Hindu Americans Seek Equality and Dignity in CA Textbooks

Sacramento, CA (March 23, 2016) -- Hindu American community groups, parents, and children plan to gather at the California Department of Education (CDE) in Sacramento tomorrow to seek equality and dignity for Hinduism and India in California’s history-social science textbooks. On Thursday and Friday, the CDE’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) is set to make recommendations on a history and social science framework, which provides a blueprint for textbooks and guidelines for teachers.

Since 2014, the Hindu American community has been working to make sure that the state’s history-social science frameworks are culturally competent and do not adversely impact Hindu and Indian American schoolchildren, according to the Hindu American Foundation (HAF).

“Our ultimate goal for this process is to ensure that teachers have the most accurate and culturally competent educational materials at their disposal and that Hindu students are able to learn in an environment that allows them to feel secure in their identity and beliefs,” said Murali Balaji, PhD, HAF’s Director of Education. “This will go a long way to preventing bullying and discrimination and will ensure that all of California’s students are better prepared for a globalized society.”

Balaji pointed to the Foundation’s national anti-bullying survey (report to be released in late Spring), which highlights the continued impact anti-Hindu bullying - often fueled by classroom stereotypes - has on Hindu American schoolchildren.

Many scholars of history and religion have supported the need to have a more accurate and equitable depiction of Hinduism, Jainism, and India in the framework, as has a diverse coalition of over 100 interfaith and civil rights leaders, as well as members of cultural and educational organizations.

Balaji noted that although improvements were being made, the latest draft framework for grades 6 and 7 reversed significant progress made in previous draft versions. In particular, he referred to a set of edits - that were accepted by the IQC’s writing team - made by a small group of South Asian studies faculty that removes “Hinduism” and replaces it with “Ancient Indian religion”; replaces “India” with “South Asia”; and re-links caste with Hindu religious beliefs.

The IQC will send its recommendations to the State Board of Education (SBE), which will meet May 11-12 to approve the final curriculum frameworks.

“If these recommended edits move forward to the SBE, the new draft could adversely impact Hindu and Indian American schoolchildren across the state,” said native California resident and HAF’s Senior Director/Human Rights Fellow, Samir Kalra, Esq. “It could also significantly diminish - and erase - the contributions of Hinduism and India throughout history and leave students confused.”