the state after Indian-Americans raised serious concern over the negative portrayal of Hinduism and India, according to a US- based Hindu group. The Indian-American community has been battling to remove several inaccuracies and myths about Hinduism from the textbooks. The State of California mandates that the textbooks to be based on the framework laid down by the Department of Education.
The department has made several updates to the framework based on inputs by scholars, students and the community members, mentioning Hindu concepts like Yoga and Dharma, Sages Vyasa and Valmiki and Indian achievements in science and technology. The department has voted to reject contents from two publishers, California-based Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) said. The move came after the Hindu Americans, LGBT, and African-American communities raised serious concerns about the “biased and inequitable portrayal” of their communities in textbooks at a public hearing this week held by the CDE’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) which is tasked with conducting the textbook adoption process. In their submissions, “Hindu-Americans asserted that the textbook drafts demonised Hindus and Indians by promoting orientalist narratives”.
“While the disparaging images were rejected and a few positive changes were made, many of the textbook narratives still contain extensive inaccuracies and stereotypes,” Shantharam Nekkar of HEF said.
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, he noted. “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,” Nekkar said. A large number of parents, students, and community leaders joined a week-long protests across California, 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. “Some improvements have been made, but significant additional changes are required to present India and Hinduism in an accurate and equitable manner,” said Krishna Maheshwari of Hindupedia. Ahead of the hearing, a coalition of 25 academics from prestigious universities across the US, submitted a letter to the CDE calling the textbook drafts “problematic” and urged the department to make substantive improvements to the textbook drafts in order to better reflect accuracy and cultural competency. Several State legislators also supported the move. The IQC will send its recommendations to the State Board of Education (SBE) for its approval in November. The textbooks recommended by the board are expected to be adopted by school districts starting early next year.