India?not just karma, cows and caste:
US schools ?detoxed? Indian history
Times of India, May 12, 2005
A concerted year-long campaign by Indian American parents in Virginia'sFairfax County has resulted in revision of textbooks on Indian history, ensuring that children will not look at Indian culture as mere ?karma, cows and caste?.
Businesswoman Sandhya Kumar, engineer Rakesh Bahadur and dozens of other Indian American parents have launched a campaign to change the way their history is taught in Fairfax, the nation'stwelfth largest school system, says The Washington Post in a recent report.
Their lobbying has prompted school officials to rethink on presentations on India and Hinduism in classrooms and has increased the efforts to develop a more sophisticated and thoughtful curriculum, it added.
Balaji Hebbar, a religion professor from George Washington University, who was one of the three scholars hired by Fairfax County to review the books cited by the group of Indian parents told the Post, he and his colleagues found a few factual errors in the old textbooks, as the lessons boil down a complex culture to ?karma, cows and caste.?
?It'sas if I were making a picture-book of the United States, and I took pictures of the bad parts of D.C., the run-down parts of New York city and the smoke stacks of Cleveland, and left out the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty,? Hebbar told the Post. ?I would be telling the truth, but I would only be telling half the truth.?
Fairfax County educators have reportedly responded with alacrity to the parents? views.
The parents have challenged some facts, though many complaints are centred on emphasis, omission or even nuances in the way the authors have presented Hinduism, said the Post.
In response, the educators first sent a memo telling teachers that students who selected India as a topic for their project should be guided away from the textbook and given other material.
Then, last fall, schools put forward for public review a new round of world history textbooks for fifth, ninth and 10th grades, replacement for those approved in 1997.
Officials also invited parents and other interested residents to offer their views. Bahadur reportedly returned with a long critique and signatures of 118 people in support of his views.
?We read them, and we really couldn'tfairly respond,? said Ann Monday, assistant superintendent for Instructional Services. ?Quite frankly, none of us had an indepth knowledge in the field.? So she delayed submitting the books to the School Board for approval and called in the professors as well as history teacher, Asheesh Misra, to weigh all the pros and cons of the matter, said the Post.
Misra and the professors did not agree with all of Bahadur'scontentions. But they recommended that teachers expand their lessons on topics including Hindu writings; the value system, including the four stages of life; as also reincarnation and salvation.
Based on the concerns shared by Fairfax educators, five publishers have made modest changes in the textbooks, and the panel of professors has asked the county to purchase the eight revised books, reject one and supplement the curriculum with other materials, as revealed by the report.