[INDOLOGY] Another round in the California textbook story
shalinisinha90 at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 15 15:29:56 EDT 2016
I have to agree with Ram's well-pointed critique of both sides of this debate. There is surely a need for a more critical appraisal of Abrahamic religious traditions and histories with regard to imperialism, gender, and so on, as much as there is of caste iniquities, and the oppression of Dalits and women in Hinduism. At the same time, the core religio-philosophical ideas, debates, and practices of the latter need to be presented with clarity and insight - as they do in the case of other religious traditions.
This is apparent to any parent who has witnessed what is taught in British schools. As someone who has been through the Canadian school system and worked as a university student on revising Ontario high school textbooks in the 1980s - in Economics rather than Religions - it is astonishing how little has been done in this regard in the U.S. and Britain.
Nathaniel Adams Tobias Coleman has raised some of these issues for the study of philosophy, something I am more conversant with, and we are certainly trying to change the philosophy curriculum at the undergraduate level to reflect these concerns. This is part of a BME (black, minority, ethnic) initiative in universities that comes under "Why is my curriculum white?" The initiative addresses not only the inclusion of 'world philosophies' in the curriculum but also the question of method - how they are presented vis-a-vis 'Western philosophy', and with regard to global issues and current socio-political and economic concerns.
A parallel, more critical framework for the study of religions at the high school level appears equally essential.
Dr. Shalini SinhaLecturer in Non-Western PhilosophyDepartment of PhilosophyUniversity of Reading
From: c.ram-prasad at lancaster.ac.uk
To: indology at list.indology.info
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2016 16:34:42 +0000
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Another round in the California textbook story
As someone who watched my son's essay when he was at school actually get marked down in History because he
argued that it did not make sense to talk about what was ‘good’ about the British Empire, I do get fed up about the huge variations in what counts as enough ‘realism’ for school children, and how nationalism (and its asociated religious history) regularly
whitewashes the past. Looking at undergraduates in Britain, a great deal more of unvarnished reality is needed.
In Britain, it is notable that Christianity gets read in school under ‘Theology’ and ‘Ethics’, so that the focus is almost entirely on conceptual issues, while Hinduism is mostly studied sociologically. So students coming into first year university classes
are all prepped up about the evils of caste and the maltreatment of women in Hinduism, with nary a thought about the iniquities perpetrated in the name of Christianity across history. From the little I have seen of Californian school books, this seems to be
so there as well.
I have no doubt that it is plain immoral that, under the guise of protecting children, the HAF and others want to write out the Hindu history and contemporary reality of discrimination.
But I do wonder why this story does not engage with the legitimate question of disparity that has been vitiated by denialism. Are sixth-graders getting a taste of the egregious evils visited upon American society by Christian activists today? About the
unbelievable suffering brought about by anti-abortion fundamentalism? About Spanish inquisitions and brutal missionaries, about the theology of imperialism, the Pauline subordination of women that has been such a model for modernity’s gender discrimination,
Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad
Lancaster UniversityFrom: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] on behalf of Dominik Wujastyk [wujastyk at gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2016 5:09 PM
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Another round in the California textbook story
Hindutva Efforts to Rewrite History in California Schools Fail
Right-wing Hindu groups are seeking to gloss over Indian history and deny the reality of caste discrimination by deleting the word ‘Dalit’ from the history textbooks in California.
Right-wing groups are trying to deny the reality of caste discrimination. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
New York: California reviews its textbooks every six years, inviting public opinion each time. The process has never been easy. The ‘golden state’ has again got far more than it bargained for in its latest round of reviews, with American
right-wing Hindu groups demanding changes to the history and social science textbooks used in the sixth and seventh grades.
On March 28, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies and the Dharma Civilization Foundation suffered a setback when a history and social science committee in Sacramento threw out most of the changes they
wanted to make to the new California textbooks, which are slated for publication later this year. However, the California State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed framework changes in May.
“As much as it is about California textbooks, it is truly a battle which is ideological in nature,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan of the Ambedkar Association of California, which with six other secular Indian groups is trying to make sure the “egregious
edits” submitted by HAF to the education board don’t find their way into the textbooks.
According to activists like Soundararajan, right-wing Hindu groups want to gloss over Indian history and deny the reality of caste discrimination by deleting the word ‘Dalit’ from the history textbooks of the state.
“You can’t distort facts, whitewash history and deny what’s happened to millions of Indians from marginalised communities who are victims of caste apartheid,” said Soundararajan, who is the co-founder of Dalit History Month. “You cannot tamper
with and bring ideology into the framing of the past.”
HAF and other right-wing Hindu groups, however, maintain that issues such as the caste system, the plight of dalits and discrimination against women do not belong in a sixth-grade introduction to world civilisations. HAF says that Indian American
children are embarrassed by the depiction of Hinduism in ancient India in the history textbook.
California ninth grader Akanksha Maddi wrote in a statement released by HAF that the textbooks are unfair to students of Indian heritage.
“My classmates and teachers think that we Hindus still believe in primitive and unjust practices,” Maddi wrote. “I don’t want my friends to look down upon me and my culture because of my textbook.”
The Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies says Hindus are merely seeking parity with other religions in sixth grade textbooks, where social problems of other religions are not given the same prominence, even as the redeeming features of Hinduism
Shiva G. Bajpai, professor emeritus of Asian Studies at California State University, asked the education board for a revision, writing: “Hindu children are bullied by their classmates for the system of
varna and jati because the social iniquities of other religions go unmentioned… If the commission insists on keeping lines 862 to 874, it should add 300 to 400 word comments on social order and slavery for the Abrahamic religions.”
A poster protesting the Hindu American Foundation’s claims, also showing an image from an American history textbook explaining the caste system.
However, the South Asian Faculty Group made up of South Asian scholars from Stanford, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University and UCLA, among others, held that history should not be tampered with, even if it is unpleasant.
“We are disturbed by claims that an equitable portrayal should prevail over historical accuracy,” said an expert who didn’t want to be named for fear of being targeted. “It is a slippery slope.”
Protests over “erasing” India
HAF is spearheading protests across America because it says it has discovered over 30 places in the sixth and seventh grade history textbooks where the words “Hindu” or “India” would be replaced in the new textbooks with “South Asia.”
Samir Kalra, senior director of HAF,
told The Washington Post that the proposed changes could have “implications for several years forward,”
and could diminish the significance of Hindus in the ancient civilisation of India. Kalra told the newspaper that the textbook changes appear to only reflect revisions aimed at India and Hinduism: China will not be changed to “East Asia,” nor will there be
changes to any references to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism or any other religions.
The South Asian Faculty Group has fired back, saying that during the submissions in the public comment process it suggested that in some places “India” be replaced with “South Asia” because some of the areas discussed currently belong to Pakistan
and are not aligned with modern-day India.
“Although ‘Ancient India’ is common in the source material, when discussing the Indus Valley Civilisation, we believe it will cause less confusion to students to refer to the “Early Civilisation of South Asia” or “Ancient South Asia” because much
of the Indus Valley is now in modern Pakistan. Conflating “Ancient India” with the modern nation-state of India deprives students from learning about the shared civilisational heritage of India and Pakistan,” the group said in a letter responding to HAF.
The California State Board of Education will vote in May on whether to retain descriptions of the caste system, role of women, Aryan migrational history and polytheism in ancient Hindu religion and other issues – as the textbook furore rages on.
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