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Summary of Events

Background:

  • Every six years the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California State Board of Education (SBE) adopt a number of textbooks for use in public schools.
  • The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission or CC), an advisory body to the SBE, makes recommendations for specific edits and corrections to be made in the textbooks.
  • One of the components to the corrections process is the opportunity for public comment. Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups have long been participating.
  • According to constraints imposed in this process by the SBE, proposed edits may not add any new substantive material, but may only correct any misrepresentations or inaccuracies in the current text.
  • In order to make significant changes to the textbooks, including the addition of discussions absent in the portrayal of Hinduism, the Framework needs to be changed. The Framework is essentially an outline of how a topic is to be covered. Currently, the Framework for Hinduism requires little discussion of the positive intellectual, scientific and philosophical contributions of Hindu civilization and poses Buddhism and Jainism as improvements or “civilizing forces” of Hindu society (see pages 76-81 to compare the portrayal of all major world religions). In the units on Hinduism and Ancient India, students are required to, among other things, discuss the significance of the Aryan invasions; explain the major beliefs and practices of Brahmanism in India and how they evolved into early Hinduism, outline the social structure of the caste system; know the life and moral teachings of the Buddha and how Buddhism spread in India, Ceylon, and Central Asia. The Framework for Hinduism will be revisited in California in 2008.
  • In 2005, two independent Hindu groups, the Vedic Foundation (VF) and the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF), unrelated to one another or to the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), participate by reviewing and proposing edits and corrections for sixth grade social studies textbooks that dealt with India and Hinduism.

Early September 2005

  • VF and HEF, along with Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups submit reports to the California Department of Education identifying extensive inaccuracies on Hinduism and India in the textbooks. September 30, 2005
  • CC holds hearing in Sacramento where comments from the public are heard. Representatives of HAF, VF, HEF, Jewish groups, Sikh groups, and publishers speak in support of respective proposed edits and corrections.
  • Due to the high volume of public comments received from all involved advocacy groups, CC forms an Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) consisting of select CC members and a Content Review Panel Expert (CRPE) to review the proposed edits and corrections.
  • CRPE scholars prescreened for conflicts of interests with the publishers and advocacy groups. The academic expert retained as the CRPE for Hinduism is Dr. Shiv Bajpai, Professor Emeritus in History, California State Northridge.

October 2005

  • AHC and CRPE Bajpai review the VF and HEF proposed edits and corrections, approving most proposed edits and corrections and rejecting those changes that do not meet academic scrutiny or do not meet state guidelines.
  • CC submits the recommendations of the AHC and CRPE Bajpai to the SBE.

November 8, 2005

  • CDE releases a memorandum detailing all of the recommended edits and corrections submitted to SBE by the CC for approval.

November 9, 2005

  • SBE President Ruth Green reads a letter from Professor Michael Witzel, a Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University, which accuses the Hindu groups involved in the public corrections process of submitting unscholarly changes and of being politically and religiously motivated. Witzel, in his letter, also threatens an “international education scandal” if the proposed changes are accepted by the SBE. (Noteworthy: no mention is made in the letter of specific edits or corrections, which concern Witzel or the remaining cosignatories)
  • In response to Witzel’s letter, the SBE delays approval of CC recommended edits and corrections on Hinduism and asks the CC to once again review the edits and corrections.
  • CC recommended edits and changes for Christianity, Judaism and Islam are approved during this meeting.

November 2005

  • CDE and SBE, behind closed doors and without informing either participating Hindu group or CRPE Bajpai, retain a second panel of CRPEs: Professor Witzel, Professor Wolpert of UC Los Angeles who is a co-signatory to Witzel’s letter and Professor Heitzman of UC Davis who is a supporter of Witzel’s letter. (Noteworthy: none of the members of the second panel are scholars of or have expertise on Hinduism)

November 22, 2005

  • CDE releases a memorandum containing new final recommendations, as determined by Witzel, Wolpert and Heitzman, to be submitted to the SBE.

