Indian textbooks tend to make the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2014, the unearthing of some appalling mistakes in the Social Science textbooks taught to English-medium government schools in Gujarat brought into the limelight exactly what it is that impressionable young minds are being exposed to across the country. In 2013, the Maharashtra government called for the withdrawal of Class X Geography textbooks that included Arunachal Pradesh as a part of China in its maps, and in 2012, a CBSE textbook claimed that non-vegetarians are liars, cheats and commit crimes. However, there is a massive difference between factual inaccuracies and straight-up propaganda.
The Indian education system has been and continues to be flawed for reasons far beyond just factual inaccuracies. Education is all we have to help shape the minds of tomorrow, the minds of progress. Children cannot often comprehend the difference between fact and opinion, especially propagandized opinion. Opinions can be disputed, facts cannot. As adults in positions of power, it is the responsibility of those engineering our education system to ensure that children are presented with facts, alongside context. Some of the information out there is just beyond absurd, a few that we explored in a previous article, but it seems that one volume wasn’t enough.
While we’ve previously had references to housewives being equal to donkeys, and praises for Hitler lending “dignity and prestige” to the German government – it seems that in the last few years, our textbooks haven’t gotten any better, nor more accurate. Here’s a list of quotes and excerpts from Indian textbooks that have left us enraged and pretty speechless, and we’re sure you’ll feel the same:
CBSE’s Health and Physical Education Textbook by Dr. VK Sharma and published by New Saraswati House, is here to educate 12th standard students on everything they need to know about the female anatomy. According to Dr. Sharma the “perfect female body” comes with exact measurements, he claims that the 36-24-36 “shape of females is considered the best” referencing the contestants of Miss Universe and Miss World pageants as clear examples.
It goes on to gently remind you that “The 36-24-36 figure does not come up by chance,” and “If we perform regular exercise, we will be able to make our bodies beautiful.” Because naturally, what is life worth if you don’t live up to standards seen as being ideal, from no other than a man, of course. It’s also mentioned that due to ‘long vertebrae’, ‘comparatively shorter limbs’ and ‘wide hipbones’, women are not able to run properly. Too bad Jessica Ennis, better luck next reincarnation, hope you win a penis! Men, never fear there are some other choice inputs from the good Doctor for you too. The ideal body for you is the ‘V-shape’, so set aside your goals, aim to be a letter of the alphabet and you’ll have it made.
“If a girl is ugly and handicapped, it becomes very difficult for her to get married. To marry her, the girl’s bridegroom and his family demand more dowry. Parents of such girls become helpless and pay dowry as per the demands of the bridegroom as family.”
This gem is from a Class 12 Sociology textbook published by the Maharashtra state education board. While parts of Indian society have fought for years to abolish this backward practice and change the mindset of people towards one of the biggest social issues that plague our nation, we have THIS being taught to thousands of students in the country. The aspect of disability and the misfortune it affords the poor parents of this girl deserves a whole different article altogether.
III. “Good Height & Beautiful Complexion” Needed To Be A Successful Entrepreneur
The chapter on ‘Skill Development’ in a Class XII textbook in Rajasthan states some rather peculiar, and specific, requirements to be a successful entrepreneur. The book lists “Uttam swasthya, prabhavshali vyaktitva, acchi unchai, sundar rang, shaleenta, gambhirta (perfect health, impressive personality, good height, beautiful complexion, sobriety, seriousness)” as desirable attributes in an entrepreneur.
As per an The Indian Express report, the Rajasthan curriculum includes “textbooks on ‘socially relevant schemes’ that propagate the flagship initiatives of BJP governments” that are “dedicated to key central and state government schemes, focus mainly on announcements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and instructs students to ‘internalise each word’ of his Swacch Bharat pledge.”
Not sure how exactly the stated entrepreneurial traits fit into that, but what is certain is that it doesn’t set a good precedent. How can our education system be determined and constantly changed to follow the ideology of whoever is in power at the time? How is this helping exactly?
IV. Class IV Students Instructed To Kill A Kitten As An Experiment
What better way to learn about life than by taking one. An ‘experiment’ from a class IV environmental science textbook went viral on social media when it suggested that students basically kill a kitten to learn that ‘living things breathe.’ The book in question, title ‘Our Green World: Environment Studies’ published by PP Publications, was withdrawn from the market, but the fact that such a thing could even be approved for publication in the first place is just beyond comprehension.
“Take two wooden boxes. Make holes on lid of one box. Put a small kitten in each box. Close the boxes. After some time open the boxes. What do you see? The kitten inside the box without the holes has died,” the textbook appallingly states.
To the writers of this textbook, we would like to humbly suggest a worthwhile watch of “Don’t Fuck with Cats” on Netflix for any further information required on the inadvertent nurturance of psychopathology.
