VII SUPPORTING LETTERS BY ACADEMICS AND SCHOLARS » US Rejects 'Hindutva lessons'
From: Erik Kaeding
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2006 9:46 PM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: US Rejects 'Hindutva lessons'
I was thoroughly disgusted by Percy Fernandez' article about the California textbook process. This is the worst example of journalism I have ever seen in my entire life. It does not even pretend to be unbiased in its reporting, and the writer clearly has not researched this issue carefully.
As a citizen of California and of the United States of America I am disgusted that so many political groups in India have intervened to disrupt our political processes and institutions. This is a California issue, and people without knowledge of our educational system should have stayed out of this process from the beginning.
I for my part am not a Hindu Nationalist, or even a Hindu for that matter. I am a European-American, a devout Christian, and a California public school teacher. Yet I have volunteered with the Hindu Education Foundation since September 2005. I can assure you that the Hindu Education Foundation is not affiliated with the HSS. It is a volunteer organization run out of a member's home. It is composed of a few volunteers, and it has hardly any budget at all. Its members run the political spectrum, and they include Christians, atheists, and leftists. Everything else you have heard is propaganda invented by a Dr. Michael Witzel of Harvard University.
What you do not understand is that California has a law about teaching religion in textbooks. Textbooks cannot include material that would cause a reader to develop negative feelings about a particular religion. This law is obeyed for every other religion. To comply with this law, publishers consult with religious groups to review their materials. However, no Hindu group has ever been consulted in the past.
The result? One of the textbooks I reviewed covered Hinduism in a two page lesson. Only half of each page contained actual text. The first page discussed the caste system and then went on to criticise the treatment of women in Hinduism. The next page talked about karma. That's it! The only visuals pertained to the caste system. The following lesson was a two full page lesson on Buddhism focusing on the life of the Buddha, the four noble truths, and the eight fold path.
So the HEF was formed to participate in the legally mandated public comment process. The law does not allow the state to propose major revisions to textbooks, so only minor edits could be proposed. The result was a series of edits to soften the negative treatment of Hinduism relative to other religions. If you had done your homework, you would realize that the state in fact accepted 70-percent of these proposed edits!
The controversial edits that were not approved were not unreasonable when you consider how other religions are treated in American textbooks. For example, our textbooks teach that Islam taught that women had different rights than men. When HEF proposed the same language for the sections on Hinduism they were accused of having Hindutva links and of being revisionists.
That this sort of name calling in the absence of real dialog is a part of Indian politics is sad enough. That political parties in India became involved and brought this form of politicking to California reflects very poorly on India, and it threatens US-India relationships. It is disgusting that your publication lowered itself to this level rather than reporting the real facts. Please be more careful in the future in reporting on the politics of my state and nation.
Erik D. Kaeding
San Josť, California.