Still craving for approval

My earlier piece explained that to make math easy we first need swaraj in education, to allow non-Western knowledge into the system. Macaulay is usually blamed for imposing Western education on India. But, in fact, this had the support of the local intelligentsia. Twelve years before Macaulay's infamous minute of 1835, Ram Mohun Roy wrote to the viceroy asking that the British should not open more Sanskrit colleges, as they then planned to do. He demanded 'superior' Western education. Macaulay himself noted that half the Indians in the council, both Hindus and Muslims, were already with him. He maintained, as people still do, that Western education was indispensable for science.

This social approval for Western education was engineered through the false history that science is solely a Western product. That is contrary to common sense: if math and science are indeed universal, they should have developed universally. The wrong belief in the Western origin of all science arose from the Christianisation of history of which few know [though everyone has heard of the saffronisation of history]. The agenda of using history for Christian glorification started with the earliest church historian Eusebius. The 5th century Orosius extended this agenda to denigrate non-Christians, in his
against pagans. The Christianisation of history reached virulent proportions during the religious fanaticism of the Crusades and the Inquisition, as I have explained in my booklet Is Science Western in Origin?.

Briefly, during Crusades in the 12th century, Arabic books captured at Toledo were mass-translated into Latin. The church earlier used to burn all non-Christian books, so the change of policy required justification. False history was used for this. It was claimed that the scientific knowledge in those Arabic books was theologically correct since it all came from early Greeks [regarded as friendly to Christians].

This knowledge was declared the rightful Christian inheritance which the Muslims had merely kept in safekeeping. Thus, all scientific knowledge before the Crusades was indiscriminately attributed to Greeks. For example, the origin of 'real' mathematics was attributed to an unknown Greek called 'Euclid'. We blindly believed those stories on trust, without ever independently verifying them. To expose such Western superstitions, I have offered a prize of Rs 1.5 lakh for serious evidence about Euclid. No one has claimed the prize so far. But our textbooks continue to depict Euclid as a real person, thus indoctrinating children.

The Inquisition boosted this false history, for acknowledging non-Christian sources then was taboo and punished with death by torture. Therefore, Europeans habitually claimed 'independent rediscovery'. Thus, Copernicus merely translated the works of Ibn Shatir and Nasiruddin Tusi, without acknowledging his Muslim sources. But, today, streets are named after Copernicus, not Ibn Shatir. Similarly, Tycho Brahe kept the sources of his planetary model secret (even from his assistant Kepler). That planetary model is identical to the earlier one of Nilakantha Somasutvan of Kerala. Recall that Indian astronomy texts of that time were translated and taken from Cochin to Europe, by Jesuits, and, as the Royal Astronomer to the Holy Roman Empire, Tycho was a natural recipient. Thus, scientific knowledge after the Crusades was indiscriminately attributed to Christians. This gave a theologically-correct origin to all science.

This false history of science encouraged racism: Hume, Kant and others 'scientifically' justified racism by claiming that only whites were intellectually creative. Images of Greeks in our school texts still show white Caucasian stereotypes, though those Greeks supposedly lived in Alexandria in Africa. Missionaries used this false history to pour scorn on all non-Christians, as incapable of science. It was this scorn before which the gullible like Ram Mohun crumbled, enabling Macaulay to change the education system. Even today, the Western-educated scorn everything non-Western and crave Western approval.

Uncritically accepting Western education as a package deal was a bad mistake. Thus, the Western university system was started by the church during the Crusades to produce better missionaries. The church controlled Western education for nine centuries. Cambridge graduates had to sign their allegiance to the church, because the declared aim of that education was the 'breeding of clerics', as noted by Isaac Barrow, Master of Trinity College, and Isaac Newton’s mentor. Church control of universities persisted into the 20th century, when the universities of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale refused to keep Newton’s long-suppressed manuscripts which exposed the church manipulation of the Bible. Control of education enables control of minds: just as a trained dog returns to its master even if unchained.

Now, certainly, we should not uncritically reject everything Western either. A critical re-examination of Western knowledge is needed. But this shows us that church theology has infested even supposedly secular subjects like mathematics and science, as I have explained in my books Cultural Foundations of Mathematics, and The Eleven Pictures of Time. Critiquing the West is, however, difficult, because the West still controls education worldwide. That control is achieved through 'expert raj'. Experts are defined as those who hold certificates of Western approval: degrees from foreign universities and publications in secretively refereed 'international' [read Western controlled] journals. These 'experts' are typically subordinate to the West, and totally unaccountable to those they 'educate'. But any change in our texts requires their approval, hence the concurrence of their Western masters.

A simple example may clarify issues. Five years ago, I objected that our school texts misspelt Aryabhata’s name as 'Aryabhatta'. That changes his caste. The word 'bhata' means a servant, a slave, whereas 'bhatta' means the opposite [lord]. The NCERT eventually corrected the spelling, but the accompanying image of Aryabhata in the 10th standard mathematics text still shows him with a janeu (sacred thread). That is the distinguishing mark of a dvija [twice born], and meant only for the upper varnas. The image is a bit hazy, but any doubt about intentions is settled by the statue of Aryabhata which stands in the institute of the chairman of the advisory committee of this text. A photo of this statue can be seen on Wikipedia or by Googling Aryabhata’s images. The
is unmistakable. That image silently kills a symbol of lower-caste achievement. Way back in 2006, the public relations officer of that institute had emailed me, asking for the sloka in which Aryabhata compares the round earth to a kadamba flower. Then, too, I had pointed out the casteist implications. Nevertheless, these erroneous images persist, because it is seen as our job to persuade the enthroned 'experts'. Real experts would not make such terrible mistakes, and would definitely not repeat and preserve them. If this is what happens with Aryabhata, one can imagine the difficulty with 'Euclid', in whom the West has deep vested interests. How, then, can we hope to change mathematics and science?

Clearly, the first step towards swaraj in education is to dismantle this Western-controlled 'expert raj'. 'Experts' must be redefined, independently of Western approval, so that they stop acting as Western agents. Our universities must have ample spaces for critiques of Western knowledge, especially in math and science, which critiques they currently disallow. This is an urgent task since the government has proposed legislation which aims to achieve exactly the opposite.

C K Raju is professor of mathematics at the University of Science Malaysia.
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