HAF Hosts Panel Discussion on Caste, Cows, and Curriculum

San Ramon, CA (April 11, 2014) – The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) hosted a captivating discussion on the representation of religion in textbooks and academia this past Sunday, April 6, at the San Ramon Library. The event was part of HAF’s Northern California Quarterly Speaker Series, and featured a diverse panel of experts, including Dr. Barbara A. McGraw, Director of the Center for Engaged Pluralism at St. Mary’s University; Ameena Jandali, Founding Member and Director of Content Development for the Islamic Networks Group (ING); and Dr. Vineet Sharma, Member of HAF’s Executive Council and Northern California Working Group.
As a parent of two children in California public schools, Dr. Sharma specifically noted the inequitable and overwhelmingly negative portrayal of Hinduism in 6th grade History-Social Science textbooks, and the impact its had on Hindu American children. Similarly, Ameena Jandali discussed stereotypes of Muslims prevalent in the education system and how the Muslim community and ING has addressed them.
Finally, Dr. McGraw, author of one of the most widely used world religions text in the U.S., Many Peoples Many Faiths, Women and Men in the World Religions, emphasized the importance of including the perspectives of both scholars and religious practitioners in creating balanced and equitable textbook content.
While the panelists all provided unique perspectives, they agreed that textbooks play a critical role in educating students, and providing them with exposure to various religions and ethnic groups.
“Textbooks can be highly influential in shaping a child’s views towards other religions as well as his/her own religious identity,” said HAF’s Director/Senior Human Rights Fellow, Samir Kalra, Esq. who moderated the panel. “Prejudicial and negative content, in particular, often leaves children embarrassed of their religion and in some cases can lead to discrimination and bullying.”