Imagine if a national textbook only discussed Sikhs as “terrorists.”
Or if a national textbook said Sikhi is an offshoot of Islam or Hinduism.
Unfortunately, I see this scenario playing out in Sikh homes everywhere. What follows is a frantic phone call from the parents to the teacher and an earnest explanation that what is written is incorrect. But the school's hands are tied; they don't write the textbooks. At this point, many of you reach out to the Sikh Coalition for help.
I remember taking action immediately by contacting the schools. We offered to make presentations to correct the information, but ultimately we knew we had to get to the root of the problem - correcting the textbooks.
And in 2013, because of your support, we sat across the table from Pearson Publishing and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to discuss Sikhi in their textbooks.
Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are two of America’s largest textbook manufacturers. They manufacture textbooks read by millions of students every year.
They sat down with us in response to a two-year grassroots campaign, led by the Sikh Coalition, to successfully persuade Texas to include Sikhi in the state school curriculum in 2010.
Once Texas agreed to include Sikhi in the curriculum, for three years we diligently attended educational conferences, met with teachers and principals, attended advocacy group meetings, and kept in constant contact with textbook manufacturers.
Three hard years later, I was sitting in Boston at the headquarters of Pearson. As I looked around the room at the team of editors from one of the most well-reputed publishers in the country, it was clear to me that the Sikh community has come a long way. Instead of knocking on doors and leaving unreturned voicemails, we finally had a seat at the table. As a result, in 2014 and 2015 we may begin seeing wholesale changes to the way Sikhi is portrayed in textbooks across America, not just in Texas.
It is a long journey, but I am confident, with your support, two, five, ten years from now, I will instead be getting enthusiastic phone calls about what your child is positively learning about Sikhi in this country.
We are fighting for a day when a Sikh child does not have the burden of explaining who Sikhs are to her classmates because her textbook already teaches correct information about Sikhi.
Will you join us?
I ask that you support our work today and join us in the long-term fight to let America know that Sikhs belong to a wonderful tradition with a universal message, one textbook at a time.
The Sikh Coalition
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