December 05, 2005

Witzel-Angana-Raju Rajagopal-CPI-M coalition against hindu children

The following documents are annexed:

1. Communists disturbed by US hindu efforts (People's Democracy)
2. Angana Chatterji disturbed by US hindu efforts (Pacific News Report)
3. Raju Rajagopal disturbe by US hindu efforts (Letter to CA State Board of Education -- SBE -- of Nov. 30, 2005).
4. A brief report datelined Dec. 4, 2005, on the happenings on Dec. 1 and 2 in the Curriculum Commission of SBE

Background

An exercise had been ongoing for about 8 months until December 2005 in California State Board of Education (SBE) to review a few Sixth Grade School Textbooks which contained references to hindu civilization, culture and history. These revisions were requested by parents in terms of the SBE mandate to include such material as will instill a sense of pride in the children on the hindu heritage.

A group of self-proclaimed 'international academics' led by Michael Witzel, a professor of Harvard University launched a midnight operation threatening the SBE with international scandal if the requests of the hindu parents are accepted. To create this international scandal, support from people like John Dayal were solicited. It now appears that support was also solicited from CPI-M and naxals like Angana Chatterjee.

The fourth annex details what transpired in the deliberations of SBE's Curriculum Commission.

When history has to be made, it has to be made by presenting satyam. Definition of satyam is not easy; one definition says don't utter unpleasant satyam (na brooyaat satyam apriyam). This means utter such accounts which will instill a sense of pride on hindu heritage.

What the Witzel-naxal-mullah-marxist-missionary coalition attempted to achieve was a negation of this pride and injecting a sense of hatred in the hindu children about hindu heritage.

The battle is not yet over. Many battles have to be fought against the marxist-mullah-missionary axis which has now gone global (international).


Dhanyavaadah.



Communists disturbed by US Hindu efforts
People's Democracy
(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


----------------------------------------------------------------------
----------
Vol. XXIX No. 49 December 04, 2005
RSS Now Targets California Textbooks
Nalini Taneja

THE battle over secular texts on Indian history for schools and a
rational view of the past is not confined to the matter of NCERT
textbooks in India. More recently the RSS inspired organisations and
the Hindutva lobbyists in the US have been over-active in attempting
to change school textbooks in the state of California. That they have
not had a walk-over is thanks to the vigilance and commitment of the
many academics involved in Indian studies all over the world, who
have solidly opposed these moves.



The proposed changes in favour of the Hindutva view of Indian history
and culture in the school texts became known only on November 5,
2005. Some of the individuals who had been asked to sign a
memorandum, prepared by The Vedic Foundation, got alarmed and were
alert enough to write to Professor Witzel of Harvard University, who
has been consistently and publicly writing against the Hindutva
concoctions of history. Thereafter the matter snowballed into a
controversy at November 9 public hearing when a letter from Professor
Michael Witzel was submitted to the Board of Education informing them
of the motivations of the Hindutva efforts and requesting them to
reject the Hindutva-recommended changes.



The State of California is now in the final stages of approving the
history/social science textbooks for grade 6-8 in schools. This
exercise takes place periodically and a number of publishers submit
their books for approval and selection on these occasions to the
Department of Education. It is at this stage this year that two
Hindutva organisations based in the US, the Hindu Education
Foundation and the Vedic Foundation, submitted what they argued were
necessary "corrections" to be made in the textbooks approved, and
Shiva Bajpai, a Hindutva-leaning advisor to the California Board of
Education, succeeded in getting virtually all the changes requested
by them approved by an ad hoc committee of the State Board of
education.



RENOWNED HISTORIANS REJECT HINDUTVA LOBBY CORRECTIONS



Professor Witzel and Professor Steve Farmer, along with fifty other
academics, including renowned Indian historians Romila Thapar, DN Jha
and Shereen Ratnagar, have written to Ruth Green, president, State
Board of Education, California, on behalf of "world specialists on
ancient India", reflecting "mainstream academic opinion in India,
Pakistan, the United States, Europe, Australia, Taiwan and Japan",
to "reject the demands by nationalist Hindu (Hindutva) groups" that
California textbooks be altered to conform to their religious-
political views." They have pointed out that "the proposed revisions
are not of a scholarly, but of a religious-political nature and are
primarily promoted by Hindutva supporters and non-specialist
academics writing about issues far outside their areas of expertise",
and that "these views not reflect the views of majority of the
specialists on ancient Indian history, nor of majority of the Hindus."



