Throw the Turk off the Boat

polish-maths

From the Polish News:

“How would you place Christians and Turks on a sinking ship so that only the latter drowned?”, reads a problem in a math textbook for Poland’s primary school pupils.

“On board a sinking ship there are fifteen Christians and fifteen Turks. In order to save the ship from going to the bottom, half of the crew needs to be thrown overboard. One of the Christians proposes that the whole crew form a circle and every ninth person jump overboard. How should the Christians place themselves so that only the Turks are drowned?” reads a problem, quoted the lay Catholic newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny.

Apparently the textbook – Miniatury matematyczne 12, or The Mathematical Miniatures for Primary Schools – has been around since 2004, and has only just become a centre of controversy. It is published by the Aksjomat Publishing House of Torun (not to be confused with another publishing house of the same name in Krakow), and the co-author, Piotr Nodzynski (var. Piotr Nodzy?ski), claims that no anti-Turkish sentiment was intended. The original Polish article can be seen here; a second report in English adds:

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.

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

From what I could glean from an internet machine translation of the Polish article, another of the book’s co-authors, Zbigniew Bobi?ski, says he warned that this particular passage was a bad idea, but he was ignored.

(Hat tip: Andrew Brown)