Harmeet Kaur is an active sevadaar who lives in Houston, TX. When she received the Sikh Coalition’s request to find textbooks that mention Sikhs, she immediately called her two brothers, and asked them for their social studies textbooks. Then, she looked through the books for any mention of Sikhs or Sikhism. In her brother’s world geography book, she found that it said, "Gobind Singh also introduced the practice of men wearing turbans on their head, and never cutting their beards or hair." The book does not mention that Sikh women also do not cut their hair. In her other brother’s world history book, she read that Sikhism was a Hindu sect. She immediately visited the Sikh Coalition’s “Throw the ‘book’ at Textbook Publishers” campaign page, and filled out the online form.
But she didn’t stop there.
Harmeet then called a few friends who are also in high school, and asked them to look through their textbooks. On Sunday, when she went to gurdwara, she spoke with her Aunty about the campaign. She encouraged Aunty to ask her daughter to review her social studies textbook that night. Harmeet also visited her neighbors, told them about the campaign, and asked them to check their social studies textbook.
Can you follow Harmeet’s lead? Can you ask 1, 2, or 3 students you know to look through their social studies book to see if Sikhs are mentioned? Please remember, it does not matter if the book contains correct or incorrect information about Sikhs. The Sikh Coalition wants to know EVERY mention of Sikhs in our nation’s textbooks.
We have been getting several emails from sangat across the country asking questions about the campaign. We have listed some of those questions below.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is this request so urgent?
There are only a few weeks left before schools close for summer vacation. Your children do not have access to their textbooks over the summer, so this is why we are asking you to do this seva now.
- My child showed me a book in her world history class two years ago that had incorrect information about Sikhs. I don’t have access to the book now. Can I just send you the name of the book?
No. In order to present our findings to these textbook publishers, we need excerpts from the book which contain information about Sikhs. This is why we are asking everyone to visit the campaign page and fill out the form completely so that we have all of this information in the same place.
- My children are no longer in school. Can I still help you with this campaign?
Yes, of course! You can take Harmeet’s lead and ask your friends who have children in school and your neighbors. We are also encouraging Khalsa Schools around the country to make an announcement about this campaign, and ask your students to bring their books to gurdwara on Sunday. You can even make this a homework assignment for your Khalsa School!
- Why aren’t you working with schools to correct this information?
The information that is included in textbooks is determined by 1) the state standards adopted by each state and 2) the textbook publisher. Individual schools have little influence over what is contained in their textbooks, and do not have authority to make corrections.
- Why don’t you sue the authors of the textbook?
There is no legal cause of action to sue a textbook manufacturer for publishing inaccurate information about a community. In addition, there are many books that have incorrect information about Sikhs. We need to determine how many books and in what context they mischaracterize Sikhs in order to understand how widespread this problem may be. Once we obtain and study the various examples, we will then approach the editorial teams at the three major textbook publishers. We will then work with them to make these corrections in their new editions, and ensure that they consult with experts in the field in the future.
- Why don’t you focus on all electronic books and then use “find and search” for the word “Sikh”?
Getting access to electronic textbooks is sometimes not an easy task. Often times, you need a password to read the book online, and only students/teachers would have this information. Also, most schools still use and have access to printed textbooks more readily, which is why we are focusing on print textbooks instead of electronic textbooks.