Their letter also says that these proposed `corrections' are
motivated by political agendas discriminatory to millions of people
in India, especially the minorities, lower castes, and women, and
that they have been debated thoroughly and rejected in India as well
by academics and secular political forces. They have clearly warned
that the endorsement of the views of these Hindutva so-called
scholars by the California State Board of Education would cause a
virtual international scandal.



They have referred in their letter to the US State
Department "International Religious Freedom Report 2003" and the one
for 2004, which gave considerable space to the social and political
tensions that arose (mentioning Gujarat as example), and were likely
to exacerbate, in India through textbooks that vilified minorities.
Given this, the letter argued, the acceptance of the pro- Hindutva
changes by the State Board of Education in California amounted to
going against the wisdom of US State policy as well.



The Board has now, since the November 9 public hearing, come to
accept the perspective of these eminent scholars, and has since been
working with them to allow only such changes as meet the standards of
objective scholarship. Yet the battle is not over. The next public
hearing is scheduled for December 1, after which the State Board on
Education will take its decision to finally reject/include the
changes it initially approved at the behest of their Hindutva leaning
advisor, Shiv Bajpai. The final step in the process is the adoption
of the recommendation of the Board of Education by the Curriculum
Commission also on December 1-2, 2005.



STRENGTHENING THE SECULAR POSITION


To strengthen the secular position a petition has also been
circulated on the internet and signatures are pouring in every day.
They have also appealed to the public at large that "If you believe
in teaching California's children true history and culture of India,
it is very important for you to attend the public hearing on December
1 and 2 in Sacramento and voice your opinion rejecting the Hindutva-
recommended changes." The major demand is that no changes should be
made in textbooks at the behest of any organisation/individual other
than the distinguished panel of scholars the Board has been working
with since November 9.



On the other side, Pranawa C Deshmukh, a professor of physics at
Indian Institute of Technology is mobilising Hindutva forces in
support of the changes suggested by the Vedic Foundation and the RSS-
inspired Hindu Education Foundation. A large number of their cronies
are likely to either write to the Curriculum Commission or show up at
the public hearing. Among such members is the notorious David
Frawley!



A look at the specific changes demanded by the Hindutva organisations
would show them to be integral to the Sangh Parivar political agenda,
and very similar to what the BJP government was trying to do here
with the NCERT syllabus and the NCERT textbooks in social sciences,
particularly history.



CORRECTION SUGGESTED BY HINDUTVA FORCES


For example, among the `corrections' suggested is a clear attempt to
deny the integrality, in fact the very mention of the caste system in
ancient India. On women, they are anxious to present their gender
bias in the form of `difference', a very fashionable and now
sanctioned social science category pushed through by post modernists.



In one textbook the changes included a specific addition that "the
recent archaeological proofs are negating the Aryan invasion theory.
The new theory suggests that Aryans were not the outsiders." The
lines saying "Men had many more rights than women" was to be replaced
by "Men had different duties (dharma) and rights than women. Many
women were among the sages to whom the Vedas were revealed."



In another textbook the entire paragraph on the caste system was to
be deleted, and the picture of an untouchable removed. Other
corrections pertained to putting back the dates for the Rig Veda,
confusing the dates of the Indus and Harappa city-based civilisations
with the Vedic civilization to show the antiquity/indigenous origin
of the Aryans in India, conflating Brahmanical beliefs with Hinduism,
denying the plurality of gods worshipped through history in favour of
one God in different forms, depicting shudras as "serving all
classes" and doing "labour intensive work" rather than serving the
three upper castes and so on. The sentences dealing with the
sacredness of the cows, diet, were also suitably amended.



Tolerance was presented as "usual" for the time of Ashoka in ancient
India, and references to science and mathematics in ancient India
were modified so as to present it as the earliest and greatest
civilisation, while references to the negative aspects of society in
ancient India were sought to be deleted or presented as cultural
specificities rather than oppression. They also wanted to insert long
sections written out by themselves, which were not allowed as they
over- stepped the brief for updating of texts and "corrections".



This entire effort is part of the RSS's larger goal to "educate" the
Hindu children brought up in the US to be "good Hindus" and to "learn
the truth about Indian history and culture", no doubt assisting in
the search for "roots" and "anchor" that the Hindu youth —like the
other immigrants—hanker for! That these children could become
Hindutva's international support one day is one thing; they could
well become its victims right now if the powerful Hindutva
organisations in the US are allowed to have their way.

