The California School Text Book Review and Image of India Abroad

(Posted on Saturday, December 31, 2005 1:35 AM)

It’s the holiday season…and as a single student living alone… with nothing better to do…I return again to my blog..

This morning I was browsing through the news..and something far removed from India but maybe affecting the Majority population caught my eye. It was an interview with Ms.Suhag A Shukla, legal counsel for the Hindu American Foundation, in which led me to search for more about the issue.

The California School Text Book Review and Image of India abroad.

The Indian Diaspora living in U.S should be aware what this topic is going to be about. For the others..a brief introduction…

(I do not live in the U.S of A…so what info. I have is from the WWW)

The California School system teaches religion to its pupils…with Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism in sixth grade and Islam in seventh. There is a revision of the text books every six years. During all the previous process’, religious groups and people belonging to the respective community, with the exception of Hinduism, have been allowed to monitor and propose changes. This year after wide-spread complaints from the Hindu community especially the parents of Hindu children, the Vedic Foundation and Hindu American Foundation were involved in the process. Around 170 corrections were suggested. However, it was not a smooth sailing to make these changes being incorporated in the text books. Dr. Michael Witzel, Professor at the Harvard University, a known critic of Hindu culture and generally well-known for his Anti-India stance, took it upon himself to oppose the recommended changes. He dashed off a letter, with the support of few of his cronies, to the commission to reconsider the changes. However, after a short delay involving the setting up of review committee, due to the hard and diligent work of the Vedic and Hindu American foundations, all the changes were accepted with only minor revisions. A small victory for the Hindu community of the U.S. A feat that has to be applauded because of the fact that majority of the spade work was being done by the second generation Hindus in the U.S.

Many might feel that this is too trivial an issue to be blown to such an extent. I do agree that Indians in general like to blow up issues and try to make issues out of non-issues. However in this case, I beg to differ. Because what we are dealing with here is the kind of education being imparted to the children of the most developed economy. We have already seen the influence of teaching on the mind of young people with respect to the education being imparted by a handful of rogue Madrassas. The July 7 London bombings in London were the direct result of this. Showing one religion in good light by casting a dark shadow on another will lead to deep imbibed prejudices. And not to forget that outside of India, Hindus are a minority community.

One thing which struck me as a person living abroad (in Europe) is the lack of knowledge people have about India and Hinduism in particular. The common questions which pops up at me during any conversation with my colleagues about India is the caste system, the high number of Gods we worship and (thank God) the software industry.

So now lets consider some of the things which were being taught to the children of California…

A depiction of India being a caste ridden society with women having second class citizenship.

A chapter named “Where is the beef?”.

The scriptures of Bible and Koran were being quoted as facts..while those of Jews and Hindus as myths.

All the deities being described as statues. Referring to Hindu Gods with ‘g’ contrary to other Gods being referred with ‘G’.

Also..”Hindi is written with the Arabic alphabet, which uses 18 letters that stand for sounds” (for God’s sake…atleast get your facts right)

The highly sarcastic ‘The monkey king Hanuman loved Rama so much that it is said that he is present every time the Ramayana is told. So look around, see any monkeys?’ ………………..among others does not have to look far to find out the reason for the kind of image India and Hindus forms. Indiana Jones… his form of Kali and Monkey Eating Indians (people have sick imagination) …has made things worse.

India is the home to all major religions of the world. In fact the oldest Jewish community outside of Israel exists in India (more than 2000 years old) and have not experienced any form of anti-Semitism till date. Christianity came in 52 AD.The Zoroastrians arrived in 7th century AD to India fleeing religious persecution by Arabs and found safe haven. Islam came in 12th – 13th century AD. The recent arrivals have been the Bahai community fleeing Iran. Even religions which challenged the social norms of Hinduism like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were all allowed to be developed and practiced freely. All these communities have lived and prospered in India. As one historian had pointed out “it was because of the fact that Hinduism was the major religion in India were other religions allowed to prosper”. Indians and particularly Hindus would be the first to acknowledge about the social evils that have and, to some extent, are still plaguing the country. But to ignore the greatness to highlight the evil is something no self righteous Hindu would accept. It would be like teaching Christianity and Islam during their most violent and brutal periods.The fact is that this is not about the way the Hindu religion was being was the manner in which a country and its majority people were being projected. This plain fact should make all Indians, irrespective of their religion, to stand up and take notice.This action taken by the Hindu community of California is indeed a small but significant step. But more things need to be done to bring into place a system where India and Hinduism is fairly represented in schools abroad.

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