SUMAN GUHA MOZUMDER
Reminiscent of a heated debate over school textbooks for children in California almost a decade ago, a
new controversy is brewing in Texas over
proposed materials for school-grade history and geography books that desi community leaders say are inaccurate and biased
against India and Hinduism.
“One common error is the conflation of
India’s caste system with Hinduism,” Rishi
Bhutada, HAF member from Houston,
told India Abroad. “First, the caste system
is described as static and rigid from the
outset in spite of historians and textual references attesting that it actually had a significant amount of mobility initially and
only became more rigid and hierarchical
He said many textbooks did not relate
that the origins of ancient Indian society
are in dispute, and instead relied on theo-ries that are “in direct conflict” with contemporary scholarship.
“We also saw books stating that there is
no common set of beliefs in Hinduism,
instead of recognizing that concepts such
as karma, dharma, and moksha are com-
mon across most Hindu religious tradi-
tions,” he said.
Last month, HAF representatives testified to the Texas State Board of Education
in Austin about factual errors in the proposed world history and world geography
These social study books and materials
have been proposed for adoption, and are
not being used in classrooms yet. If adopted, these books would be available for the
2015-2016 school year.
“It is likely many of these errors have
been continued over from previous editions
that are in classrooms now,” Bhutada said.
While the books for all grade levels are up
for adoption, the books the HAF is concerned over are meant for 6th grade, 9th
grade world geography, and 10th grade
world history. Although the adoption
process is only for public schools, private
schools often purchase these books.
Bhutada said many members of the
State Board of Education have appreciated the HAF’s advocacy in bringing these
errors to their attention, and many publishers have favorably responded to
In the decade-old California case, some
academics supported HAF’s contention
that there were significant inaccuracies
and discrepancies in the Hinduism sec-
tion of the textbooks.
The issue ultimately went to court, with
HAF filing a lawsuit against the California
SBE for alleged failure to follow a fair and
open process in adopting changes in textbooks, and called for an injunction.
A superior court rejected the HAF’s
demand for a preliminary injunction
against the California SBE from printing
and distributing school textbooks
allegedly containing unbalanced presentation of Hinduism.
Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette
at that time rejected HAF’s demand for
the injunction but said he was ‘troubled’
by the process followed by the SBE in
adopting the textbooks changes.
Last month the California textbook issue
cropped up again when California
Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill
1057, which would have called for the revision of the ‘content standards’ which guide
the creation of the state’s history-social science books for grades K-12.
The Hindu-American community,
including the HAF, supported the Senate
bill and expressed disappointment with
In vetoing the bill, the governor said the
bill would require the SBE to adopt histo-
ry-social science content standards by
July 30, 2018.
‘I agree that providing up to date instruc-
tional guidance to educators for use in their
classrooms is important,’ Brown said. ‘This
is precisely why the SBE is currently updat-
ing the history-social science framework
which is on track to be adopted next spring.
I am concerned that this bill may slow
progress that is already underway, and does
not include a role for the Instructional
In Texas, the proposed materials were
posted for public review and comment in
June, and the HAF had a team of internal
reviewers along with academics go through
the books to identify errors.
Then, the HAF sent in a written public
comment submission with all the identified errors in early September, and gave
public testimony at the hearing recently.
“Publishers that do not correct factual
errors identified in their materials run the
risk of having their materials rejected for
adoption by the State Board of
Education,” Bhutada said. “That vote will
happen in November, and so we’ll be
watching to see how the publishers will
With less than three weeks to go till Election Day, both
the challenger Ro Khanna,
38, and incumbent Mike
Honda, 73 were engaged in
claims and counter-claims
in what is one of the most-watched Democrat-on-Democrat Congressional
races, in California’s 17th
District — the heart of
Khanna’s camp released a
new internal poll that
showed that he has closed a
20-point gap and is now
with Honda in a dramatic
turnaround since the June
primary election, when
Honda bested Khanna by
over 20 points.
The survey, conducted by
David Binder Research of San Francisco, reports the race at
38 percent to 38 percent, with 24 percent undecided.
The Khanna camp also kept hammering away on a cam-
paign ethics violation where private e-mails shared with
reporters by a former Honda staffer revealed his
Congressional staff consulted with his campaign workers
regarding whom to invite to an official State Department
San Jose Inside, which broke the story, had said that the
invitees were then solicited for campaign contributions by
the Honda campaign, which it said suggests ‘a pay-to-play
ethic — conferring benefits to contributors and prospective
donors — has taken hold in the office of a Congressman
who has cast himself as a leading champion of the poor.’
The Honda camp largely ignored the allegations, and
instead released their own poll showing the incumbent
leading Khanna by over 15 points, and also said the chal-
lenger was broke.
The poll released by the Honda campaign showed Honda
leading Khanna 42 to 27, with 31 percent undecided. The
Honda camp also claimed that according to the latest
fundraising numbers released by the Federal Elections
Commission, Khanna doesn’t have enough funds to meet
its payroll and rent for the remainder of the campaign.
Khanna’s campaign has spent more than $4 million so
far, most of it — about $3 million — before the June primary, which Khanna lost by 20 points despite enjoying a 3-
1 spending advantage over the Honda campaign.
Asked if his campaign was broke, Khanna called the
He told India Abroad that these were all canards being
spread by the Honda camp because “Honda is very vulner-
able,” particularly since the polls show that the race is now
“virtually a dead heat.”
Khanna said, “We have more than enough resources to
have our staff and campaign offices through the election
and continue our paid media.”
“Our fundraising has also dramatically picked up since
October 1 given the debate and the poll results. I feel very
good about our position,” headed.
The highly respected National Journal also reported
that ‘the Honda-Khanna race might be closer than some
It said, ‘After Khanna released an internal poll showing
the candidates tied at 38 percent, Honda publicized his
own survey showing him up 42 percent to 27 percent over
the challenger… For an incumbent to have just 42 percent
support in a ‘safe’ district, three weeks before the election is
surprising. And for Honda’s campaign to admit it publicly
is practically unheard of.’ California redux in Texas: Hindu groups irked over textbook material
Honda versus Khanna: Claims, charges fly thick as some wonder if race is closer than believed
Ro Khanna Mike Honda