CPIM



Click
Hindus and Sikhs Protest Curriculum Changes in Calif. Textbooks

News Report, Viji Sundaram,
India West, Dec 02, 2005
Some Hindu and Sikh activists in the U.S. who have been trying in recent months to persuade the California Board of Education to adopt curriculum revisions in textbooks for elementary and middle school students say they are unhappy over the direction their efforts seem to have taken while on the home stretch.

A clutch of academics and historians, who have just recently joined the debate, seems to have neutralized the gains the activists believe they had made. The academics weighed in with their views Nov. 8, which collectively dismiss many of the curriculum changes suggested over the past year by individual Hindus, as well as such organizations as the Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Society.

For example, one of the statements Hindu activists want deleted from a social science book is that Aryans were a "part of a larger group of people historians refer to as the Indo-Europeans."

The activists assert Aryans were not a race, but a term for persons of noble intellect. The academics have urged that this statement not be removed.

In that same book, Hindu activists want the statement, "Men had many more rights than women," replaced with, "Men had different duties (dharma) as well as rights than women. Many women were among the sages to whom the Vedas were revealed."

The response from the academics? "Do not change original text."

Writing on behalf of the academics, Michael Witzel, a Sanskrit professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., asserted that the groups proposing the changes have a hidden agenda.

"The proposed revisions are not of a scholarly but of a religious-political nature, and are primarily promoted by Hindutva supporters and non-specialist academics writing about issues far outside their area of expertise," Witzel wrote to CBE president Ruth Green in the letter.

Among the 45 or so signatories to his letter are Stanley Wolpert, professor of history at UCLA, and Romila Thapar, India's well-known historian.

Witzel also said that in the last two years, Indian educators themselves have "soundly repudiated" similar revisions in Indian history textbooks suggested by Hindu groups.

The CBE has included the recommendations by Witzel and other academics who have co-signed his letter, under the heading, "Final Recommendations," which seems to suggest that its vote later this week would more than likely favor the academics.

"I think the (December) meeting is a mere formality," noted Princeton, N.J., resident Rajiv Malhotra, who participated in the push for reforms. "I think the deck is stacked against Hindus," he told India-West.

Even so, supporters and opponents of reforms are planning to show up in large numbers at the Board of Education office in Sacramento Dec. 1 and 2, when the curriculum commission is slated to vote on the suggested changes.

Supporters are hoping to make a last ditch effort to have their voices heard. They say it is crucial that the CBE accepts their suggestions if students are to get a proper perspective of Indian culture and history.

"The social science and history textbooks do not give as generous a portrayal of Indian culture as they do of Islamic, Jewish and Christian cultures," asserted Malhotra, founder of Infinity Foundation, an organization that is trying to give a "fair" portrayal of India in the U.S. "The Board of Education needs to have a standard that should be applied to all religions."

"There's a Euro-centric slant to what's being taught in California classrooms," noted San Francisco Bay Area resident Mona Vijaykar to India-West. "I'm upset that India's contribution to modern civilization is not highlighted, and presented like European civilization is."

Vijaykar runs the "India in Classrooms" program she launched two years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area to set right misconceptions teachers and students have about Indian history and culture.

And Prof. Onkar S. Bindra, who teaches Indian studies at the Renaissance Society, a retirement learning facility at California State University in Sacramento, complained that most of the social science and history books have no mention about the contributions Sikhs have made in their homeland or in their adopted country.

"There are 200,000 Sikhs in California, a significant enough number to deserve mention in California textbooks," Bindra told India-West.

One reason the protests of Hindu and Sikh activists may well be brushed off by the CBE is the fact that there is little sign that these demands have resonated either within the broader Indian American community in California, or the substantial number of humanities experts of Indian descent in U.S. academia.

With several hundred thousand Indian Americans in the state, none of the major community organizations has expressed any support. Witzel's letter, on the other hand, includes signatories like Harvard professor Homi Bhabha, University of Michigan professor Madhav Deshpande, in addition to Thapar, arguably one of the world's most respected experts in ancient Indian history.

Every six years, the CBE meets with textbook publishers for possible revisions.

The books are then sent to all the educational institutions in the 50 counties in the state so educators and parents can offer suggestions.

