Sampling from Indologist subversion during the 2005 California textbook fight

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Source: here.

Fra: Michael Witzel [mailto:witzel@fas.harvard.edu]
Sendt: 26. november 2005 17:26
Til: Peter Zoller; Garrett G. Fagan; Alexander Vovin; Patrick Olivelle; Boris Oguibenine; Phyllis K Herman; carendreyer Dreyer; Frederick Smith; Lars Martin Fosse; Rajesh Kochhar; Richard Meadow; Stanley Wolpert; Dwijendra Jha; Georg von Simson; Madhav Deshpande; Frank Southworth; Hiroshi Marui; Sudha Shenoy; Asko Parpola; Mohammad Mughal; Don Ringe; S. Palaniappan; Wim van Binsbergen; Homi Bhabha; huang9; David Stampe; Hideaki Nakatani; Jonathan Mark Kenoyer; Stefan Zimmer; Romila Thapar; Muneo Tokunaga; Shereen Ratnagar; Michael Witzel; Sheldon Pollock; Dominik Wujastyk; Parimal G. Patil; Steve Farmer; Robert Goldman; falk Falk; jkirk Kirkpatrick; agnes korn; Scharfe; Kalpana Desai; maurizio.tosi@tiscali.it ; Patricia Donegan; Shingo Einoo
Kopi: Arlo Griffiths; Raka Ray; Leonard van der Kuijp; Michael Witzel; John Brockington
Emne: Next step: California Comm. vote on Hindutva changes

Dear friends,
success! It seems that we were successful; more details will follow as soon they become available. Here the initial, partial report from people present at the meeting of the California State Board of Education:
This afternoon the California Board of Education voted to approve the school books for adoption in California schools;
seven of eight publishers’ programs were approved (Including the initially rejected Oxford U.P. one, it seems without adding in any of the Hindutva material).
Below, I attach our joint letter for your reference. We had planned to send it to you earlier, but all the back and forth yesterday in preparing for today’s (Wednesday’s) meeting prevented me.
Luckily, we had a California historian of india, Prof. J. Heitzman (UC Davis), present at the meeting who also used a letter written by Prof. Wolpert.
Hence, some more detailed news about the meeting of the California State Board of Education:
The meeting was to decide whether to adopt the changes that have already been suggested, collected in a book containing the massive number of changes.
Comments from the audience: each one to speak for TWO MINUTES each.
The first cohort of speakers included representatives of the Vedic Foundation, who all urged adoption of the changes.
The next major group consisted of a number of Sikh speakers who urged non-adoption of the changes until after the insertion of additional material on Sikhism.
Prof. Heitzman, speaking for us all, then alluded to the “Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content,” section:” Religion; Indoctrination”, urging the Board not to “encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief.”
Pointing out that we represent thousands of high-level scholars from all religious backgrounds dedicated to the academic study of South Asian history and culture, he stated that we have two main objections to the current draft that cause us to oppose its adoption:
(1) the consulting base, i.e. Dr. Bajpai, is too narrow for a problem of this complexity; and (2) we “impugn the credentials” of the Vedic Foundation and other Hindu groups to speak competently on issues of South Asian history and religion.
These groups project, either overtly or subconsciously, policies known as Hindutva or “Hinduness” that portray South Asian and specifically Indian identity as Hindu. Their program has ravaged the social studies textbooks of India for the last ten years.
He urged the Board not to allow a religious chauvinism of India to become the policy of the State of California, which would provoke an academic and international uproar. He volunteered the services of the university community specializing in the analysis of South Asia for evaluating the edits and additions proposed for the California textbooks: “We are ready to earn our pay; let us help you.”
Sincere thanks to Prof. Heitzman and to all of you ! This shows how concerted action, even if it comes as late as ours, can be successful.
Incidentally, the next thing to tackle is the BBC website. Let us discuss how to go about it. Please see this:
Best wishes,
Michael
Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
1 Bow Street , 3rd floor, Cambridge MA 02138
1-617-495 3295 Fax: 496 8571
direct line: 496 2990

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