Karnataka NEP head who questioned Pythagoras theorem origin cites source: It’s there on Quora

BySharan Poovanna, Bengaluru
Jul 14, 2022 09:31 AM IST

If you just go to Quora or Google, there is a lot of debate and discussion and evidence that it was Baudhāyana (an ancient Indian mathematician) who propounded this theory which was subsequently adopted by Pythagoras.

Karnataka’s position papers on the National Education Policy -- every state has to prepare them -- have been in the news for all the wrong reasons -- questioning established science, and making claims not based on science. In an interview, Madan Gopal, Karnataka’s NEP task force head, sought to clear the air on the controversies. Edited excerpts.

Karnataka’s NEP task force head Madan Gopal (HT Photo) PREMIUM
Karnataka’s NEP task force head Madan Gopal (HT Photo)

Also Read | Karnataka calls Pythagoras theorem ‘fake news’, proposes to teach Manusmriti under NEP

How are the committees that author the position papers formed?

Each group is led by an eminent educationist with no less than two to three decades of experience. They’re ably assisted by another educationist... and domain experts. They submitted the report and we placed it in the public domain and submitted it to NCERT. It was reviewed more than a dozen times, we had workshops, asked them to give a presentation and it was discussed in the presence of all the people that are members of the task force and other members of the various committees. We created these groups in consultation with the government . Some of them visited districts and they were given freedom to choose any special invitees to be part of that group. It’s a very, very elaborate exercise.

One position paper refers to Pythagoras theorem and the apple falling on (Isaac) Newton’s head as “fake news”...

The paper did not question the content or validity of the theorem but only its origin. If you just go to Quora or Google, there is a lot of debate and discussion and evidence that it was Baudhāyana (an ancient Indian mathematician) who propounded this theory which was subsequently adopted by Pythagoras. We have not denounced the theory; nor will its teaching stop. We have only said that the origins are rooted in ancient India. I can send you the entire text from Quora.

And the apple falling on Newton’s head ....

They didn’t say apple at all. Manchester University published a paper saying that the theory of Newton is copied from ancient texts from Kerala. Our students should be aware of the origin of some of the theories. We are not denouncing any theory... So, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

One paper also discusses a genocide of Hindus...

If you refer to the history books prior to the 1950s, you will see books of RC Majumdar, RN Sharma, Neelkanta Shastri; they refer to certain facts without any bias. After the 50s some of these things were removed from our curriculum and I believe that it was because of the influence of some ideologies. Certain ideologies have influenced the preparation of curriculum and the textbooks. In South Africa, after Nelson Mandela became the president, they constituted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The type of atrocities on blacks during apartheid that went on for decades..., they could resolve it by understanding what happened. The idea is that by knowing what happened, it will avoid friction, conflict and polarization. The more you try and push it under the carpet, it causes unnecessary tension. As mature citizens and individuals, by talking about these (topics), it is not going to create differences. It’s going to bring unity. Whether it is Hindu genocide in Kashmir, Moplah massacre or (the killing of) Brahmins of Maharashtra. All of these are facts and we cannot deny them. Addressing the facts the fact will make us more mature. This was mentioned in the `knowledge of India’ paper.

The paper on health and well-being, chaired by a psychiatrist, says that eating eggs and meat leads to lifestyle disorders.

That is the point of view of a doctor who himself is a nutritionist. So, whether egg is a good or bad is debatable.

There are nutritionists in the group as well. It has nothing to do with any taboo or anything and only seen from a nutritional point of view. There is a nutritional and health perspective as well as one on religious perspective. I personally feel that religious perspective we should ignore . Because the child in a school, irrespective of whatever the religion he belongs to, is entitled to nutritious food. The Karnataka government is not going to stop giving eggs in mid-day meals.

Nutritionists argue that the position paper makes a more religious argument than a nutritional one.

If you want to attribute any motives to them (committees), I can’t help it. This (position paper) is not a policy of the state government nor a recommendation, these are viewpoints of one of the groups. This report will allow for debate and will not influence any policy of the state government. There are more than 850 papers like this with NCERT. All viewpoints from different states will be summed up in a tabular form made available to the concerned committees dealing with a particular subject. There are various national level committees, which will debate these. So, this is a point only to debate and then put it in a public domain which will enrich our decision-making process.

There are allegations that this is part of the “saffronisation” of education in the state.

This is a view from the group constituted by the Karnataka government which is known for as one of the progressive states and known for respecting pluralistic thinking. As the chairman of the group, I have not been approached by any political party nor have I approached anyone... Some say that RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) is involved. Why would the RSS be bothered about these papers? Nobody called me and I can say with authority that I didn’t call anybody or any political party or person. No one influenced any group regarding the content.

How are we adding value to school education with these topics?

We are made to believe that these theories came from the West and contribution from India is zero. That is the system which has created such a mindset among the students that we are not contributed anything to the world of science, astronomy, physics, chemistry or mathematics. But, in fact, many of the theories are copied from India and accepted by the international scientific community in many forums.

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