Thursday, March 09, 2006

California Textbook Controversy: Revisionist History?

Now I finally know the reason why teachers in our district have been waiting since October for new history textbooks. The delay was due to some Hindu groups being unhappy with the way their religion was presented in the texts that were originally approved by the the State Board of Education:
The teaching of Hinduism as it appears in California school textbooks has been the subject of much debate in Sacramento. Some Hindu groups in the Bay Area demanded changes to the way their history is presented.

This is one of the controversial textbooks opposed by some Hindu groups. That opposition was voiced again Wednesday in Sacramento before the Board of Education.

Jeevan Zutshi, Indo-American Community Federation: "I see here two issues. One is accuracy in the textbooks and second is fairness compared to other religions."

Accuracy and fairness -- two elements, some say, are missing in the school textbooks when it comes to teaching Hinduism.

Janeshwari Devi, The Vedic Foundation: "For example, God in Hinduism is spelled with a small "g" and God of all other religions is spelled with a capital "G."

She and others also wanted publishers to replace the text which refers to men as once having more rights than women in India to men had different rights and duties than women.

That's when scholars from around the nation stepped in.

Amgana Chatterji, California Inst. of State Integral Studies: "The idea of getting children in a classroom is to teach them diverse and complex histories."

Dr. Chatterji and others want to keep the textbooks the way they are including an explanation of the caste system which, they say, has caused oppression in India.

Last week a special committee of the Board of Education voted to make very few changes. Now, the full Board of Education acted on their advice adding only a few minor changes.

With this vote, the publisher has been given the green light to print the textbooks. But the Hindu Foundation, a national organization, now says they'll take legal action against the Board of Education.
Of course our district never bothered to tell us history teachers a thing other than some vague explanation that the delay was due to "the process." But then again, to officials in our district, we're "just teachers."
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