ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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California Textbooks Issue: A Response

The recent piece "What is at Stake in Rewriting California Textbooks" (EPW, 16 July) ignores several facts to sustain a baseless attack on Scholars for People, writes Vamsee Juluri. 

The recently concluded California textbooks process has brought out a slew of dishonest, poorly informed, and ideologically predetermined articles pretending to lend expertise on the situation, which is first of all a debate on the history curriculum in American schools, rather than Indian history alone. Although Chinnaiah Jangams piece in this journal (2016) initially attempts to provide a historic overview of Indian immigration to the US and situate the present controversy in that context, it inevitably trickles down into a narrow course that wilfully ignores several facts in order to sustain a baseless attack on Scholars for People, with some personal presumptions thrown in as well. The mandate of Scholars for People, which began with a community petition in March, protesting the denial of India and Hinduism in the frameworks, was the issue of denying India's existence, and not caste or even Hinduism, a crucial fact Jangam omits to mention.

An honest analysis of this issue would have at the very least laid out the positions of various parties accurately, as well as the flow of events that took place, instead of resorting to a sophomoric guessing game based on names and identities (would Jangam censure Irfan Habib, say, for writing about Hindu history the way he takes umbrage at some of us in Scholars for People?). It should be noted at the outset that Jangam does not offer a single link to the letters submitted to the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) by the South Asia Faculty Group (SAFG) in 2015 and 2016 (South Asia Studies Faculty Review of Proposed California Curriculum Framework, Nov 2015; South Asia Faculty Cover Letter 2, Feb 2016). These are the documents in which the SAFG attempted to make a case for their recommendations, namely that several references to India be replaced with South Asia, and for the word Hinduism to be replaced with religion of ancient India". It was the acceptance of several of these changes in March 2016 by the California History Social Science Project (CHSSP) that led to the formation of Scholars for People, and it was this issue that dominated the petition, letters, and articles initiated by Scholars for People since March. 

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