The CBE began the elaborate revision process about one year ago. Since then, it has been reviewing the suggested changes, including those it received at public hearings it held.

At one of those hearings in November, for nearly five hours the 13-member CBE board heard members of the Hindu and Sikh communities put forth their arguments for changes. Most said they felt slighted by the materials in the textbooks.

Vijaykar told India-West that a social science textbook depicted a Hindu bride as sitting with a white sheet pulled over her head in front of a sacred fire, as if "she was weighed down by the sheet." And brides in India don't wear white, only widows do, she said.

"Hinduism is not treated with the same respect as Christianity or Judaism," Dr. Mihir Meghani, president of the Hindu American Foundation, told the board. Unlike in those faiths, "the sacred scriptures of Hinduism are referred to as legends or myths."

Bindra, among other Sikh speakers that day, told the board that the existing textbooks will not help elementary and middle school students in identifying with and respecting the Sikh culture, something that is so important, especially after 9/11.

"Students need to know that almost everyone who wears turbans in America are Sikhs from Punjab in India, and they have nothing to do with the Taliban or Osama bin Laden," he said.

Among the Hindu groups trying to push for curriculum changes are the Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Foundation.

Trying to get more Hindus involved in what it called the "Curriculum Reform Initiative," the Vedic Foundation cited a passage in one of the existing textbooks that spoke of Hanuman in a frivolous manner. The foundation pointed out that "teachings such as these promote the rejection of a valuable spiritual and cultural tradition by Hindu youth."

But the issue has also pitted one group of Indian Americans against some others. Leftist and political activist Angana Chatterji , who teaches at the San Francisco-based California Institute of Integral Studies, told India-West that like Witzel and his supporters, she believes that those pushing for curriculum changes in the history books are "Hindu nationalists," and the changes they are proposing are "not ethical."

For example, she said, those pushing for reforms want India to be portrayed as a former "Hindu state."

"I agree some parts of the curriculum require re-representation," Chatterji said, but quickly noted: "History isn't about how good we feel about ourselves. There's a difference between history and nationalism."

Former deputy superintendent of the San Mateo and Foster City school districts Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who once served on a math textbook evaluation committee, felt that some of the demands of the Hindu organizations were a stretch -- asking that the history textbooks say that Ram Rajya lasted for 1.8 million years, for one.

"A scientific mind is not going to accept that," Prasad said, pointing out, however, that depicting brides in the manner described by Vijaykar needs to be corrected.

He defended the CBE's curriculum revision modus operandi as "fair and just."

"They are not prejudiced people," Prasad told India-West, noting that CBE members take their responsibilities very seriously because "they realize that if they screw up in California, the rest of the nation will be screwed."

California is the largest purchaser of textbooks and, therefore, educational publishers are careful to win approval from the CBE.

"The trend has always been that whatever California adopts, most of the rest of the nation adopts," Prasad said.

URGENT: Public Comments for the Commission's Dec 1-2, 2005 Meeting



November 30, 2005



Dr. Norma Baker
Chair, Curriculum Commission
California State Board of Education

1430 N Street, Suite 3207
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: History-Social Science Subject Matter on Indian Culture and History [for Grade Schools]



Dear Dr. Baker,



I understand that the Curriculum Commission is reviewing the Ad Hoc Committee recommendations for changes to History-Social Science text books and welcomes public comments before it submits its report to the Board of Education on December 2, 2005.



My wife and I have been residents of California for 34 years; we are parents of two children who were educated in California public schools--Los Cerros Middle and Monte Vista High in Danville; and we are, of course, very keen that California's school children not only learn about American and European histories, but also gain a basic understanding of the histories and cultures of the developing world. We therefore applaud the initiative of the Board of Education to update and broaden its instructional material on countries such as India.



At the same time, I am deeply concerned--judging from reports on the Web--that the India material may be in danger of being unduly influenced by a sectarian ideology (often referred to as Hindutva), which has lead to enormous loss of lives and property in India in recent years and has been rebuffed by the Indian electorate in recent national polls. I therefore strongly support the urgent call by South Asia scholars from around the world, including Prof. Michael Witzel of Harvard University, Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, to reject the changes proposed by organizations purporting to represent the "true" history of India and Hinduism, but in reality only represent the narrow viewpoints of Hindutva thinkers, who have so far failed in their attempts to reinvent Indian history. (Please see attachment for additional background on one of the prime-movers behind these organized efforts: Dr. David Frawley, a convert to Hinduism and a self-styled Historian from Santa Fe, New Mexico.)



