Balancing the "Righting" of History - Hindu Americans Represent in Texas
Austin, TX (March 17, 2010): The Texas State Board of Education garnered new notoriety last week as the influential body, comprised of non historians, advocated a sharp right wing tilt in history textbooks published for state schools. And the Board's widely condemned party line vote occurred even after hearing spirited testimony and considering amendments from numerous Texans including Hindu American Foundation (HAF) Texas Coordinator, Rishi Bhutada, at the raucous meeting.
In his extensive testimony before the Board here, Bhutada sought to ensure that Hinduism is portrayed as one of the oldest living world religions and pressed for an amendment to remove a separate discussion on the development of monotheism in the exclusive context of Judaism - an addition made during one of the many rounds of the curriculum's current drafting. Over 800 HAF supporters, mostly from Texas, sent emails to the Board endorsing HAF's amendments aimed at clarity, consistency and accuracy in the textbook process.
"The TEKS (Texas Education and Knowledge Skills) for all the major world religions already included discussion of their origins and central ideas, which would arguably cover development of monotheism not only in the Judeo-Christian context but these other religions," stated Bhutada. "Special focus on monotheism could also paint a misleading picture that monotheism is exclusive to Abrahamic religions when Hinduism, which encompasses a complexity of theologies ranging from panentheism to monotheism, would be left utterly misunderstood."
HAF also supported the Sikh Coalition in its push for the inclusion of Sikhism in the new World History TEKS. The Sikh Coalition successfully lobbied for the inclusion of Sikhism in sixth grade social studies and world geography TEKS drafts last summer, but the world history curriculum did not conform to these changes.
The 15-member board debated high school U.S. and world history over the course of three days and in a 10 to 5 partisan vote, Republicans on the Board prevailed in approving a draft of social studies curriculum which stressed conservative views on American capitalism and questioned the Founding Fathers’ commitment to the separation of church and state.
"Unfortunately politics and propaganda have reigned supreme in the TEKS process," said Suhag Shukla, HAF's Legal Counsel and Managing Director. "Texas students will now learn a version of history, especially relating to the crucial issue of the separation of church and state, that is not supported by American jurisprudence or history."
The final version of the Texas Education and Knowledge Skills will not be approved until May of this year and whether the amendments proposed by HAF and others were adopted is uncertain. To date, the latest approved proposed curriculum had yet to be made public.
Bhutada and Shukla bemoaned the potential fallout of this latest vote by the Texas School Board.
"If this brand of politics continue into adoption of science curriculum as it has in states like Kentucky and Louisiana, we'll face 9th graders in India and China learning calculus and advanced chemistry while American students question evolution," Bhutada added. "And the impact could be devastating not only for Texas school children, but the future of America as a competitor in the global market."