Furor over racism in Swedish school book

Parents in Karlskoga in central Sweden are up in arms over what they see as racist and sexist passages in a book designed to help first graders learn how to read.

“The book is entirely inappropriate and solidifies outdated stereotypes about diversity and gender, things which our curriculum is designed to work against,” said the county’s equality strategist Bruno Rudström to the Karlskoga-Kuriren newspaper.

One passage of the book portrays a little boy with thick glasses sitting alone.

In explaining why the boy is alone, the book offers the following explanation: “Because he is a Jew.”

Entitled, Kom och läs! (‘Come and read!’), the book was published in 1999 and is the first in a series called Förstagluttarna, a common nickname for first graders.

Elsewhere in the book, boys are portrayed as being skilled in mathematics, while the girls have trouble counting.

The leadership of Karlskoga county’s equality advisory group discussed the book at a Monday night meeting.

Moni Nilsson-Brännström, the book’s author as well as the publisher, Natur och Kultur, contend the book, published in 1999, consciously raises problematic issues, arguing that teachers should then present opposing views which call the book’s contents into question.

But Rudström doubts the merits of such methods.

“They’re reading in order to learn how to read and that is not the time to start questioning what you’re reading,” he said.

The book will now be discussed further in the county’s board for children and education.