HAF Continues Quest for Equality in California Textbooks: Submits Comments on Curriculum Frameworks
Minneapolis, MN (April 2, 2009) - After successful litigation effort against California's State Board of Education in 2007, the Hindu American Foundation continues its efforts to ensure a fair, balanced and accurate representation of Hinduism in California's public school textbooks. HAF submitted extensive critiques and comments to the members of California's Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee.
The full text of the letter can be viewed below. To view a pdf of the letter along with HAF's side-by-side comparison of the relevant frameworks from the world's major religions, please click here.
April 2, 2009
Mr. Ken McDonald
Members of Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee
California Department of Education –
Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division
1430 N Street, Room 3207
Sacramento, California 95814
Dear Mr. McDonald and Members of Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee,
The Hindu American Foundation offers the following observations, critique and comments on the current Curriculum Frameworks as they relate to the presentation of Hinduism and ancient India. We specifically write to you at this juncture because our experience in the processes of textbook and related adoptions has been, that once drafts are presented to the public for comment, improvements which may entail significant changes or edits to the draft can be quite difficult to implement, daresay near impossible (please see Hindu American Foundation et al. v. California State Board of Education, et al, Case No. 06 CS 00386). It is our belief that the Curriculum Frameworks for Hinduism are in need of significant modifications and improvements. As such, while you are engaged in the monumental task of revising the curriculum frameworks for California schoolchildren, we respectfully request you, as members of the committee, to give serious consideration our remarks.
In conducting our analysis, we are struck by the glaring disparities in the presentation of Hinduism vis a vis other world religions. In the comparative chart provided, you will see the relevant frameworks dealing with the world’s five major religions (and short mention of a few others) with sections highlighted to illustrate the unequal treatment of Hinduism and ancient India.
As you are aware, curriculum frameworks, as the very blueprints upon which textbooks are based, make up the very heart of the educational system. And just as a house built on flawed blueprints would result in collapsing walls, so too will a flawed curriculum framework lead to the sub-standard education of California school children and discrimination against and degradation of, in this case, Hindu American and Indian American school children. Moreover, in
this age of globalization and the state of California’s increasing diversity, it is incumbent upon on us as world citizens to not only accurately, but thoughtfully and respectfully share the stories of other cultures and religious traditions. Indeed, both scholars and theologians have warned that Americans' woeful level of religious illiteracy damages not only America’s relationship to other nations, but Americans’ relationships with one another and devastatingly, to America’s greatest strength, our democracy.
Additionally, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, in a recent study recommended, “the proper role of religion in the school is the study of religion for its educational value. The task is to teach about religions and their impact in history, literature, art, music, and morality…”
The current presentation of Hinduism falls dismally short to this model. To achieve this recommendation, we propose that world religions be divided into parallel subject categories to ensure that all religious traditions are covered in a manner that is consistent, on par with one another and with enough flexibility to ensure historical chronology. Based on the information contained in frameworks covering Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam we propose that every framework dealing with a world religion, at minimum, cover: origins; beliefs, traditions and customs; scripture and teachings; spread; societal structure; and contributions, especially those of women.
We have made our remarks in the context of many of the guidelines adopted by the State Board of Education on November 5, 2008; particularly the call “to update the narrative to reflect current and confirmed scholarly research in history–social science and to improve the inclusivity and to reflect the contributions of all groups to the history of California and United States.”
So it is in the spirit of dialogue stemming from a serious concern over the quality of education of all California schoolchildren, that we ask that the CFCC take the following comments and observations into consideration. We also offer the Foundation as a referral source to a wide range of world-renowned scholars of Hinduism, Indic Studies and Ancient Indian History to assist in vetting a curriculum framework that could well become a beacon for other states across the U.S. as to how to teach Hinduism in public schools in a fair and balanced manner and on par with the teaching of other world religions.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Suhag A. Shukla, Esq.
Managing Director and Legal Counsel