California commission rejects textbook "biased" against Jews, Hindus
In a surprise move, an advisory body to California's board of education rejected a sixth-grade history program that Hindu and Jewish groups blasted as biased, erroneous and culturally derogatory.
During a two-day hearing last week before the state's curriculum development and supplemental materials commission, Jewish critics lambasted the Oxford University Press textbook and related materials for subjecting early Jewish history to a more rigid standard of proof than Christian or Muslim history; for including stories that have traditionally fomented anti-Semitism; and for misstating key concepts of Judaism, presenting it as a religion of reward and punishment rather than one of social justice and morality.
The rejection was a major upset for the prestigious publishing company, which for the first time was trying to enter the lucrative California market for teaching materials for kindergarten through eighth grade.
California is the nation's largest textbook purchaser, and often sets the tone for what is adopted by other states.
David Gershwin of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles laid out for the commissioners Oxford's depiction of the Exodus.
Not only, he said, does the Oxford text note that there is no historical record of the Exodus — a caveat not included in descriptions of the seminal religious events of other faiths — it incorrectly states that the story is important to Jews mainly as a way to set themselves off from other people.
After the hearing, Oxford University Press representatives said they had"misunderstood" the public comment procedure, and are eager to work with Jewish and Hindu groups to make needed changes before November, when they plan to resubmit their program to the California state board.
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