Thursday, January 24, 2008

Three little pigs 'could offend builders, Muslims'

A story based on the Three Little Pigs has been rejected by a government quango in case it offends Muslims.

The digital remake of the children's classic was criticised by Becta, the education technology agency, because "the use of pigs raises cultural issues".

Officials also attacked the story - called The Three Little Cowboy Builders - for stereotyping the building trade.

The comments were condemned by the computer program's creator as "a slap in the face".

It is the latest in a string of bans slapped on seemingly innocuous children's stories and nursery rhymes.

Three little pigs
A digital version of the children's tale Three Little Pigs has
been rejected by Becta because it 'raises cultural issues'

In the past, Baa Baa Black Sheep has become Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep to satisfy race relations, the Seven Dwarfs have been axed from Snow White to avoid offending the vertically challenged and the ending of Humpty Dumpty has been censored for fear of upsetting sensitive children.

The latest controversy was sparked during an awards ceremony designed to honour the best educational stories, programmes and teaching aids for children.

Dozens of companies submitted entries to the annual BETT awards, led by Becta, which heaped praise on a robot with 67 different manoeuvres, a computer program which allows children to recreate Jackson Pollock paintings and a game helping pupils to learn French.

But Newcastle-based publishers Shoo Fly were shocked when judges told them that their interactive 3D book was unsuitable for children.

In a feedback form, Becta told the company: "Judges would not recommend this product to the Muslim community in particular."

They also said that the subject was "questionable for certain groups within the UK" and that "only an exceedingly creative teacher could find this innovative".

The story for primary school pupils replaces pigs with "cowboy builders" as part of a light-hearted tale designed to spark interest in reading and design technology skills.

Young children are encouraged to read the story and create their own versions using the software.

But its authors were also told that it portrays the building industry in a bad light.

Judges said "retelling a story" was acceptable, but it "should not alienate parts of the workforce", adding that builders should be "positive" role models for young children.

"Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?" the judges asked.

Anne Curtis, the founder of Shoo Fly, which won a prize at the prestigious Education Resource Awards for the story, said: "The feedback amounted to a verbal assault.

"I feel these criticisms aim to close the minds of teachers and young people to some issues."

Muslims criticised Becta's response and insisted that a computer program based on the Three Little Pigs should be welcomed in state schools.

Tahir Alam, the head of education at the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "We are not offended by that at all."

Yesterday, the quango stood by the verdict, which was made by 70 independent judges, mainly teachers.

A spokesman said: "The feedback makes clear that the issues highlighted were a small selection from a much broader range of comments."

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