Thursday, November 09, 2017

Caste discrimination not to be included in California school books? US NRIs keep close watch on eve of "final vote"

By Our Representative
The California’s State Board of Education is all set to vote on new textbooks, includes 6th/7th grade history textbooks, amidst a major controversy having broken out in the US' NRI community on whether to include caste as a form of slavery in the chapters that teach South Asian civilization.
While the South Asian Histories for All (SAHFA), a multi-faith, inter-caste coalition, has urged the state of California to "approve only those textbooks that tell a neutral and factual history of South Asia", with one of its senior office bearers, Praveen Sinha, insisting, “We wouldn’t censor slavery in our textbooks. So why erase caste?”, American Hindutva Hindu lobby groups have apparently been successful in seeking to erase caste.
According to SAHFA, the effort has been to "hide basic historical facts -- including erasing the history of caste oppression", quoting American Dalit Dolly Arjun as pointing out that "erasing caste impacts California students and parents", pointing out how in India her parents "faced caste-based atrocities.”
SAHFA feels that the need for insisting on calling caste a form of slavery is particularly important, as "in 2016, the Board agreed with on many key points while approving the official curriculum framework", but "failed to enforce its own guidelines as publishers developed textbooks."
Accorsding to SAHFA, "Now every proposed textbook covering ancient South Asia has major errors, including hiding the history of caste oppression", giving examples of how this is being done.
For instance, the official guidelines of Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook (section 6.2, page 2) said “A person belonged to a particular…[caste]…primarily by birth.” But the textbook publisher talked of “an ideal set of social classes based on…natural abilities”.
The official guidelines of the National Geographic World History Ancient Civilizations, California Student Edition (unit 2, chapter 6, section 1.3, page 149) described the "Dalit people" as: “In addition, by 500 CE or earlier, there existed certain communities outside the jati system, the Dalits.” But the textbook publisher wrote: “At the bottom were slaves, laborers, and artisans…Many centuries later, another group developed that was considered even lower.”
The official guidelines National Geographic World History Ancient Civilizations, California Student Edition (unit 4, section 2.2, page 273) said, “Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak, a social reformer who challenged the authority of the Brahmins and the caste order.” But the textbook publisher did not mention Sikh opposition to caste or Brahmin authority.
The official guidelines for Pearson California History -- Social Science my World Interactive (Lesson 4.1, Page 132) referred to the “Indus Valley Civilization”, the standard name used by scholars and academics, but the textbook publisher wrote a controversial alternate name preferred by many Hindutva theorists: “Indus Saraswati civilization“.
The official guidelines for the California Studies Weekly – Social Studies (week 24) said, “A person belonged to a particular…[caste]…primarily by birth", but the textbook publisher wrote: “Someone’s position in society was based on his or her nature, or attitude”.
The official guidelines for Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt Social Studies World History: Ancient Civilizations, California Edition (grade 6, module 6, page 180) said, “Although ancient India was a patriarchy, women had a right to their personal wealth…but little property rights when compared to men, akin to the other ancient kingdoms and societies”, the textbook publisher wrote:“In ancient India, women had most of the same rights as men”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ummm - no - not true.

All of the textbooks retain information on caste discrimination. The frameworks were adhered to. The only thing that was included was that there were Hindu movements against caste and that many modern Hindus do not practice caste discrimination. This was important because the previous textbooks made it seem that one could not be a hindu without practicing caste discrimination.

Caste being determined by birth is noted in all of the text books. the part about natural ability talks about the origin of what would have been the varna system in the vedic era as opposed to the jaati system which was occupation based. Both became conflated / intertwined and ended up becoming the modern day caste system. However, you only took part of the original sentence of the entire passage

With regards to the comment "In ancient India, women had most of the same rights as men”. You left out the main part of the sentence which was "akin to other ancient societies, men had more rights than women"

You have to look at the final edits in total. Don't just use ellipses to gloss over things that don't support your argument.