Hindu American parents in the town of Plano, Texas are trying to get the Plano ISD (Independent School District) to correct its textbooks that give racist, pro-colonial depictions of Hindu Dharma and the Hindu community.
As per a report in local media outlet Plano Star Courier –
Hindu Plano residents are accusing Plano ISD of using history textbooks that give racist, pro-colonial depictions of the Hindu faith. These allegations were leveled after the district’s Board of Trustees sourced community feedback on approved textbooks, and since this happened, Hindu residents of Plano ISD have sent the board a petition with source recommendations.
“We went through six of them, and we found that four of them were not worthy of inclusion,” said Rajesh Verma, whose son is a Plano ISD student and was enrolled in a class that used one of these books. “You have kids being ashamed and embarrassed. They don’t know to challenge, so that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Verma said one of these textbooks, titled Ways of the World: 4th Edition and published by BFW/Macmillan, inaccurately identified caste systems as a core part of the religion. He further alleged that others covered the Indo-Aryan Migration Theory, which some criticize as being Eurocentric and sympathetic to British colonialism.
“[The textbooks] have repeatedly used the word ‘cult’ to refer to us,” Verma said, adding that they also use the word “Brahmanism,” which many Hindus and the Hindu American Foundation consider a pejorative slur.
However, despite an hour-long public comment period that included speakers such as Verma, Plano ISD official Katrina Hasley tried to sideline the criticism by claiming that ‘textbooks and materials are not the curriculum’ and they didn’t use the ‘textbook cover to cover’. She added that the district is ‘taking concerns surrounding the textbooks into consideration’ and their social studies department has agreed to ‘consider the addition of some scholarly articles to support additional perspectives and viewpoints’
Parents like Verma said the district has still failed to rectify the matter in a substantive way. “If we’re being offered token gestures, that’s not good enough for us,” he said. “We are eager to collaborate with the district in good faith. However, the process must be transparent, and the Hindu American community of Plano ISD must be actively involved when the curriculum topics that pertain to us are developed.”
Readers might be aware of long-running attempts by Hindu parents and advocacy groups to get the US state of California to remove biased portrayals of Hindu Dharma vis-a-vis other major world religions from its 6th grade school curriculum. However, that effort in 2006 had only partial success, with many ‘liberal & progressive’ South Asians and radical Christians fronting as Dalit activists opposing the Hindu stand, with the aid of controversial Western Indologists like Harvard University’s Professor of Sanskrit Michael Witzel. The California textbook controversy reared again in 2016 and 2017, this time with more success for the Hindu side after a decade of civic engagement.
As the American academic Yvette Rosser explains about the prejudiced representations of Hindus and Bharat in American school curriculum and its impact on young minds, “Hindu beliefs and traditions are often represented as a localized collection of complex archaic cults, characterized quintessentially by the evil caste system… When negative stereotypes about India are taught as fact in American classrooms, students of Indian heritage may be adversely impacted as they struggle to work out their identity in a pluralistic, predominately “Anglo”-Christian environment.”
We are also witnessing the gaslighting and sidelining of Hindu students protesting against the casual Hinduphobia of Rutgers’ University Professor Audrey Truschke, who apart from abusing Hindu Gods, is an agenda-driven pseudo-researcher who has taken it upon herself to show that the large scale destruction of Hindu temples by Aurangzeb never happened. Rashmi Samant’s struggles with the Hinduphobic campaign launched against her in Oxford University, UK are also well known.
Sadly, Hindus are fighting mis-representation of their faith in school textbooks not just abroad, but even in their spiritual homeland of Bharat.
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