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California  Text Book Travesty

Letter to Ms. Ruth  Green

 

Kosla Vepa, Ph.D.,

......

Kaushal44@gmail.com

indicethos.org

March3,2006

 

Ruth Green, President

State Board of Education

1430 N Street, Room 5111

Sacramento, CA 95814

http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/

 

 

 

 

Dear Ms. Green:

 

 



I have just come back from Sacramento after attending the CDE meeting. I was deeply disappointed as I was not given an opportunity to express my view of the matter as a parent and as a responsible tax paying Hindu American citizen of the great state of California. I am shocked at the disregard shown to our entire party none of whom were allowed to make their presentation.

 

I subsequently came to know that the Subcommittee, declared their "decision" after ONE MINUTE of "deliberation " of the 4 hours of intense, compressed debate. But now I realize that the whole procedure and today's meeting was merely for public consumption. Everything was fixed before hand, since your "Committee" took about one minute to rubberstamp your pre-decided list of "edits" which arbitrarily tossed out any consideration of our opinions, and any sensitivity towards us.

This is the one minute presentation i planned to give, but which i was prevented from doing so by your arbitrary time limits.

 

"My name is Dr. Kosla Vepa, a retired senior Development Engineering Manager from IBM, San Jose. I come to you as a parent and as a University faculty member who has taught in the universities of California

 

A famous American wrote in his travelogue In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire. .He went on to say that India was the  "cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, The travelogue was' Following the equator' and The name of the American was Samuel Langhorne Clemens also known by his nom de guerre as the beloved author Mark Twain. As a child in India I read and reread the exploits of Tom  Sawyer  Becky  Thatcher and Huck Finn and his friend and companion Jim What is astonishing is not that a famous   American said this about the traditions of India, since he is not the only one, after all there have been others such as Joseph Campbell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein to name a few. What is astonishing is that a product of a so called impoverished third world country like India knows more about such Americans than an  average California  child, who is instead taught these unadulterated falsehoods about India's ancient traditions. I ask you please do not let these falsehoods reenter the textbooks of California and impoverish the mind of the young Californian."

 

If i may quote a famous American of more recent vintage "At the heart of a civilization that helped give the world mathematics, cutting-edge businesses now give us the technology of tomorrow. In the birthplace of great religions, a billion souls of varied faiths now live side-by-side in freedom and peace.
(Applause.) When you come to India in the 21st century, you're inspired by the past, and you can see the future. " speech given by President Bush at Purana Qila, New Delhi,  March3, 2006.
 

I wonder what would be the reaction to self-styled experts like Steve Farmer and Michael Witzel if they chose to  interject themselves in the edits regarding Abrahamic faiths such as  Judaism and Islam. Neither you nor I should have any doubts on that score, They would almost certainly be hooted of the floor as being unrepresentative of the population that  the text books are supposed to be read and used by. But I suppose the very notion of an individual who has never visited India passing himself of as an expert on ancient Indian history  and deciding what is appropriate about our History does not seem incongruous to you.

There is another point to be made and that is regarding the pretensions of a field of knowledge dubbed as Indology. It is one thing to study an ancient civilization such as that of Egypt where there are no practitioners of  such a civilization left alive today and none left to challenge any postulates that one might conjure up. It is quite another to arrogate to oneself the study of traditions and practices when there are vast numbers of practitioners exercising and practicing this tradition everyday and blithely continue your 'research' oblivious to their existence and never even consulting them. When I listen to Indologists discussing ancient India completely ignoring the descendants of this  tradition, I feel like i am an insect in a jar being studied by aliens from mars (or wherever)

 

Life in ancient India was by no means perfect (for example there was no email or even electricity!) but it was far ahead of anything comparable in the rest of the world at that time or even in some parts of the world today. They say there was gender inequality in ancient India. If gender equality was such a big criterion why is it that India has more Goddesses than any other religion and why is it  that the Judeo  Christian tradition has no women of stature that they look up to in the ancient world whereas we have innumerable examples of brave ,independent minded scholarly women in the ancient puranas. I am reminded of Hypatea, a woman Mathematician in the library of Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt. She was one of the earliest examples of a professional woman endowed with both mathematical  talent and beauty. But so reputed was her intellect, that the Bishops at that time could not tolerate the  notion of an intelligent woman and had her flayed to death ... a horrible end to the worlds first or second woman  mathematician (Queen Dido of Carthage was probably the first), something that is rarely mentioned in civilized circles today. Is this the notion of gender equality that the ancient Hindu world was supposed to have emulated ?
 

It might interest you to know that Caste is a word with no exact equivalent in any Indian language. It is derived from the Portuguese Casta. Neither Varna (the term in use in ancient India) nor Jati the term used today (tribal or ethnic origin) adequately conveys the same meaning as Caste with all its baggage. Please read Nicholas Dirks (professor of Anthropology at Columbia -why was he not asked to testify in this case) Castes of Mind for an exhaustive treatment of Caste in India where he clearly states that

 

"Caste (as we experience it today in India) is neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a single system that reflects a core cultural value. Rather than a   basic expression of Indian tradition, caste is a modern phenomenon – the product of a concrete historical encounter between India and British colonial rule"

 

Please see my presentation (which i will be happy to make to your  staff) on "The South Asia File" at http://indicethos.org/IRF1-PartI.pdf which deals in part with the  way the Caste system evolved.  

In all the hullabaloo, it is forgotten that these are text books  for 6th graders, who are by no stretch of the imagination mature adults and to throw at them the hate filled sentiments that we heard on Monday by the opponents of these edits is unconscionable and is a sure fire recipe to cause discord among the future citizens of California.  

I am becoming aware there are political undercurrents in your department and of the dubious role played by Allan Bersin, Secretary for Education in this whole matter .
 

 

But i am clearly wasting my time as i was on Monday and my words are falling on deaf ears and our only recourse left seems to be a legal one. You can rest assured the planning has begun and if necessary, we have every intention to pursue a legal recourse and make this one of the most celebrated trials of the  21st century

Sincerely,
Kosla Vepa

..., CA

 

 

 

 

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