V. Working Indian Women Are Cause Of Unemployment
Well, such is the archaic and illogical view a Class X Social Science textbook in Chhattisgarh holds. Among the economic issues that have plagued the nation since the time of independence, women joining the workfield was listed as one of the causes of rising unemployment. Because unemployment, of course, by default refers to only the unemployment of men.
Soumya Garg, a teacher in the tribal district of Jashpur, Chhattisgarh, brought this passage to the public’s attention when she petitioned the state’s women’s commission contesting how such prejudiced beliefs could be taught to students.
Wonder how many men are currently unemployed due to this dynamic woman!
VI. Maharashtra College Textbook Teaches Students How to Conceive a Baby Boy
“Collect two north facing branches of a Banyan tree (east facing will also suffice) that has grown in a stable, take precisely two grains of urad dal mustard seeds, grind all the ingredients with curd, and consume the mixture” - this is just one of the methods in which is conceive a baby boy, as described in the third-year Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine, and Surgery (BAMS) textbook.
The text has been taken from Charaka Samhita, the sanskrit compilation on Ayurveda, and is included in the current BAMS syllabus. While there are some ailments for which many people turn to alternative, natural therapies like ayurveda, there is a reason why we celebrate Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and why certain things need allopathy that is backed by scientific data, research and analysis - and conceiving a baby boy is not one of them. It’s absurd that this is included in a medical syllabus, that too at a college level.
Ganesh Borhade, a member of the district supervisory board of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, who raised concerns regarding this textbook puts it very aptly. Speaking to Mumbai Mirror, he said, “Doctors with BAMS degrees have a thriving practice not just in rural areas, but also in cities such as Mumbai, Pune, and Nashik. Many people shun allopathy in favour of Ayurveda, and if this is what medical students are being taught, God help this society.”
VII. Self-styled Godman Asaram Bapu Hailed As A ‘Saint’ in Schoolbook
While the cases of assault and rape against Asaram Bapu have grown grimmer over the years, it seems that a certain Delhi publisher didn’t get the memo. One of their textbooks, a prescribed reading for Class III in some schools of Jodhpur listed Asaram among ‘great saints.’
Parents of the students were up in arms, of course, considering that the main being praised and sharing in celebration with the likes of Vivekananda and Mother Teresa has been arrested and in jail for the rape of a minor.
VIII. Mumbai University Explains Artificial Intelligence With Bizarre Example
Now, this is one that cannot be fully verified to belong in a certified textbook, but if we were to go by India Today’s report, a Mumbai University textbook for Artificial Intelligence has a strange example that caught readers by surprise.
According to the report, Redditer s1ddh4nt posted this image from the textbook to the site; the text reads: “Now think a result to the abstract problem: The path from Thane to Nashik to Ahmad Nagar to Kopargaon to Vinchur. This abstract solution matches to a large number of more elaborate paths.
For example, we could drink beer between Nashik and Ahamad Nagar, and then smoke pot for the rest of the trip, although this may add to the distance, since we forgot where we were going, but didn’t care anyhow.”
Now, we’re no experts on Artificial Intelligence, but we’re pretty sure this would not go in our list of recommended readings.
IX. Jawaharlal Nehru Omitted, Mahatma Gandhi & Bal Gangadhar Tilak ‘Anti-Secular’
There are multiple histories of India and it’s people, other than the dominant societal narrative. Whether you’re Left inclined or Right Wing, there are certain aspects of our past that are factual and cannot be denied by either. One such instance is the important roles played by Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak in India’s freedom movement - whether you agree or disagree with what they did is a separate matter.
A 2015 Political Science textbook from Mumbai University’s Institute of Distance and Open Learning not only omits the mention of India’s first Prime Minister from its pages, but has also cited Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak as being anti-secular. Now, this isn’t a term you can use frivolously in a book of knowledge meant to be unbiased, not tainted with personal beliefs. Seeing the excerpts pointed out by Mid-day in their extensive report, the Leftist ideology is clear.
“It was unfortunate that Gandhi’s association with the nationalist movement and his penchant for using Hindu idioms and similes in the nationalist discourse infuriated Jinnah so much that he decided to leave not only the Congress but India itself,” reads the textbook. Regarding Tilak, the book reads, “Starting of Ganesh Festival and invoking religious scriptures such as Bhagvad Gita for political actions were clear examples of mixing religion with politics and attitude that was categorically anti-secular.”
“All political parties, perhaps with the exception of the Left parties, get engaged in espousing Communalism, whenever it suited them.” Here lies the problem, all political parties use the religion card, so to say that the Left is clear of such misgivings isn’t fair. Moreover, decontextualizing the use of religious symbolism as being anti-secular is a rather unfounded argument to make.
X. We haven’t been able to trace the real source of this image, yet it has found a place on this list for reasons that do not really need to be spelt out. Whether it is from a textbook or a children’s book of some kind, the sad reality is that somewhere, this image is depicting to young impressionable minds what ‘beauty’ is – fair skin.
Representational feature image courtesy of Akshaya Patra Foundation via Pixabay
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