Thursday, July 21, 2016

California Board of Education Votes on New Framework for Textbooks, Opposing Sides Claim Victory | Global Indian |

California Board of Education Votes on New Framework for Textbooks, Opposing Sides Claim Victory | Global Indian |

California Board of Education Votes on New Framework for Textbooks, Opposing Sides Claim Victory

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 Indian American organizations representing traditional Hindu values, and a coalition of 24 organizations representing several South Asian cultures each claimed victory July 14 as the California state Board of Education determined how India and various aspects of its culture should be portrayed in California textbooks.

Following a five-hour hearing, the CBE adopted the new History-Social Science Framework. The framework itself is not a textbook, but offers guidelines for publishers of the state’s elementary school textbooks, which are scheduled to be revised next year.
The proposed framework – which took two years to create – sparked a vigorous debate between several South Asian organizations, including the Hindu American Foundation, the Hindu Education Foundation and the Uberoi Foundation, which complained that Hinduism and its cultural practices were not accurately being portrayed in the new guidelines.
Conversely, the coalition South Asian Histories For All – which represents 24 organizations – along with the South Asian Faculty Group, argued that the new framework, first proposed by HAF, erased the history of caste-based oppression, especially towards Dalits – also known as untouchables. Muslim and Sikh organizations joined the SAHFA coalition to ensure that their histories were also accurately represented in the new framework.
The South Asian Faculty Group aimed to refer to the Indian subcontinent as “South Asia” so that young California students would understand that the region also encompasses the countries of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
After the CBE approved the new framework, State Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Adams, who oversaw the process of approving the guidelines, said: “We are not the arbiter of historical debate. We will turn it over to students to make their own judgment.”
"This is a big win for our students," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson after the vote. "This document will improve the teaching and learning of history and social science. It will give our students access to the latest historical research and help them learn about the diversity of our state and the contributions of people and groups who may not have received the appropriate recognition in the past."
Groups on both sides of the debate claimed a victory after the vote. HAF hailed the Board’s decision to use the term “ancient India” instead of South Asia, in references to the Indian subcontinent.
“To change India to South Asia is historically inaccurate and diminishes the many contributions that Indian civilization has made to history and contemporary culture in literature, science, medicine and math,” Samir Kalra, senior director and senior Human Rights Fellow at the Hindu American Foundation, told India-West in an interview in May, after the California state Instructional Quality Commission reviewed the proposed guidelines. Kalra noted that the term South Asia was largely used only in the geopolitical context.
HAF contradicted testimony presented by SAHFA saying it has always acknowledged the existence of caste and caste-based discrimination. “Our edits only sought context, separating the social evil from the eternal teachings of ancient and contemporary Hindu spiritual leaders,” said Kalra in a press release, adding that he was satisfied that several statements in the framework, which compared caste to slavery, were discarded in the final edits.
“We made great progress,” said Barbara McGraw, convener of the Social Sciences and Religion Faculty Group. “We have a long way to go. But we are on our way to a bright future for a more equitable representation of Hinduism in California textbooks,” said McGraw in a press statement released by HAF.
HAF leaders said that the foundation will now shift focus towards the textbook adoption process to ensure that the progress that was made in the frameworks is upheld in the textbooks.
SAHFA also hailed the Board’s vote, noting that several of the edits it had asked for were approved in the final document. Significantly, the framework uses the term Dalits to refer to people formerly considered “untouchables.” It also depicts caste as both a religious and social/cultural practice, and notes that caste status is based on birth, rather than profession.
SAHFA had opposed renaming of the Indus Valley civilization as “Saraswati,” and the Board agreed on the organization’s recommendations. The coalition also hailed the framework’s depiction of Dalip Singh Saund, the first Asian American member of Congress, as a Sikh.
The Sikh Coalition also applauded the new framework, noting: “California's curriculum framework will maintain that Sikhism is an independent religion based on the belief in one God and the equality of all human beings.”
“Importantly, the framework will also continue to highlight Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s belief in universal equality and the rejection of the caste system as a core tenet of Sikhism,” said the organization in a press statement.
“This is not just an enormous victory in California, but also for the entire nation,” said Harjit Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s California community development manager. “California, given its influence on the national educational system, will continue to set the precedent for this process in other states.”
The Indian American Muslim Council also declared a victory, stating that HAF and similar groups had attempted to inject “Islamophobia” into California textbooks, which was rejected by the Board. The organization noted that earlier versions of the framework depicted Islam as a “war-mongering religion,” which forced people to convert to its faith.
“It is ironic that while publicly claiming to seek a fair portrayal of Hinduism, Hindu nationalist organizations expended considerable resources in order to inject Islamophobia into the California curriculum," said Umar Malick, president of IAMC, praising the Board’s “courageous stance.”
All groups said they would now monitor the textbook publishing process to ensure the guidelines are followed.California Board of Education Votes on New Framework for Textbooks, Opposing Sides Claim Victory | Global Indian |

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