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Ombudsmen critical of racist school book

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Ombudsmen critical of racist school book
15:40 CET+01:00
Two Swedish ombudsman offices have added their voices to the chorus of criticism about a school book accused of having racist and sexist contents, but are powerless to do anything about it.

Both the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman (JämO) and Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (DO) have registered their disapproval with the book, reports the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Earlier this year, both offices received letters from a group of parents from Mölndal in western Sweden who wrote in an attempt to get a hearing for their view that the book was insulting and prejudiced.

“I think you are justified in your reaction to the current book,” wrote the DO in its response.

The DO added, however, that it had no ability to affect legislation on the issue and that the most it could do was “recommend schools undertake a review of the literature. Hopefully the school will accept your point of view and change books.”

The book in question is part of the Förstagluttarna series of books, named for a common Swedish nickname for first graders.

In one passage explains that a little boy with glasses is sitting alone because he is Jewish. Other parts of the book portray girls as being less skilled at mathematics than boys.

Earlier this week another group of parents from Karlskrona in central Sweden urged school officials to take action.

Despite the protests about the book's lack of gender equality, however, the JämO also said that current law doesn't allow for the book to be banned from the classroom.

“On the other hand it will be interesting to see how school manages teaching material like this, where it could possibly be a question of some form of harassment,” said JämO's Johan Gyberg to SvD.

In a statement, the book's publisher, Natur & Kultur, said it welcomes discussion about the best way to educate young children.

“It's always useful for us to hear the views of teachers, students, and parents. When it comes to teaching material we believe that teachers have the competence to decide which materials are most appropriate for their students and lessons,” writes Natur & Kultur.

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