Hindu Americans Air Concerns about Proposed Texas Textbooks

Austin, TX (September 17, 2014) - The Hindu American community’s concerns about proposed textbooks in the state of Texas were aired yesterday during a daylong public hearing at the Texas State Board of Education.
The Texas textbook adoption process, known as Proclamation 2015, has included months of public review and public comment. The public hearing was the last opportunity for citizens and experts to point out factual errors before the Board’s adoption vote in November.
HAF board member, Rishi Bhutada, and Director of Education and Curriculum Reform, Murali Balaji, testified about factual errors in the proposed world history and world geography textbooks. Bhutada, a native Houstonian, noted that some of the descriptions in current materials are reminiscent of the textbooks he had to read as a student in the Alief Independent School District in Houston nearly two decades ago. Speaking as a public school alumnus and parent, Bhutada described the negative impact that inaccurate and biased textbook representations had on Hindu American kids. He cited one recent example of a Hindu student being bullied based on an inaccurate depiction of the Ganges River.
Balaji noted that a team of reviewers featuring prominent scholars of religion found over 120 errors in the proposed materials. These errors included outdated or debunked information on issues such as the origins of ancient India, caste, and even misrepresentations of Hindu philosophy. One textbook publisher even described Slumdog Millionaire and Monsoon Wedding (both English language movies) as Bollywood films.
“As a result, the errors will continue to hinder Texas teachers’ ability to get accurate information to their students and...prevent Texas from having the type of the top-notch education we all know it can possess,” said Balaji.
The Board was receptive to Bhutada and Balaji’s comments, and one Board member thanked HAF for the detailed submission of specific factual errors. By statute, publishers must reply to factual errors cited. Balaji said he’s hopeful that publishers will make the necessary changes to the textbooks to ensure contemporary scholarship is represented.
“The publishers can fix these errors in a matter of days, if not hours,” he said. “HAF’s involvement in the process ensures that our community’s voice is heard on par with other voices.”