Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Letter to the California State Board of Education on Accurate Portrayal of Hinduism

July 8, 2016

State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Room 3207
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Board Members:
I write to you today in reference to the current process to revise and update the K-12 HistorySocial Science Framework for public schools. I applaud the Instructional Quality Commission’s efforts thus far in creating a more balanced and accurate Draft Framework, but I urge you to go further to ensure that the remaining concerns of the Hindu American community are addressed.

As the first and only serving Hindu American Member of Congress, I have worked actively throughout my many years of service to promote diversity, equality, and pluralism and I firmly believe in the significance of creating an education system and textbooks that uphold these important American values.

These values can be achieved through the adoption of curriculum frameworks, which serve as a guide for both textbooks and teachers, that “enable all students to become aware and accepting of religious diversity while being allowed to remain secure in any religious beliefs they may already have,” as required by California law and the Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content.

Consequently, I respectfully request you to consider the following edits outlined below that would enable California students to become more aware and accepting of Hinduism and allow Hindu American students to remain secure in their religious beliefs:

1. Preserve Hindu history and identity by restoring all references to “Hinduism” that were removed or replaced with the ahistorical and inaccurate phrase, “religions of Ancient India, including but not limited to early Hinduism” in Chapter 10, Grade 6 (p. 214, lines 809-812) and in Chapter 10, Grade 6 (p. 218, lines 887-891). Just as other religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism are given their own separate and distinct space for discussion in the Framework, so should Hinduism. Replacing Hinduism with the term “religions of Ancient India, including but not limited to early Hinduism” is not only inaccurate, but it will cause confusion for students and teachers alike.

2. Acknowledge the positive roles played by women in Ancient Indian and Hindu society by changing the current text in Chapter 10, Grade 6 (p. 221 lines 958-964) to: “Although most of ancient Indian society was patriarchal, akin to the other ancient kingdoms and societies, women in India had a right to their personal wealth, especially jewelry, gold, and silver, but fewer property rights when compared to men. They participated in religious ceremonies and festival celebrations, often with their husbands, as well as on their own.” While it is important to discuss the existence of patriarchies in ancient civilizations, it is also critical to discuss the positive contributions and unique roles played by women in those societies. In the context of Ancient India, Hindu women were able to perform their own religious rites and also authored the Vedas, Hinduism’s sacred texts. The Framework should thus acknowledge these historical facts when describing the roles of women in ancient Indian society.

3. Accurately represent the caste-system in the Framework by not depicting it as a defining feature or a foundational religious belief of Hinduism. While caste-based discrimination is a reality that must be dealt with, it goes against the essence of Hindu teachings and scriptures, which posit that divinity is inherent in all beings. As a result, it is critical that the Chapter 10, Grade 6 (p. 221, lines 955-957) should be changed to: “Teachers should make clear to students that this was a social and cultural structure, rather than a foundational religious belief.”

I therefore strongly urge you to consider making the above changes, which have also been supported by the Hindu American Foundation and a group of highly respected academics, known as the Social Sciences and Religion Faculty Group, to ensure that the Hindu American community is represented with dignity and equality in the History-Social Sciences Framework. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Tulsi Gabbard
Member of Congress

PDF icon A link to this letter from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is available here

Office Locations