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Feb 17, 2006


FOSA/CAC Position

Letters of Support

Textbook Edits

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Letter to the California State Board of Education
from Dr. Kasturi Ray, Assistant Professor and specialist in Gender and Women's Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Dear Ms. Johnson and Members of the State Board of Education,

I am writing to you today as assistant professor and specialist in women and gender studies in the English Department at UC –Berkeley. I am also writing as a naturalized American, new California resident, Hindu, and mother of an 18-month old daughter.

All of these roles propel me to urge you to resist pressure from the vocal yet divisive Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation, and listen instead to the sober histories recounted by Michael Witzel, James Heitzman, and Stanley Wolpert. Theirs is the history of India which I can pass on to my daughter, in order for her to more fully understand her heritage and give her the tools to take up her place in continuing to fight for a more democratic India. Theirs is the only history which any objective scholar can take seriously.

The change I find most harmful is the one proposed for page 245 in the Glencoe/McGraw Hill textbook: “Men had different duties (dharma) as well as rights than women.” This sentence suggests: 1) all Indians subscribed to Hinduism, as evinced in the allusion to dharma; 2) that different duties justify different rights. This sentence also equates difference with what were actually systematically-denied duties and rights based on gender. With this sentence, we lose the opportunity to understand what women really had to do (and continue to do) to win equal duties and rights. Their struggle is once again written off. This erasure works to shore up the power of those patriarchal interests which tried to write women off centuries ago. I cannot imagine that the Board would agree to carry on this function, on behalf of an outdated patriarchy, today.

The Board is not the appropriate site for proclaiming propaganda and attempting to steam-roll through a personal agenda. The content of our children’s textbooks are not up to the loudest to fill in with whatever content appears the most flattering. Let those who would push through their own agenda attempt that around their kitchen tables; and let the rest of us have tried and true scholarship on our children’s desks.

Thank you for your attention. Please do contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further. It is best to reach me via email (KasturiRay[at]yahoo.com). 


Kasturi Ray, Assistant Professor

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