THE BLOG
09/24/2014 02:10 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

Hiccups in Education Portend Brighter Days Ahead for Hindu Americans

Last week, the Hindu American community experienced a roller coaster ride of engagement with reforming education.

In Texas, my Hindu American Foundation (HAF) colleague Rishi Bhutada and I spoke on the need to make sure there was accurate representation of Hinduism in the state's proposed textbooks. In fact, the Hindu American community's participation throughout the Texas textbook adoption process is a first, as Hindu Texans from around the state remained engaged and even submitted comments based on their review of instructional materials.

While the Board will vote in November to adopt the textbooks, it's clear that the voice of Hindus -- as well as other minority groups -- will be taken into consideration. In the past, textbook publishers would ignore these voices and even contemporary scholarship to fit a narrative that was both insensitive and factually inaccurate. A proactive, evidence-based approach has proven to be a great way to get educators, textbook publishers, and elected officials to buy into the need to improve content.

At the same the Texas State Board met last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1057, a bill that would have improved the state's laughably outdated history and social science standards. This, despite overwhelming support in the Assembly and Senate and over 100 diverse education, faith-based and community organizations, in addition to prominent academics from around the country.

The bill's veto was a huge blow to education advocates and also to historically
marginalized groups such as Hindus. California's standards contain numerous inaccuracies, and as historians have noted, are laden with debunked or outdated phrasing. For example, the World History standard on India specifies the Aryan Invasion Theory, which has been debunked. Publishers have been reluctant to issue new books in California, in large part to the constraints of the standards and their disconnect from contemporary evidence.

Brown's reasoning for vetoing the bill made little sense, but the California Department of Education and State Board of Education's intransigence when it comes to improving the standards is more problematic. It's critical for education officials to ensure that classroom content is accurate. Sadly, the SBE's unwillingness to make improvements reflects their longstanding reluctance to change content standards. With Common Core's implementation in the state, the state's content standards and curriculum frameworks stand to become dinosaurs in the sphere of 21st century education.

With that being said, the Hindu American community's engagement in California and Texas shows that we're no longer willing to wait on the sidelines. This bodes well for building future education reform coalitions and outcomes that much better reflect the collective desire of Hindu Americans to be treated as equals with their peers of other faith backgrounds.

Brighter days are ahead, and we intend to make sure we continue to stay on the front lines of advocating for fairness and equity in our education.