Hindu Americans Make Strides in Improving California Textbooks

The Hindu American community has made progress in bid for cultural
competency and equity in the way Hinduism and India are portrayed in CA
textbooks

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Hindu American community has made progress in its effort to ensure
Hinduism and Indian history are accurately and equitably represented in
the Social Science and History Framework put forth by the California
Department of Education.

In a hearing held yesterday, May 19, 2016, the Instructional Quality
Commission heard testimony from scholars, Hindu organizations, and
members of the Hindu American community about the importance of equity
and cultural competency in California textbooks. Many important
decisions were made in favor of their proposed edits, including the
decision not to replace mentions of India with “South Asia” and the
reintroduction of two sages of diverse backgrounds.

“For years, the American perception of Hinduism and India has been
overly simplistic and inaccurate, in part due to the content of
California textbooks,” said Samir Kalra, Esq., Senior Director for the Hindu
American Foundation
. “This CDE textbook revision process has been a
protracted effort to correct these inaccuracies. While we have voiced
concerns about irregularities in the process, we also deeply appreciate
the way this issue has engaged the Hindu American community in the civic
process. There are nearly a million Indian and Hindu Americans who call
California home, so it’s important for them to see their cultural and
religious heritage represented with accuracy and parity.”

About the process

Since 2014, efforts by the Hindu American community have been underway
to update the textbook framework put forth by the CDE, which currently
reinforces cultural stereotypes and historical inaccuracies about
Hinduism and India. This effort, supported by leading social science and
religious scholars, is motivated by a desire for cultural competency and
a fair, accurate portrayal of Hinduism and Indian history. However, a
different faction of scholars disagreed with the proposed changes and
redacted some of them.

On May 19, 2016 the CDE’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) held a
hearing during which it considered the edits line by line. The IQC ruled
largely in favor of the Hindu American community’s edits. In July, a
final decision will be reached, and a final draft of the framework will
be created.

“Hinduism should be represented in California K-12 textbooks in a manner
comparable to other religions fairly, accurately and equitably,“ said
Barbara A. McGraw, J.D., Ph.D., Director, Center for Engaged Religious
Pluralism, Saint Mary’s College of California. “This debate concerns a
teaching document for K-12 teachers. It should not create unnecessary
obstacles for a more constructive understanding of the Indian
subcontinent and the world’s third largest religion. In this regard,
ironically, the South Asia Faculty Group’s attempt to nuance Indian
history caused the opposite effect. Robust academic debate about the
politics of India are welcome, but that debate is not appropriately
addressed in a K-12 textbook Framework narrative in California. Luckily,
some of yesterday’s decisions reflect that thinking.”

Testimony was emotionally charged at times, with Hindu students
testifying about feeling like their identities and heritage were under
attack; Dalits shared the pain of being victims of caste-based
discrimination.

“We have nothing but the utmost sympathy and respect for the victims of
caste discrimination who spoke about their experiences at the hearing,”
added Murali Balaji, the Hindu American Foundation’s Director of
Education. “The Foundation respects the right for Dalits to self-define.”

Hindu organizations and scholar groups were particularly critical of the
South Asia Faculty Group’s recommendation to remove mention of two of
Hinduism’s most respected sages, Valmiki and Vyasa, who hailed from
disadvantaged communities.

“As a Shudra [disadvantaged community], 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,
California Coordinator for the Hindu Education Foundation. “We’re also
pleased that the academically questionable recommendation of the South
Asia Faculty Group to replace ‘India’ with ‘South Asia’ was also
rejected.”

A final decision on this matter will be reached in July, and a final
draft of the framework will be created. For more information on HAF,
please visit www.hafsite.org.

About the Hindu American Foundation

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is an advocacy organization for the
Hindu American community. The Foundation educates the public about
Hinduism, speaks out about issues affecting Hindus worldwide, and builds
bridges with institutions and individuals whose work aligns with HAF’s
objectives. HAF focuses on human and civil rights, public policy, media,
academia, and interfaith relations. Through its advocacy efforts, HAF
seeks to cultivate leaders and empower future generations of Hindu
Americans. The Hindu American Foundation is not affiliated with any
religious or political organizations or entities. HAF seeks to serve
Hindu Americans across all sampradayas (Hindu religious traditions)
regardless of race, color, national origin, citizenship, caste, gender,
sexual orientation, age and/or disability.

Contacts

Hindu American Foundation
Samir Kalra
samir@hafsite.org