Notwithstanding the above, I feel that the Commission ought to take this opportunity to re-review the proposed material to ensure that it meets the standards of objective scholarship. Specifically, I have four areas of concern with respect to India:



1. Perpetuating simplistic and negative stereotypes that do not belong in a child's first understanding of another culture: e.g. enduring image of a starving cow, in my opinion, is no more relevant to an American child's first exposure to India than the image of a homeless person in D.C. would be to a Chinese child's first exposure to America; both can only come in the way of a broader understanding of the other culture in the child's later years.



2. Statements on the status of women--e.g. "Hinduism taught that women were inferior to men."--which, while they may be true, are not particularly unique to any one religious tradition, and can only draw legitimate criticism that one culture is being singled out in a negative light. (I have not read the proposed text books in full and hence can not comment on whether similar comments are offered with respect to Christianity, Islam, or Judaism.)



3. I am shocked at attempts by the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) and the Vedic Foundation (VF) to wish away the Caste System with a sleight of their hands—e.g. "it presumes that the caste system is present in India today." (For one example of how millions of Indians continue to suffer under the insidious Caste System even today, please see ) If anything, I feel that our curriculum should encourage a more contemporary understanding of the Caste System by stimulating class-room discussions of parallels--and contrasts--with the legacy of slavery, the civil rights movement, and affirmative action programs in America.



4. Prof. Shiva Bajpai, whose advice the Board apparently sought on the India material, has in the past identified himself closely with people like of Dr. David Frawley (see ) and their attempts to reinvent Indian history. It is therefore not surprising that he seems to have accepted HEF/VF's suggested edits without any due diligence. Prof. Bajpai, in my opinion, does not bring the objectivity necessary for any further review of the India subject matter, which should be delegated to a panel of reputed India scholars.



In closing, I would like to thank the Curriculum Commission and the Department of Education for affording me the opportunity to comment on this matter of great significance to our future generations; and I would like to request that this letter be placed in the pubic record as part of the upcoming meeting of December 1-2, 2005.


Sincerely,



Raju Rajagopal

Berkeley, CA


cc:
Mr. Jack O' Connell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Director of Education
Thomas Adams, Executive Director to the Curriculum Commission
Dr. Deborah Keys, Vice Chair, Curriculum Commission

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Excerpts from the "Scholarship" of Dr. David Frawley, Advisor to the Hindu Education Foundation:



Dr. David Frawley (who also calls himself Vamadeva Shastri) is the Director of American Institute of Vedic Studies, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is an advisor to the Hindu Education Foundation. He lists his fields of study as Ayurveda, Astrology, Yoga and Vedic philosophy; but, unfortunately, he frequently ventures into a "reexamination of ancient history," which is not his particular area of expertise. His attacks against Christianity are particularly vicious, which, coming from a Westerner and a former Catholic, lends an extra air of legitimacy in the eyes of Hindutva forces in India, who have been accused of numerous assaults against Christian organizations in recent years. (Please see Human Rights Watch Report: ). For example, in a booklet sold at RSS bookstores--RSS is the mother-house of Hindutva organizations--Dr. Frawley and his co-authors make sweeping accusations against the Vatican and the Pope, against Ms. Sonia Gandhi; and they question the 'loyalty' of India's Christian minority (see excerpts below).



Reasonable people may indeed strongly disagree with the increasingly aggressive tactics of Christian evangelists world-wide; verbal tirades against an entire religious community may well be protected under our First Amendment rights; but, in India, many of the statements below would be in direct violation of Indian Penal Code, Section 153A-B, which specifically prohibits any attempt to create disharmony among communities or holding forth that a section of India's citizens are not loyal to their country of birth (see ).



