Replacing ‘ancient India’ with ‘South Asia’ in school textbooks has led to protests and public awareness campaigns that included letters from professors of religion and history in the sgtate of California. Over 100 “Hindu Americans” converged on Sacramento March 25 to voice their concerns about the California Department of Education Instructional Quality Commission’s plans to accept problematic edits made by a small group of South Asian studies faculty. These proposed edits, according to reports, would have largely removed references to India and Hinduism, and replaced them with the terms “South Asia” and “ancient Indian religion,” respectively.
During the public comment period, the Hindu American Foundation and community members as well as non-Hindus, testified before the commission about both the inaccuracies in the proposed edits and the last-minute process by which they were initially uniformly accepted.
Some of the proposed edits included removing mention of Hinduism’s acceptance of religious diversity, re-linking Hinduism with caste, and removing mention of the contributions of Hindu sages of different backgrounds such as Valmiki and Vyasa. They argued that edits would erase their religious and cultural histories and urged the commission to reject the changes. Moreover, they asked the commissioners to adopt a more inclusive and culturally competent frameworks document.
The community’s efforts was also supported by a coalition of 20 government leaders and elected officials, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), CA State Senator Steven M. Glazer (District 7), and several local leaders.
Academics such as Barbara A. McGraw of St. Mary’s College of California, an award-winning scholar and former American Academy of Religion president, and Sofia University philosophy professor Kundan Singh also testified.
While HAF and other groups believe progress has been made, concerns remain about the way in which the edits were accepted. “Our concerns remain with how many of these edits were accepted, particularly in the commission’s apparent privileging of one group of scholars over the views of many others,” said Murali Balaji, HAF’s Director of Education and Curriculum Reform. The IQC will publish its revised set of recommendations two weeks before the May 11 State Board of Education hearing.