Mathematics and Biology textbooks made us prejudiced, research claims

05, Apr 2010 By Pagal Patrakar

New Delhi.If a log can be broken by a man in 3 days, by a woman in 4 days and by a child in 7 days, how many logs can be broken by 4 men and 3 women together in 2 days?” while most of us might have hated answering such questions in our high schools, a researcher has found that such questions actually make us prejudiced and has argued for their removal from the textbooks.

“What are we teaching the young generation? Why should a woman be portrayed as taking more time than a man for performing a task? That is why we see prejudices against women at workplaces.” argues Prashant Adheer, the researcher, who has studied hundreds of textbooks prescribed by various state governments and is leading an effort to bring about the required changes in them.

In the course of his rigorous research work, Prashant claims to have come across numerous such examples in various Mathematics textbooks, which he blames for the current prejudices existing in the society. He believes there is a larger conspiracy by people in power to propagate these prejudices.

Parrot profiling
Seemingly innocuous references like these could actually be poisonous to young minds

“Nothing is coincidental or without purpose, in fact everything is political in nature.” Prashant strongly believes. “Why do you think politicians had no problems in granting the Right to Education to the citizens? They are trying to further their causes in the name of education through such textbooks.”

This is not for the first time when textbooks have become the center of any controversy. Earlier, some groups had found fault with History and Social Studies textbooks on such lines, but this is for the first time that someone has found fault with science stream textbooks for creating a prejudiced society.

Apart from Mathematics, which may not be considered as a pure science stream subject by many puritans, Prashant also finds fault with various Biology textbooks. He finds ‘profiling’ of species ‘unacceptable’.

“The other day I was reading this textbook that read – parrot likes fruits and nuts and loves to reside in places surrounded by trees – and I was like, wow, really? I mean who are we to say what a parrot likes and loves? Did someone ask any parrot? A child grows up reading such stuff and he starts generalizing about other communities in the same way. You know, like, a Bihari loves to reside in Mumbai, a Muslim likes to eat cow, and stuff like these.” Prashant points out what he calls “poisonous” contents in the textbooks.

Prashant has formed an NGO called Sachcha Shodh to create awareness and demand changes in these textbooks. Currently he plans to solicit funds from people and organizations that believe in liberty, equality, minority rights, feminism, human rights, democracy, tribal rights, freedom of speech, etc.