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Controversial Modifications to California's History Textbooks:
FOSA/CAC's Position on the Issue


FOSA/CAC Position

Letters of Support

Textbook Edits

Action Alerts

Press Coverage


Press Releases/Letters    FAQ

April 30, 2006 - Court Transcript Exposes HAF’s Fraudulent Press Releases. Press Release by FOSA and CAC. Transcript of Court proceedings.

A recently-released transcript from the Superior Court of California reveals that the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and its allies have misled the media and public about the proceedings during the court hearing on April 21, 2006. At that hearing, the Superior Court of California in Sacramento denied the Hindu American Foundation (HAF)'s demand for a preliminary injunction against the publication of new sixth-grade textbooks.

April 24, 2006 - Hindutva Defeated Again in California Courts. Press Release by FOSA and CAC.
The Superior Court of California in Sacramento has rejected  the Hindu American Foundation (HAF)'s demand for a preliminary injunction against publication of new sixth-grade textbooks. Several community groups applauded this decision calling it a victory for secularism and pluralism, and a victory for the children of California.

April 18, 2006 - University Faculty and Scholars on South Asia Submit Declaration in Support of Amicus Curiae, Expressing Opposition to Hindu American Foundation's Lawsuit

126 university faculty and scholars with expertise in South Asia submitted a declaration to the Court denouncing the efforts of the HAF to distort history.  The faculty declaration challenged the changes advocated by HAF because such changes would be historically inaccurate, and also pointed out the Hindu nationalist ideology underpinning these changes.

April 17, 2006 - South Asian Groups File Amicus Curiae Brief Opposing Hindu American Foundation's  Lawsuit

On April 17, FOSA and six other South Asian community groups, the Ambedkar Center for Justice & Peace (ACJP), Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH), Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), EKTA, Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA), and the Guru Ravidass Gurdwaras of California, filed a friends of the court brief (Brief Amici Curiae) opposing the Hindu American Foundation's demand for a preliminary injunction against the proposed textbooks. This brief demonstrated the absurdity of HAF's claims that the proposed textbooks maligned and misrepresented Hinduism and would "harm" Hindu children, and questioned the legitimacy of HAF to speak on behalf of Americans who profess Hinduism, leave alone all Hindus.

Mar 8, 2006 -
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Representing Women in California Textbooks. Press Release by FOSA and CAC.

Representatives of women’s groups and gender studies faculty held a press conference this afternoon at the State Board of Education (SBE) to commemorate International Women’s Day and to urge the Board to adopt textbooks that accurately depict the history of women’s struggle against oppression. Speakers also read from a letter sent to the SBE by seventeen prominent California legislators, including members of the Assembly and Senate Committees on Education, the Women’s Caucus, and the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, where they expressed their dismay at the Curriculum Commission's recommendations, specifically ones where the history of women's rights in ancient India was being whitewashed, and warned about the dangers of revisionist history. 

Feb 28, 2006 - Victory over Hindu nationalists in California textbooks rewrite.
Press Release by FOSA and CAC.

The intense struggle over the content of Indian history in California textbooks ended yesterday afternoon at 2 p.m. with the special committee of the California State Board of Education [SBE] voting unanimously to overturn a majority of contentious changes proposed by Hindu right-wing groups to California school textbooks. This decision is a victory for community organizations such as Friends of South Asia (FOSA), the Ambedkar Center for Peace and Justice, the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America, and the Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), who have worked diligently to ensure that ahistorical and sectarian content proposed by Hindu right-wing groups is removed from California textbooks.

Press Release by Friends of South Asia and Coalition Against Communalism - Feb 24, 2006.

Joint Letter to the California State Board of Education, by Friends of South Asia (FOSA), Coalition Against Communalism (CAC), EKTA, Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America(FeTNA), Guru Ravi Dass Gurudwaras and  the Dalit Community of Sacramento, and Ambedkar Center for Justice and Peace(ACJP), Feb 20, 2006.

Press Release by Friends of South Asia and Coalition Against Communalism - Tuesday, Jan 10, 2006

Joint Letter by Friends of South Asia and Coalition Against Communalism (CAC) to Ruth Green (President, California State Board of Education) and Tom Adams (Director, Curriculum Framework and Instructional Resources Division.) - Jan 5, 2006.

(For Hindi version of this FAQ, Click Here)

 What is FOSA?:


1.  What is the controversy regarding California school textbooks?

California state textbooks come up for review every six years. This year, the sixth class texts relating to Ancient Indian history are under review.

