Appropriation and lack of acknowledgment of positive contributions of Hindu civilization
In an earlier part of this series, I discussed academic Hinduphobia and media Hinduphobia, which is deeply hurtful for Hindus, especially to the children who do not see their culture respected by the culture and society they live in.
Hindus are also deeply disappointed that many important contributions of Hindus to world civilizations are not spoken about either in schools or in the media. Not only is knowledge of Hindu civilization appropriated, for example, mindfulness as an appropriation of yogic techniques, they also are never taught that algebra, zero, and infinity, among others, are important discoveries in math were made by Hindus in India.
This issue of omission and exclusion was taken up by Hindus in Alberta with respect to the school curriculum community consultations (see below an example of the letters they were sending out to advocate for changes to the curriculum) In 2021, a group of Hindus in Alberta were engaged with revisions to the Draft Alberta Schools Curriculum  They were concerned about the exclusion of Hinduism in the curriculum on world religions planned for Grade 2. They also identified major errors of omissions, inaccuracies, and deficiencies with respect to the ancient Indian Hindu civilization covered after Grade 6. As a result of their advocacy efforts, the curriculum was changed to include Hinduism and Hindu civilization, with education on all religions starting in Grade 5. While the Hindu community successfully raise the issues and resolved important omissions in content, the issue of academic Hinduphobia that was the underlying reason for these errors and omissions has not been officially recognized as Hinduphobia. The need for education of teachers and staff, and the community at large, about Hinduphobia is still not addressed.
Announcements of Hindu Heritage Month in several provinces provide opportunities for school boards to educate Canadians about the contributions of Hindus to world civilization but it will require the boards to be more open to engaging Hindu parents and educators, as I discuss in a later section on school boards. Here is a link to a Hindu Heritage Month Resource Book for Educators that I had prepared in 2018, which is available to share with interested persons.
An example letter sent to the Alberta Department of Education
- Date: May 13, 2021 (sent via email)
- To: Adriana LaGrange- Minister of Education and Red Deer North MLA.
- From: Hindu Culture Society of Central Alberta (HCSCA)
- 205 Van Slyke Way, Red Deer, AB, T4R0N7 (www.reddeerhindusociety.com)
- Subject: OBJECTION TO THE DRAFT CURRICULUM FOR KG-6 BY PARENTS OF HINDU STUDENTS
- Dear Madam,
- Many members of our society have bought to our society’s attention about their issue with the draft curriculum for KG-6. They have expressed their deep concerns about the proposed curriculum, especially the Social Sciences for Grade 2. We along with concerned members and parents have reviewed the proposed draft Curriculum for KG-6, which was released to the public on March 29, 2021 by the Government of Alberta.
About our Society
Our society is a registered Canadian Charity and it is very active in Red Deer (North and South) since last 7 to 8 years. HCSCA has paid membership from about 50-60 households from Red Deer (North and South) and HCSCA organized yearly big functions are attended by about 300 people at a time including dignitaries like Red Deer MLA’s and Mayor in the past. We estimate that there could be about 250 or more Hindu families/households in and around Red Deer. They are increasing rapidly over the years. We do not only cater to cultural needs of the community, but also provide welcome to new members in Red Deer and provide them with networking and socializing opportunities. Time to time we also donate to Red Deer food bank and help person in need through, food, guidance, resources and consultations.
I am sure your timely help will give lots of peace of mind to those 250 or more households in and around Red Deer.
What is not there in the draft curriculum?
We find the draft curriculum for Social Sciences of Grade 2 has major errors of omissions, inaccuracies, and deficiencies with respect to the ancient Indian Hindu civilization. Though some aspects of Hindu civilization are mentioned later in Grade 6, we strongly feel that ignorance about this surviving ancient indigenous civilization deserved to be included in the earlier grades of curriculum along with the other civilizations currently mentioned in the curriculum. Ignoring Hinduism which has a recorded history of at least 7,000 years is a matter of big concern for Grade 2 curriculum especially in the context of things such as the origin of democracy etc. are mentioned which have deep connection with the ancient Hindu civilization. We are pained at the attempted erasure of India and Hinduism as a world civilization while many other belief systems and associated religions are mentioned in grade 2.
Though Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world with over a billion followers, the curriculum fails to recognize it as a major “belief system” in the world by ignoring it in the context where it should be mentioned. This draft curriculum also ignores how Hinduism has influenced and helped to shape the current world. These contributions include, but are not limited to Yoga, Ayurveda, Astronomy, Alchemy, Geology, Physics, Botany, Gemology and so on. Just to elaborate on the Origins of democracy, early democratic institutions existed in ancient India as early as the 6th century B.C, which is much before any of the other belief systems mentioned in the curriculum of Grade 2 came to existence. The period from 1000 BCE to the mid 6th century CE was a time of great scientific and mathematical advancements. Request you to give me a chance to provide supporting evidence if more details are required in this regard. Yoga is another popular gift to the world by ancient Indian culture.
Why is the change required to include Hinduism in the new curriculum?
A discussion about foundations of modern civilizations, belief systems, culture, and humanity become incomplete without mentioning about the only surviving ancient indigenous civilization of Hinduism which is followed by over a billion people across the world. There are many reasons to include information about this ancient culture in the grade-2 itself along with other civilizations that are already mentioned.