December 1, 2005

  • HAF issues a letter to SBE President Ruth Green and all members of the CC calling attention to the lack of due process and fairness being afforded to the Hindu groups as well as the conflict of interest in contracting as CRPEs individuals who themselves are advocates with a stated interest in rejecting the proposed edits and corrections.

December 2, 2005

  • CC meets to address final edits and corrections on Ancient India and Hinduism.
  • CC conducts a line item review of all proposed edits (third review in entire process).
  • A CC member highlights scientific and archaeological evidence supporting edits and corrections submitted by Hindu groups.
  • CC defers to practicing Hindus over “scholars” as the final authority on explaining their religious beliefs to sixth graders.
  • CC submits results of this meeting to SBE.
  • SBE has not addressed or released to the public the changes recommended during this meeting.

December 20, 2005

  • SBE continues to refuse open communication with Hindu groups. HAF retains the law firm of Olson, Hagel and Fishburn, LLP of Sacramento, California to represent the HAF in its interactions with the SBE.

January 5, 2006

  • Upon being alerted of a private meeting between the SBE and Witzel (see January 6, 2006), law firm representing HAF sends a letter to SBE President Ruth Green with regard to private meeting and highlights that any substantive decisions regarding the content of textbooks may only be made in a public forum.

January 6, 2006

  • An unprecedented closed-door meeting is held with select SBE members, Professor Bajpai and Witzel. HAF, VF and HEF representative are not invited, despite requests to be present.
  • Essentially a fourth review of the proposed edits and corrections is conducted in which Professors Bajpai and Witzel debate each line item before SBE members. Where no compromise or concession is met, it has been alleged that the text will remain as it appears currently. Results of this private meeting have not yet been made public. Several edits that more accurately portrayed Hinduism, may have been deleted, according to some sources.

January 11, 2006

  • Prior to the January 12th public SBE meeting, law firm representing HAF sends a second letter to SBE President Ruth Green urging a fair and open process. Firm also mentions the issue of some unaddressed edits submitted by VF that have not yet been considered.

January 12, 2006

  • Lawyers from firm representing HAF attend public meeting and urge SBE for a fair and open process during public comments.
  • SBE President Ruth Green announces the creation of a new sub-committee. SBE appoints a five SBE member committee, which will make recommendations to the full SBE to consider at its next meeting on March 8-9, 2006.
  • No further detail has been given as to the impact of the final recommendations of the CC as of December 2, 2005 or the private meeting between select SBE members, Professor Bajpai and Witzel held on January 6, 2006

February, 2006

  • HAF announces its Legal Defense and Education Fund Drive to meet mounting expenses of HAF's legal efforts, to prepare for future legal battles involving textbooks in other states and to continue HAF's strong track record in taking a Hindu American voice to the Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress in matters involving religious liberty and human rights and to the media in presenting fair and balanced coverage of Hinduism.
  • The law firm representing HAF continues to explore all legal and non-legal avenues in pursuing fairness and openness in the remaining process.
  • HAF garnering letters supporting the proposed corrections and edits and original recommendations of the AHC and CRPE Bajpai from well-reputed educators of Hinduism studies; Hindu spiritual leaders; temple boards; practicing Hindus; groups that promote human rights and pluralism and fight racism, hate and bigotry; anti-defamation groups; and elected officials.

March 17, 2006

  • HAF files suit against the California State Board of Education (SBE) in California Superior Court in Sacramento. Suit filed on the basis that a fair and open process was not followed in adopting textbooks that introduce Hinduism to sixth grade students. Complaint further alleges that as a result of procedural flaws and violation of the Open Meeting Act, the textbooks will not meet the standards required by the California Education Code and the Standards of Evaluation of Instructional Materials with respect to Social Content.

March 21, 2006

  • Motion for a temporary restraining order denied. The restraining order would have preserved the status quo and halted the printing of any of the textbooks until the court has considered the merits of the complaint in a hearing scheduled for April 21, 2006. The motion was denied, without a judgment on the merits of the complaint, based on a declaration submitted by California State Board of Education (SBE) lawyers that printing had not yet commenced and would not until mid-May. Hearing on the merits scheduled for April 21, 2006.