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Thursday, January 24, 2008

British P.C. (Pig Correctness)

Here’s a fun little news story from Great Britain. According to the BBC News, a digital book based on The Three Little Pigs was recently rejected by the judges in a national awards panel. The awards, known as the Bett Awards, honors educational technology. Becta, the British government’s educational technology agency is a leading partner in the Bett Awards and was primarily concerned that the CD-Rom, entitled The Three Little Cowboy Builders, was offensive.
Its problem? Pigs. Three of them. Galavanting all over the book, and potentially offending Muslim children who might inadvertantly view them.

Now, I’m not Muslim, but my understanding is that Muslims’ faith directs them to not eat pork (as does orthodox Judaism). I’m not aware of any prohibition on reading about pork products in action, as it were. Feel free to correct me, loyal Muslim readers, if I’m wrong on this one.

Meanwhile, if this seemingly misguided act of political correctness wasn’t bad enough, the officials at Becta went one step farther. They objected to the book’s depiction of building trade workers as pigs. The judges viewed this as stereotyping, stating: “Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?”
Well, I’m not a builder. Or a cowboy (or cowgirl, as my younger daughter would politically-correct me). But I’m not sure I’m willing to walk down this path with the judges. By their reasoning, most if not all books could be rejected for their unfair or unflattering portraits of people, animals, personality traits, professions… you name it.

Though I’m not sure I understand why depicting builders as cowboys or as pigs is negative. I’m a fan of the book Cowboy Bunnies, for example, and I’ve never heard of labor groups objecting to this depiction of ranch hands as rabbits. Though I guess the standard image of a rabbit is positive (quick, spry, generous with chocolate eggs) and that of a pig is negative (fat, dirty, and, well, piggy). Although I’m told pigs are smart and clean and their bad reputation is undeserved.
Some of my favorite books lovingly skewer classic tales (The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig comes to mind) and/or feature kind, heroic and funny porkers (Olivia, Mo Willem’s new easy reader character Piggy, the uninvited guests in Pigs A Plenty, Pigs Galore, Babe the Sheep Pig and, of course, Wilbur come to mind). I don’t really see why kids, regardless of their religion, should be shielded from them.
So here’s what this Perl says: Let there be swine.

PARENTS: What book do YOU find offensive and why?

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