California Textbook Controversy: ‘India’ not to be replaced with ‘South Asia’

The Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) that met on Thursday to decide upon the final stages of History Social Science Framework to be adopted for the next ten years in California schools, has decided to retain references to ‘India’ and ‘Hinduism’ in school textbooks.

Sacramento, California, May 20: In what may bring relief to hundreds of Indian American families of California, the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) that met on Thursday to decide upon the final stages of History Social Science Framework to be adopted for the next ten years in California schools, has decided to retain references to ‘India’ and ‘Hinduism’ in school textbooks.

California has witnessed a raging debate regarding the portrayal of Indian history in California’s school textbooks. A group of South Asia studies faculty- South Asia Faculty Group (SAFG)- had asked the California Board of Education (CBE) to remove references to “India” and “Hinduism” and to replace them with the words “South Asia” and “Ancient Indian Religion.” Following these suggestions, the IQC in its review on March 24th had accepted many of the edits proposed by the SAFG.

Opposing some of these edits, many Hindu groups, had requested the CBE to not erase references to India and Hinduism and thus uproot Hindu American children from their roots. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) had run a successful Social Media campaign titled ‘Don’t Erase India’. Similarly, a group of academics led by Prof. Vamsee Juluri, Professor of Media Studies and Asian Studies, USF under “Scholars for People” had initiated a petition against the proposed changes, which was signed by more than 25,000 people within a few days. Recently, another group of mainstream scholars. Recently, another group of academics, with scholars such as Barbara McGraw of Saint Marys College of California, Diana Eck of Harvard University and Gerald James Larson of Indiana University, under the name “Social Science and Religion Faculty Group (SSRFG)” had also urged the CBE to retain references to ‘India’ and ‘Hinduism’.

Following these multiple petitions to the CBE, the full-membership panel of IQC, which reviewed its March 24th decisions yesterday, has decided to revise its earlier decision to remove usage of terms- India and Hinduism, though they have retained most of their other decisions from March 24th meet.

According to initial reports, the IQC backtracked from using ‘Ancient South Asia’ in its chapter and will retain the usage of ‘Ancient India’. It further backtracked from completely removing references to ‘Hinduism’, but has decided to retain the compromise suggestion of using ‘ancient Indian religions, including but not limited to Hinduism’, reached on March 24th. They also backtracked from their earlier decision of deleting references to ‘Valmiki’ and “Vyasa’ in the context of sages who were not born into Brahmin families and respected by Dalit communities.

Unfortunately, the IQC deleted references to Jatis that had described them as being self-governing in ancient India. Further, they decided to retain references to Caste that portrayed a very narrow view of Caste as being tied only to birth and as being integral to Hinduism. But, contrary to the treatment meted out to caste and Hinduism, the IQC reopened an accepted change regarding slavery in Islam and whitewashed the same. As a result, the California textbooks will still portray Hinduism as being synonymous with Caste system, whereas other religions have been sanitized with respect to many of their practices.

The IQC will likely next take up interfacing with textbook publishers and bring out new textbooks within a year or two.  The IQC’s decision to retain references to India and Hinduism has brought relief to many Hindu Americans, though the setback regarding the portrayal of Caste is likely to remain a concern. Welcoming the final outcome of the IQC meet, Professor Vamsee Juluri tweeted:

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