Indian History Education: An email conversation
A friend in America recently wrote to me and asked:
"yo, what is desaffronisation? taking hinduism out of public ed? is that a big deal right now?"
There's a major controversy regarding the education curriculum in India. Essentially, Indian history has been written by a bunch of leftists and unreconstructed marxists since Indian independence. School textbooks reflected this bias, and the curriculum writers were supported by the left-leaning Indian government. In the 1990s, Indian rightists took over government, and began introducing textbooks that reflected their historical biases. Now usually I'd be in favor of this, but I have many problems with Indian rightists. They're mostly cultural rightists, and I'm essentially an economic rightist. Being cultural rightists, many of them are Hindu chauvinists, and the most hidebound and reactionary people were put in charge of revising the curriculum. So, their changes to the educational system were characterized by the leftist academic elite as "Saffronisation".
Now, the left parties are back in power, and they're going about dismantling the saffronisation of education and reinstating the old texts and theories. This is called "Desaffronisation". My personal opinion tends towards a plague on both your houses attitude. Indian leftists are some of the most idiotic people on the planet, and Indian hindu chauvinists are some of the silliest. Neither should be in charge of dictating the History curriculum in Indian schools. Furthermore, India is a very ahistorical country, in that the Indian people largely don't have a mature sense of history. There isn't a long tradition of recording, analyzing and arguing about our history, as there is in most of the rest of the world, so much of our historical thinking is extremely simplistic.
So, on the one hand you have a bunch of leftist academics, learning and teaching all the wrong lessons from Indian history, usually in inaccessible jargon, and on the other hand you have a group of simplistic charlatans who have no idea how to appoach the study of history in the first place. As you can see, it's a tough one. The biggest casualty of all this nonsense, of course, is the Indian student. Children in India, already discouraged from studying history by a society enamored with science and engineering, are taught faulty history in an extremely boring way. Not only do they end up not knowing anything of their history, they end up being turned off to it. Instead of educating India's children about India's history, India's history teachers are contributing to the continued historical ignorance of the people of India.