All these reasons are contained behind just one of the most important reasons that Hindu Values are Universal Values. Listing out a few of them below.
- Respecting the Teachers. Hindus equate the teacher to god, and this is one of the key aspects of Indian culture reflected in the Sanskrit verse “Acharya devo Bhava”. This is not just existing only in the academic context, but also being the root cause of respecting the belief system of any other religious system and their spiritual teachers and spiritual teachings. Hindus accept every fellow human being as they are. Hindus across the globe practice this principle and the same is reflected in the Canadian society also. Here are some examples, events you may want to know more about how we celebrate this concept in practice in the North American context. Teachers Appreciation Event Videos.
- Go Green: Hindus treat the earth with a lot of respect and refer to it as mother earth. This has been the practice since centuries and the same is reflected in the Atharva Veda (Hindu scripture documented thousands of years ago) as “Oh Earth, you are our mother and we are your offspring”. We should acknowledge that; this practice existed much before the United Nations established International Earth Day in 2009. I am sure, you will come across many Canadian Hindu children who are not just vegetarian but also offer prayers to mother earth everyday morning before their first step on earth as a token of gratitude due to this realisation.
- Service to Humanity: Hindus believe that Service to Man is Service to God. And the origin of this concept is deep rooted in many Hindu scriptures (“Manav Sewa Madhav Sewa” as an example verse in Sanskrit). Hindus perform ‘Sewa’ (Service is the closest equivalent word in English for ‘Sewa’) wholeheartedly and selflessly as an offering to god without expecting anything in return from anyone. There are plenty of examples by various Hindu platforms in and around Alberta, Canada and worldwide. Some of them specific to Alberta alone are mentioned here. Many Hindu organisations mentioned below are doing it without receiving any government grant at all. The point here is that; serving fellow citizens without expecting anything in return is inbuilt in the Hindu culture. We can also see the Hindu community has reached out to the first responders to express gratitude towards their services in Alberta and many provinces in Canada as part of the Raksha Bandhan festival (Universal Oneness Day) which is typically celebrated by offering respect to the custodians of protection to the society according to Hindu culture.
- Donating food during COVID-19 pandemic https://www.facebook.com/402122900366370/posts/641093109802680/?d=n
- Recognizing the services of first responders like Fire Department and RCMP/City Police https://hssalberta.org/index.php/2019/10/12/universal-oneness-day-2019-calgary/
- Donating food and other materials during Fort McMurray Flood https://www.facebook.com/402122900366370/posts/654668678445123/?d=n
- Serving Seniors in Edmonton https://sathyasai.ca/articles/2017/06/operation-friendship-serving-seniors-in-edmonton/
- Multiculturalism: Hindus respect every belief system in the world. This is one of the core values of Hinduism often quoted using the Sanskrit phrase of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” which implies “The Whole World is one Family”. There are Hindus in around 150 different countries and everywhere Hindus are living in Harmony with every other religion in the world. This is because of the inherent qualities the multiculturalism deep-rooted in Hinduism and its ability to maintain the highest civic sense.
Further, when our own cultural heritage is not represented at equal rights with other civilisations, Hindu Children are more prone to get bullied in school and later at workplace among their peers. It also affects their self-esteem. Hindu students will be upset for being in a peer group that does not recognize their Hindu identity.
I am relieved that Minister LaGrange is seeking consultation with the various stakeholders to provide feedback. The Hindu community is hereby requesting to be included in the list of stakeholders for the consultation process.
As a parent, I am a stakeholder and partner in education who is invested in excellence of education provided to all students. We cannot endorse the curriculum in its current form. Our children, as 21st century learners, need a curriculum that reflects not only the multicultural Canadian society they live in, but also the global society with which we are so deeply interconnected.
We value the Ministry’s consultation process and look forward to being included in the forthcoming consultation process on the draft curriculum.
- Dharmesh Goradia, Board Member- HCSCA,
- (On behalf of Hindu Culture Society of Central Alberta – HCSCA)
- Here is a link to the original draft curriculum for the Alberta school https://cdn.learnalberta.ca/Resources/content/cda/draftPDF/media/SocialStudies/Social%20Studies-GrK-6-EN.pdf
- Here is the link to the amended Alberta curriculum https://cdn.learnalberta.ca/Resources/content/cda/draftPDF/media/SocialStudies/SocialStudiesBlueprint-EN.pdf
Go directly to specific parts of this series
- Part 1: Hinduphobia in Ontario and Canada – Introduction
- Part 2: Why HRC does not fully address the problem of Hinduphobia
- Part 3: What is Hinduphobia?
- Part 4: A Theoretical framework to understand Hinduphobia
- Part 5: Generalized Hinduphobia
- Part 6: Appropriation and lack of acknowledgment of positive contributions of Hindu civilization
- Part 7: Canada’s White Only History policy: overcoming a legacy of Racism
- Part 8: Hinduphobia in the Media
- Part 9: Hinduphobia in Academia/Universities
- Part 10: Examples of Hinduphobic Incidents in Canada