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“Racist” Polish school puzzle sparks controversy

Posted by Kris Roman on April 10, 2009

 

A new Polish mathematics schoolbook has sparked nationwide outrage over a “racist” conundrum, in which students are asked to calculate how to drown more Turks than Christians, national media reported on Friday.

The problem reads: “A boat caught in a storm and about to sink has 15 Christians and 15 Turks on board. To save the boat from sinking, half of the people in the boat must jump overboard. One of the Christians suggests that everyone stand in line and every ninth jumps overboard. How should the Christians stand so that only the Turks drown?”

The chairman of the Association Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia, Jerzy Jedlicki, said the textbook must never fall into the hands of children, because of its racist views.

According to Jedlicki, there is a growing tendency in Poland to encourage nationalist sentiment in children, and promote the idea that ethnic Poles should have more rights than those of other religions or nationalities.

“Such ideas form a false understanding in children’s minds, which later grows into hatred and discrimination,” Jedlicki said.

The authors of the textbook have defended the puzzle. One of the authors, Piotr Nodzynski, said it is an innocent mathematical example without malicious intent.

“None of the authors wanted to promote hatred,” Nodzynski said. “For me the main goal was to show a mathematical model. It is possible that the task lacks information showing that the scenario is unrealistic. But this is about mathematics, and not about killing Turks.”

Nodzynski said that the textbook has been published in English, German, French and Russian and is still on sale in bookstores.

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