I present the following example to question the "scholarship" of groups like HEF in determining how we ought to teach India's culture and religions in California 's public schools:



"…the spectre of rising Islam …is making Christian organizations resort to desperate methods—like possible collusion with Muslim fundamentalist outfits to create discord…" (p1)



"Christian leaders—including the Pope—have decided to let their brothers and sisters in Pakistan suffer atrocities in Pakistan, but use their tormentors to defame the Hindus and destabilize the Government." (p2)



"…the major activity of some highly touted Christian missions in India like Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charities is to recruit nuns (through conversions) as cheap labor for Church run hospitals in Europe and America." (p7)



Message to Christians: "It is futile for them [India's Christians] to think that the West will intervene to save them if their leaders whip up a propaganda campaign against the Hindus. This is very short-sighted, for their greatest safeguard is the goodwill of the majority." (p8)



"Their loyalty [Christian leaders] is to the Mother Church and not to the motherland—or her people." (p9)



"The Vatican and other Christian institutions have nothing constructive to offer in this struggle for civilization. They have at best a nuisance value…." (p 18)



"The Vatican's plan is to fight Islam to the last Indian." (p22)



Excerpted from "CRUSADE IN INDIA: Christianity's struggle for survival in the post-colonial world" by David Frawley, N.S. Rajaram and S.V. Seshagiri Rao, published by Naimisha Research Foundation, Bangalore, India, August 2000.

Click

December 4, 2005

1.. California School Board Accepts Most Hindu Changes to Sixth
Grade Textbooks
1. California School Board Accepts Most Hindu Changes to Sixth Grade
Textbooks

HPI

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, December 4, 2005: California Hindus breathed
a sigh of relief after yesterday's meeting of the State Board of
Education Curriculum Commission. The Vedic Foundation (here) and
Hindu Education Foundation (here) worked for months through the
California Department of Education (CDE) procedures suggesting
improvements for the sections of California textbooks that deal with
India and Hinduism. Their 170 corrections ("edits," as the CDE calls
them) were initially reviewed by an "Ad-Hoc Committee" which
included renowned Indologist, Dr. Shiva Bajpai, who had been hired
by the Commission, and CDE staff. But then at the intervention of
Dr. Michael Witzel of Harvard University, a last-minute "Content
Review Panel" was set up to go over the changes approved by Dr.
Bajpai's committee again. Witzel claimed the changes were motivated
by "Hindutva" forces a nd would "lead without fail to an
international educational scandal if they are accepted by the
California's State Board of Education." This panel, comprised of Dr.
Witzel, Dr. Stanley Wolpert of UCLA and Dr. James Heitzman, Director
of Summer Sessions, University of California, Davis, rejected 58 of
the proposed Hindu edits, especially those dealing with an "Aryan
Invasion" of India in ancient times. Their recommendations and
evaluations are posted here.

Hindus despaired as they believed the Curriculum Commission would
accept the Witzel panel recommendations in their entirety. This is
not, however, what happened. Near the beginning of the meeting on
Friday, Commissioner Dr. Stan Metzenberg, a professor of biology at
California State University Northridge, made a motion to accept all
of the original recommendations of the Hindu groups as approved by
Dr. Bajpai's committee, with the provision to go through the Witzel
panel rejections of 58 one by one. This motion passed.

The Commission then went through the 58 rejections, ultimately
accepting only about a dozen.

Ten textbooks were under consideration for adoption for 6th grade
social studies classes in the California schools. The text book
manufacturers produce preliminary editions of their books, which are
then distributed throughout school districts in California and
comments and corrections requested. The Curriculum Commission
considered changes from certain groups. These edits had to be
relatively minor, and not represent major additions or deletions to
the texts. Each group might submit from dozens to hundreds of edits.
Everything had to be in line with the California "Framework" or
guidelines for the subject, which will be explained further on in
this article.

Much of the discussion during the five-hour meeting was between
Commissioner Dr. Charles Munger, Jr., physicist, Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center, and Commissioner Metzenberg. Consultant Heitzman
was the only one allowed to address the Commission on any questions
until Janeshwari Devi, Director of Programs for the Vedic
Foundation, complained to Commission members that no Hindus were
being consulted. She was allowed to make a few comments, and then no
further questions were addressed either to her or Dr. Heitzman.
Commissioner Munger, who identified himself as an Episcopalian, was
the only Board member who advocated accepting the edits of the
Witzel panel. Commissioner Metzenburg took the view that Hindus
should at least be able to recognize their own religion when they
read these textbooks. Some Commissioners abstained from voting,
citing lack of expertise on the subject. Commissioners Man and
Levine actively made and seconded motions to get the Commission
through the long list of edits in a timely way, and Commissioner
Munger's attempts to get Witzel's version of Hindu religion into the
texts were voted down time and again.

