HAF Submits Recommendations for TEKS to World Geography Committee

Houston, TX (October 9, 2009) - The Hindu American Foundation submitted the following letter and attached recommendations for the proposed Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to the Subject Review Committee for World Geography.  A pdf of the letter below and the recommendations can be downloaded by clicking here.
Respected Members of the Subject Review Committee for World Geography,
The Hindu American Foundation offers the following observations and recommendations for the proposed Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) as they relate to the presentation of Hinduism and ancient India. We hope that you give due consideration to these comments as the Committee embarks upon the monumental task of creating the blueprints, so to speak, of the Texas public education system. As TEKS dictate what publishers are required to include in textbooks; what Texas public school teachers are required to teach their students; and most importantly, what knowledge Texas school children will receive and carry throughout their lives as contributing citizens of the not only the state of Texas, but of the world, it is imperative that social studies education strike a balance of both the objective and subjective. This balance is even more important in the context of the histories of the oft marginalized or underrepresented, including, but not limited to, women; racial, ethnic and religious minorities; and other world cultures. The contributions and perspectives of these respective segments of society have historically been overlooked or, in many cases, such as in the case of Hindus, misportrayed or misrepresented.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is a national, non-profit advocacy group seeking to provide a voice for the Hindu American community. HAF interacts with and educates leaders in public policy, media, academia and the public at large about issues of concern to Hindus locally and globally. HAF’s membership includes a substantial number of Texas residents and accordingly, these comments are submitted in their interest.
The Foundation has been involved in curriculum and textbook adoption reviews for several years now. We have actively participated in California, Virginia and now look forward to providing input in Texas. In 2006, HAF submitted public comments in California’s instructional materials adoption process and also filed suit against the California State Board of Education (SBE) because the procedure through which the SBE had reviewed and approved revisions in sixth grade textbooks was not conducted in accordance with California law and the SBE’s internal administrative rules. As a result of the lawsuit, California’s SBE revamped and readopted its curriculum frameworks and instructional materials adoption process. HAF was an active participant in that regulatory adoption process as well (2007), and worked diligently to ensure that key procedural safeguards were implemented for fairness and transparency to California’s public. In 2008, HAF provided public comment in Virginia’s curriculum framework and standard of learning adoption process.
A general observation is that many of the TEKS are overly vague, leaving scant directions for the participating publishers as to what information textbooks and instructional materials must include as well as for teachers and instructors as to specific details regarding mandatory Knowledge Skills and Student Expectations. Where the previous TEKS were more specific, for example provided lists of countries to be studied as examples of varying forms of government, the proposed TEKS have opted to remove such specified lists. We believe this will cause inconsistencies in the quality and quantity of information relayed to Texas school children and would recommend TEKS err on the side of caution, and be more specific wherever possible. We have, in addition to comments for World Geography TEKS, included those for other grade levels or subject areas as they may be relevant to this grade as well. Comments are in black. Recommendations are in blue bold italics.
We look forward to participating and providing our input in the ongoing TEKS adoption process and respectfully request the Committee to take HAF’s following comments and observations into consideration.
Warmest regards,
Ms. Suhag Shukla, Esq.                                                      Mr. Rishi Bhutada
Managing Director and Legal Counsel                            Houston Coordinator