We recognize that most of these textbooks are inadequate for a number of reasons and have many errors on Indian history. Taking advantage of this inadequacy, two groups: Vedic Foundation and Hindu Education Foundation (VF and HEF), backed by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF)—all with demonstrable links to Hindu rightwing organizations – suggested many changes in the depiction of ancient Indian history and Hinduism in the text books. But instead of just making corrections to erroneous texts, their proposed changes also reflect their supremacist and chauvinistic political agendas, which seek to equate the history of India with the history of Hinduism, and the living, diverse religion of Hinduism with a Brahmanical, Vedic religion frozen in time for thousands of years.

As things stand now, the HEF and VF have managed to get the Curriculum Commission to agree to a large number of their suggested changes in alignment with their Hindu supremacist ideology (Hindutva). The only opposition they faced was a last minute organizing by some Indologists (M. Witzel from Harvard, S. Wolpert from UCLA and J. Heitzman from UCDavis with around 50 other scholars supporting them, http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/witzelletter.pdf ) and a faculty letter from over 130 South Asian Studies experts and South Asian professors at universities. While these interventions did help prevent the inclusion of many incorrect and potentially harmful suggestions, many other problematic Hindutva changes got accepted by the Curriculum Commission on Dec 2, 2005.

We are quite dismayed by the acceptance of these “edits” by the Curriculum Commission and are petitioning the State Board to reject them. Because of the success of Hindutva mobilizations, the media has been covering this issue in an alarming manner–this “controversy” is being framed as a debate between some faculty (who are represented as white and non-Hindus) and a monolithic, aggrieved Hindu community. We reject this oversimplification along racial lines which allows a complete dismissal of genuine scholarship, and would appreciate the media paying more attention to the diversity of views within the community itself.

2. Is the treatment of Indian History in sixth grade textbooks racist and Eurocentric? Then, why are you opposing changes to them?

There is no doubt that the instructional materials up for review in California contain problematic histories and need revision. We are not opposing ALL the changes, only those that aim to equate India with Hindu, and Hindu with Aryan, and other changes that ignore or erase the lives and struggles of marginalized peoples for survival, equity and justice. We are asking for a review process that includes established experts in South Asian scholarship, in addition to other concerned community members. In November 2005, we discovered that the two organizations that offered input into the revision process--the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation—as well as the expert hired to assess these inputs and advise the Curriculum Committee, all have close connections to Hindu right-wing organizations with sectarian and chauvinistic agendas. We do not believe that it helps the cause of our children’s education if Eurocentric chauvinism in textbooks is replaced by Hindu chauvinism.

3. Should the community have no role in deciding what it taught to our children?

We firmly believe that community members should have input in the curriculum that is taught to their children. We also believe that it is important to establish a transparent system for selecting the qualified participants in the curriculum review process, so that those involved be held accountable to their work. However, in this case, the “community members” providing input to the Curriculum Commission are not accountable to the breadth and diversity of South Asian community, nor has their scholarship been assessed by established scholars of South Asia. In seeking to speak for ALL South Asians, these groups and the histories they advocate erase the spiritual and cultural diversity of South Asian peoples in the past (e.g. dalits and adivasis) and downplay the struggles of these communities in the present.

4. If suggested recommendations from Christian, Jewish and Muslim bodies have been accommodated without any controversy, why is there opposition only to Hindus trying to get negative stereotypes cleared from their children’s school textbooks? Is this not unfair discrimination?

First, we are not opposing removal of “stereotypes”-- positive or negative, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Christian -- from textbooks. Instead, we are opposing the insertion of falsehoods and the sanitization of history. We believe that textbooks should be based on sound scholarship and should not be used for dishing out a narrow religious viewpoint.

Second, we note that the current review is about textbooks of ancient *history* and not religion. We believe that all changes have to be evaluated on the merit of their historical competence alone. Hence, we are opposed to ALL ahistorical falsehoods in textbooks, be they in the representation of Ancient Judaism, Christianity or Islam. However, as South Asian scholars and South Asian community members, we feel it is most reponseible to make relevant interventions only in texts relating to South Asian history and sociology.

