Hinduism in California Textbooks

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

California has recently revised its history Framework for grade VI (equivalent to ‘6 th standard’ in India). This document outlines what is to be in the textbooks. Sixth grade covers all ancient civilizations and has extensive chapters on Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions, whether living or extinct. Christianity and Islam are covered in seventh grade textbooks (which includes the medieval period), along with the Bhakti movement in Hinduism and the development of Sikhism. The adoption of new textbooks guided by this revised Framework is preceded by extensive public review and comment, allowing for various advocacy groups to revise and improve these textbooks, fix errors and eliminate—or insert--biases.

The Framework section on Ancient India and Hinduism, adopted after a 8-year process, was particularly contentious with some academics arguing to remove “Hinduism” and “India: from the Framework in favor of “religions of ancient India” and “South Asia.” While most references to Hinduism and India were retained, some instances were deleted before the framework was approved by the California Department of Education. The next phase involves the development of textbooks and their review.

Textbook publishers will be elaborating on the framework as they develop their textbooks. Those textbooks will than be reviewed by reviewers hired by the state of California followed by a public commentary phase.

PhDs in history, teachers, parents and concerned citizens can apply to be a reviewer without any requirement of residency in California. If you are interested in ensuring the proper representation of India and Hinduism in 6th grade textbooks apply online.

These new California textbooks will set the standard for the rest of the country, especially for states which do not have the extensive guidelines California creates for what is to be taught. So even if you are not a California resident, this revision process could very well impact what is taught in your state’s schools.

The application for reviewers for the 2017 History­–Social Science Adoption is now live on the CDE Web site. Applications will be accepted through October 19, 2016.

Controversy

Many different groups have been involved in advocating for change in the way textbooks represent Ancient India and Hinduism. The topics that garnered the most attention included "India", "Hinduism", and Caste/jati. There were a large number of groups and individuals that participated in the process. As a whole, there were two sets of positions that emerged:

  1. Groups advocating for removal of India and Hinduism from the framework
  2. Groups advocating for keeping India & Hinduism and advocating for equitable treatment of Hinduism vis-a-vis Christianity, Judaism and Islam

Groups advocating for replacement of India and Hinduism and replacing these terms with South Asia and "Religions of South Asia"

This set of groups includes

  • South Asia Faculty Group (SAFG)
  • South Asia Histories for All
  • Sikh Coalition

The South Asia Faculty Group's initial recommendations included

  • 36 edits replace “India” or “Hinduism” in reference to early Hindu history
  • 5 edits propose using outdated terminology referring to the “Indus Civilization” vs the “Harrappa culture” or Indus-Saraswati civilization
  • 11 edits propose factually incorrect edits. E.g., Equating the struggle of Chandraguta in creating the Maurya Empire vs the Warring States period in Chinese history. Chandragupta was crowned emperor of the Mauryan empire at the age of 20 and expanded it over the next 20 years. The Warring States period in China lasted roughly 200 years.

Specific recommendations also included removing references to Sages Valmiki and Vyasa, emphasizing Caste as a religious doctrine based on birth, emphasizing female inequality and associating Hinduism with Anti-Western violence and extremism.

These groups presented their academic supporters as mainstream scholars (none of whom had credentials in Ancient Indian History or elementary student education and only some of whom had credentials related to Hinduism) whose views are the dominant view of Hinduism and argued that all other groups are extremist / fundamentalist groups that should be ignored.

Groups advocating for keeping India & Hinduism and advocating for equitable treatment of Hinduism vis-a-vis Christianity, Judaism and Islam

This set of groups includes

  • Hindupedia
  • Scholars for People
  • Social Sciences and Religious Faculty Group
  • Dignity for Hinduism
  • Uberoi Foundation
  • Hindu Education Foundation
  • Hindu American Foundation

This group refused to engage in name calling and accusations. They presented arguments that were supported by a broader group of academics including renowned archeologists, historians and published scholars in Ancient Indian History and Hinduism. They emphasized that the framework under discussion was targeted to 6th graders and those textbooks are not a place for academic debates. Further, they discussed that California law requires the framework to 'instill confidence in students regarding their own faith'. They stressed that the framework should continue to refer to Ancient India and Hinduism as these are terms required by law and are in the context of other ancient civilizations and religions. They presented hundreds of pages of support from academic research to support their case.

Their main asks were to keep the terms 'Ancient India' and 'Hinduism.' They requested that references to Sages Valmiki and Vyasa be kept as that will instill pride in students from underprivilaged jati backgrounds. They requested that gender perspectives be properly presented (i.e., concept of worshiping the Goddess, requirement of participation of women for successful completion of rituals, etc); appropriate description of Jatis including the fact that they were self-governing social groups.

Letters to the California Department of Education

Videos of Proceedings

Links to additional information