On the contentious point of an "Aryan Invasion" of India 1500 bce,
Heitzman agreed to soften this to "Aryan migration," as there is no
evidence found of a violent invasion. But Commissioner Metzenberg, a
biologist, objected on scientific grounds. He said, "I've read the
DNA research and there was no Aryan migration. I believe the hard
evidence of DNA more than I believe historians." It was finally
agreed to say, "Some historians believe in the theory of an Aryan
migration." This is not as much change as Hindus requested, but it
was a major step.

One change recommended by the Vedic Foundation was the use
of "deity" for "statue" in referring to the carved image of a God or
Goddess, called "murthi" in Sanskrit. This change was recommended by
Bajpai and rejected by Witzel's group. The Commission agreed to the
Hindu request to change "statue" to "deity."

Another issue the Witzel panel disapproved was to use upper-case "G"
for God when referring to Hindu worship of God. Commissioner Levine
noted that for Hindus there are many forms of the one God.

Hindus requested one sentence in one book be changed from
saying, "Modern Hindu continue to visit temples to express their
love of the gods," to "...visit temples to worship and express their
love for God." This was rejected by Witzel's group, but accepted by
the Commission. Similar changes were accepted throughout the books.

At one point, Dr. Heitzman said to the Commission, "I advise you to
err on the side of conservatism and be very careful about adopting
any of these changes." Commissioner Metzenberg replied
pointedly, "On the contrary, to err on the side of conservatism, we
should use the Hindu suggestions. After all, it's their religion."
Metzenberg also felt a comment by Witzel's panel on one edit
was "insensitive." The edit was to fix the incorrect statement that
the Ramayan was written later than the Mahabharata. Witzel's group
wrote, "Who in Sixth Grade cares which epic was 'written' first?"
Metzenberg observed that it obviously matters to Hindus."

Another edit was to change the definition of yoga from "Yoga is a
type of ... slow breathing" explaining its derivation from the
Sanskrit "yog," meaning "joining together.

Janeshwari Devi considers the proceedings a partial victory. Her
main concern was that 355 edits submitted by the Vedic Foundation
dealing with eight of the ten books were shelved during earlier
proceedings and not even considered at this meeting. She felt this
was a breach of CDE procedure and plans to appeal. She said, "The
most significant event of yesterday was that scholarship prevailed
instead of scholars who hold anti-Hindu views and have an agenda to
keep Aryan Invasion in the books."

Immediately following the Hindu edits, some 600 plus edits from the
Jewish community were accepted in their entirety. This is an
interesting list to Hindus, and shows the possibilities for
adjustment to the texts. The entire list of edits is available here.
This is a 117 page document, beginning with the Jewish and Muslim
issues and ending with the Hindu (from pages 77 to 105). This
document also contains the Hindu corrections as reviewed and
recommended by Dr. Bajpai.

Many of the complaints from the Jewish groups were on the subject of
Jesus. One, for example, said "The text often implicated Jews in the
death of Jesus, and suggests conflict between Jesus and the Jewish
authorities. This is in violation of the California standards." On
page 27 of the edit document is a list of general complaints by
Jews. "The Institute for Curriculum Services (who reviewed the
texts) reviewers object to the use of the word 'story' in reference
to the Hebrew Bible, as they allege it conveys the idea that the
events described are fictitious." Hindus made a similar complaint
about their scriptures being referred to as "stories."

The Jews objected to this sentence, "King Herod was known for his
cruelty and the additions he made to the Jewish temple in
Jerusalem." They said, "The statement of Herod's cruelty is another
instance of unnecessary negative information about Jewish kings."
Their objection was accepted and the statement rewritten. In another
edit, they objected to the comparison of California state hiring
builders to build something (the text is not fully quoted) and
the "Kingdom of Solomon built with forced labor." They state, "This
is an inappropriate comparison that places modern standards on the
ancient kingdom of Israel."

In one edit they complained about the term "Wailing Wall" for the
Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem, as being "undignified" and
not used by Jews. They complained repeatedly that certain comments
and student exercises would promote anti-Semitism.

An important edit which relates to the Hindu issues is over the
Exodus, the escape of the Jews from Egypt in ancient times. The text
of one book read, "Unfortunately, Egyptian records from the time
don't mention the Exodus of the Israelite slaves. And archeology
hasn't uncovered any evidence of their years in Egypt, nor of their
dramatic departure. We have only the biblical account for evidence."
They objected to this and had it replaced with, "For Jews, the
Exodus is a central event in their hi story..." No mentioned was
allowed for the doubt of historians.

