Section 2.08 Maligning Hinduism in 6th Grade Textbooks is OK

In 2005, a controversy concerning the portrayals of Hinduism in 6th Grade California Textbooks generated much debate.  California is the largest purchaser of textbooks in the US and often influences the purchases of textbooks by other states.  Every six years, various textbook publishers submit their drafts of textbooks for review by the California Board of Education.  According to the Board’s Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content:

The standards will be achieved by depicting, when appropriate, the diversity of religious beliefs held in the United States and California, as well as in other societies, without displaying bias toward or prejudice against any of those beliefs or religious beliefs in general.

No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior…Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be presented in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief.[1]

The standards clearly state that no group will be subject to an inferior or biased portrayal of its beliefs and practices. Furthermore, according to the Board’s standards, “Textbooks should instill a sense of pride in every child in his or her heritage”[2]. Yet, the Hinduism is portrayed with an inherent bias.  While in Hinduism, women are shown as being treated inferiorly, such information is absent from Christianity or Islam.  Similarly, the textbooks point out Hindu atrocities against certain groups; nothing is noted about the same for Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  Christian, Islamic and Judaic texts are assumed to be stating historical facts, while Hindu texts are looked up with derogatory criticism.

Some Hindu American groups, in order to address this, followed a process similar to that followed by Christian, Jewish and Islamic groups.  They reviewed the drafts and proposed several changes.  While the changes proposed by Christian, Jewish and Islamic group hardly met any criticism, those proposed by the Hindu American groups drew virulent criticism by a consortium of individuals and scholars claiming to stand for plurality and for the accurate depiction of the “…the violent truth of caste-based discrimination in India.”[3]  Knowing well that 11 year olds are impressionable and have a short attention time span and the fact that issues related to Aryan Invasion Theory and Caste System are incredibly complex and require deeper study of Hinduism and Indian history, this consortium continued its assault on the edits proposed by the Hindu groups.  The arguments put forth by it were not on the content of the textbooks.  Rather, it labeled the Hindu American groups as ‘fascists’, ‘fundamentalists’, etc. while linking them to violence in India.  While highlighting the ‘horrors’” committed by Hindus, the consortium remains silent on Islamic genocide in South Asia, the Christian genocide of Native Americans, etc.  While Hinduism, deemed as a religion of South Asia, is demonized in such a way, the ‘human rights’ standards don’t apply to Islam, which also has hundreds of millions of adherents in South Asia and who has had a much bloodier history in the region.  Letters sent by members of the campaign branded the World Association of Vedic Studies (WAVES) as a Hindu Nationalist organization.[4] Even when California parents, expressing genuine concern for their kids, challenged the biased depictions of Hinduism, they were dismissed and branded in the same vein as the other Hindu groups.  Similarly, support from other Hindu community organizations was ignored.

A.  Important Players opposing the edits Suggested by Hindu Groups (Click Here to read further)


[1] See the entry on California textbook controversy over Hindu history, in Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_textbook_controversy_over_Hindu_history, accessed July 8, 2011

[2] Rajiv Malhotra, “Debating the California Text Book Controversy”, http://www.littleindia.com/news/135/ARTICLE/1133/2006-03-13.html, accessed July 8, 2011

[3] Ibid.[1]

[4] The reference to Hindu Nationalists was made by ANHAD, an organization referred to later in the report, in writing to US Ambassador to India David Mulford on January 4, 2005.  Also, this letter was signed by several individuals and groups such as Ali Asghar, Harsh Dobhal, Harsh Mander, Ram Puniyani, Anand Patwardhan, John Dayal, etc. that are discussed further in the report.  See the letter at http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/Letter_From_Concerned_Citizens_To_USAmbassador.pdf, accessed July 8, 2011

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