Lastly, we do NOT think that removal of certain falsehoods from textbooks is “unfair discrimination.” In fact, we think children will benefit from having access to competent scholarship in any field of inquiry. Even if we grant that other groups are managing to insert propaganda in history books— equality shouldn’t be achieved by disseminating historically suspicious interpretations that promote a narrow perspective on hinduism. That is just self-defeating equality that works to the disadvantage of ALL our children.

This situation also asks the question: for what purpose do we learn and write history? Is it only to find the truth of the past so that one can feel good about oneself in the present? Can it also be to learn of the past so that one can understand the present, to comprehend and stand up against oppression and injustices in the present?

5. What are some of the changes that you are opposing?

The changes we are opposing are largely on three issues:
  1. Sanitization of caste and gender inequalities in Ancient and present-day India, since we believe that such sanitization only silences a large number of peoples’ struggles against injustice and oppression.
  2. Homogenization of Hinduism as a monotheistic, brahmanical and revealed religion, and not the pluralistic, lived religion of diverse tendencies.
  3. The ahistorical notion that the speakers of the Indo-European languages in Ancient India were indigenous to India instead of the currently accepted historical research that gives them a Central Asian origin.
The tables listed here give a more detailed version of some examples of the changes we are opposing.

6. There seems to be considerable confusion in press reports between the Curriculum Commission (CC) and the California State Board of Education (SBE). In fact, some of the reports have suggested that the SBE has adopted the edits submitted by VF/HEF. Can you clarify the difference?

The SBE has not accepted the recommendations of the CC at this time, and there is considerable discussion going on as to whether the December 1-2 meeting of the CC violated its mandate to review all the edits on the basis of historical accuracy and to not add new information.

The Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission, commonly called the Curriculum Commission (CC), is an advisory body to the California State Board of Education (SBE). It is an 18-member panel that includes two members of the legislature and 13 public members appointed by the SBE. Frameworks are developed by the CC, which also reviews and recommends textbooks and other instructional materials to be adopted by the SBE. The CC does not have any legal authority to approve or reject contents; the SBE can accept or reject CC’s recommendations after getting input from its own professional staff in the Department's Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division (CFIR). See for further details: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/documents/fwdev.pdf

7. What is the Content Review Panel (CRP)?

Following its November 9th meeting at which edits submitted by VF/HEF were discussed, the SBE appointed Professors Wolpert, Heitzman, and Witzel as members of an official Content Review Panel (CRP) to help the SBE evaluate the proposed edits. Reflecting the Board's directive, the CRP was to make its judgments solely on the basis of what its members felt was the historical accuracy of the books. After the CRP review was completed, the SBE drew up a report recommending that the CC accept the edits approved by the three academic scholars serving on the CRP.

About FOSA

1.  Isn’t it true that FOSA has Pakistani members too? Why should ancient Indian history be something that Pakistanis comment upon?

Yes, some members of FOSA are of Pakistani origin. As regards their investment/interest in this issue, we would like to point out that “Ancient India” as talked about in the history books refers to a region that intersects with contemporary political boundaries of at least three countries--India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, many of the largest centers of pre-Vedic civilizations, such as Mohenjodaro and Harappa are in present-day Pakistan. So Pakistanis are very much concerned about this history.

Second, we also want to state that this issue is not about South Asians and South Asian history alone. This is an issue that concerns all public school students in California, and is a matter of concern for all Californians, if not all Americans. This is an issue about (1) what the boundaries between history and mythology are, (2) whether peer-reviewed scholarship should determine what gets into history books, or whether that should be determined by groups pushing for narrow religio-political agendas, and (3) whether there should be vetting procedures to ensure that only established scholars are asked upon for expertise. Just as the issue of teaching Creationism in schools is not of concern to Fundamentalist Christians and the Kansas School Board alone, this issue too has to be debated at a national level.

2. Isn't FOSA attempting to create their own politically-biased history?

We recognize that the very act of deciding whose histories get told and whose do not is inherently political, and as such it is naïve to imagine that there can be an apolitical telling of history. As FOSA, we are very open about our politics—we are committed to celebrating the diversity and plurality of South Asia and firmly believe that histories of Dalits, Adivasis, women and other marginalized communities in South Asia need to be told. We believe that there is a difference between pointing out histories of oppression to denigrate/stereotype South Asians and writing careful histories that empower ourselves, our children, and our allies to question and stand against injustice and normalized violence anywhere in the world. We also think it is important to incorporate a correct representation of diverse viewpoints of history, as long as they are backed up by robust scholarship.

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