A common theme in the Jewish edits was taking out references to
Christianity as somehow an "improvement" upon Judaism, or
a "replacement" for Judaism. This same kind of thinking comes in the
text descriptions of both Buddhism and Jainism, which are presented
as "improvements" over Hindus. Khandarao of the Hindu Education
Foundation, said, "Just as the books can't criticize Judaism in
explaining Christianity, they shouldn't be able to criticize
Hinduism in presenting Buddhism."

It is important to understand these issues in the light of the
California laws governing school textbooks. There are two documents
which contain these laws that are relevant here. One is
the "Standards for Evaluating Instruction Materials for Social
Content," here, and the other is the History-Social Science
Framework," here.

The first is the guiding principles, and with regard to religion it
reads in full:

"Education Code Section 60044(a) and Subsection (b):

Purpose. The standards enable all students to become aware and
accepting of religious diversity while being allowed to remain
secure in any religious beliefs they may already have.

Method. The standards will be achieved by depicting, when
appropriate, the diversity of religious beliefs held in the United
States and California, as well as in other societies, without
displaying bias toward or prejudice against any of those beliefs or
religious beliefs in general.

Applicability of Standards. The standards are derived to a degree
from the United States and the California constitutions and relate
closely to the requirements concerning the portrayal of cultural
diversity. Compliance is required.

These standards should not be construed to mean that the mere
depiction of religious pr actices constitutes indoctrination.
Religious music and art, for example, may be included in
instructional materials when appropriate.

1. Adverse reflection. No religious belief or practice may be held
up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior.

2. Indoctrination. Any explanation or description of a religious
belief or practice should be presented in a manner that does not
encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any
particular religious belief.

3. Diversity. When religion is discussed or depicted, portrayals of
contemporary American society should reflect religious diversity."

The Jewish groups often cited these principles in making edits,
especially "adverse reflection."

The second document is the "Framework," which lists in detail what
is to be taught. Hinduism appears in the section on ancient history.
The section reads:

6.5 Students analyze the geographic, poli tical, economic,
religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of India.
1. Locate and describe the major river system and discuss the
physical setting that supported the rise of this civilization.
2. Discuss the significance of the Aryan invasions.
3. Explain the major beliefs and practices of Brahmanism in India
and how they evolved into early Hinduism.
4. Outline the social structure of the caste system.
5. Know the life and moral teachings of the Buddha and how Buddhism
spread in India, Ceylon, and Central Asia.
6. Describe the growth of the Maurya empire and the political and
moral achievements of the emperor Asoka.
7. Discuss important aesthetic and intellectual traditions (e.g.,
Sanskrit literature, including the Bhagavad Gita; medicine;
metallurgy; and mathematics, including Hindu-Arabic numerals and the
zero).

For comparison, here is the section on Judaism:

6.3 Students analyze the geographic, po litical, economic,
religious, and social structures of the Ancient Hebrews.
1. Describe the origins and significance of Judaism as the first
monotheistic religion based on the concept of one God who sets down
moral laws for humanity.
2. Identify the sources of the ethical teachings and central beliefs
of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible, the Commentaries): belief in God,
observance of law, practice of the concepts of righteousness and
justice, and importance of study; and describe how the ideas of the
Hebrew traditions are reflected in the moral and ethical traditions
of Western civilization.
3. Explain the significance of Abraham, Moses, Naomi, Ruth, David,
and Yohanan ben Zaccai in the development of the Jewish religion.
4. Discuss the locations of the settlements and movements of Hebrew
peoples, including the Exodus and their movement to and from Egypt,
and outline the significance of the Exodus to the Jewish and other
people.
5. Discuss how Judaism surv ived and developed despite the
continuing dispersion of much of the Jewish population from
Jerusalem and the rest of Israel after the destruction of the second
Temple in A.D. 70.

The Judaism section is much more comprehensive in terms of theology
than the Hindu section is. Under Hinduism, students learn Aryan
Invasion and caste more than theology, and the Bhagavad Gita is
listed under "aesthetic and intellectual traditions," rather than
religion. "Religion isn't even mentioned under Hinduism, while it is
listed twice under Judaism. This framework comes up for review in
2008, we understand, and Hindus can request improvements.

Hindu parents in California and other states who are so concerned
about what is in their children's textbooks should all continue to
take an interest in this issue. The Vedic Foundation and Hindu
Education Foundation are to be commended for their months of
diligent work.

No comments: