Monday, February 27, 2006

A Textbook Conflict Not About Intelligent Design --
Via the Los Angeles Times, a report on Hindus trying to change history texts which they feel inaccurately describe their religion.

"It degraded my religion," said Kurup, now a UC Riverside freshman. "I felt a mixture of anger, embarrassment and humiliation."

Kurup has joined other Hindus in a campaign urging the state Board of Education to correct those portrayals in new sixth-grade history textbooks, which will come under review by a board committee today. They have requested changes involving passages on women's rights, the caste system, the origins of Hinduism and the nature of the divine, among other things.

One requested change, for instance, would say women had "different" rights than men, not fewer.

But their efforts have sparked a heated counter-campaign by scholars and others who accuse the groups of trying to fabricate history and gloss over the treatment of women and minorities in India, where Hinduism is the dominant religion. Some also contend that the requested textbook changes are so similar to those imposed by Hindu nationalist groups in India that California should not put its stamp of approval on them.

This is a fairly interesting conflict. I have always been a left-oriented opponent of political correctness. There is no right to freedom from hurt feelings. There is a difference between a legal presumption of equality under the law and an actual existence of equality in reality. Of course, Hindus aren't the only ones who feel this way.

She said that of all subject areas, the board's reviews of history textbooks tend to stoke the most fervent community passions. In the past, she said, the board had been pressed to include in textbooks Ireland's potato famine, the internment of some Italian nationals in the U.S. during World War II and the genocide against Armenians by the Turks during World War I, an event the Turkish government disputes.

In the current round of review, Hindu groups are not the only ones asking for change. According to board materials, Jewish groups have asked for deletion of references to any Jewish role in the crucifixion of Jesus, King Solomon's use of forced labor and the lack of archeological evidence that the Exodus ever occurred, among other things.

Political attempts to influence education is nothing new. On the right, you have advocates of intelligent design. On the left, you have those who to over-emphasize the contributions of women and minorities. (It seems like a contradiction. If various groups have been oppressed, then they wouldn't have made very many contributions, so trying to overemphasize meager efforts make it look like women or blacks or whatever group could have done more but didn't.)
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