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Jewish school in London criticized for removing historical references from state-approved textbook

An Orthodox Jewish school in England was criticized for deleting passages from government-approved textbooks. (Jcomp/Getty Images)

A state-funded Orthodox Jewish girls’ school in London censored sections of textbooks to remove mentions of homosexuals and examples of women socializing with men, the Guardian reported.

The changes were made in an attempt to prevent sexualization of the girls, according to the school.

What did they remove?

The Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ school covered the following passages from textbooks :

  • Text and images of Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers.
  • References to homosexuals in a section about the Nazi's belief in the superiority of the Aryan race.
  • Images of women that showed chests, shoulders and arms, and legs above the knee.
  • References to women smoking, drinking and driving, along with the sentence: “They kissed in public.”

Concerned community members had passed alone the textbooks to Humanists UK, an organization that bills itself as helping "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs."

Jay Harman, the charity’s education campaigns manager, called the redactions “shocking.” He also told the Guardian it demonstrates an approach to education that is “very worrying.”

A spokesman for Yesodey Hatorah, which serves the which serves the strictly Orthodox Haredi community, called the complaint “old news.” He told the Guardian it was “well known” that the school redacted textbooks.

“This policy has nothing to do homophobia or misogyny, but is to protect our girls from sexualisation in line with our parents’ wishes and religious beliefs,” the spokesman told the Guardian.

The Office for Standards in Education in England has promised to crack down on faith schools and illegal schools that are not imparting what it calls a balanced and modern education.

Harman said: “In the past, Ofsted has said schools that take this approach, if they are ignoring different sexual orientations and the beliefs of groups … [then they] are not meeting their obligation under the Equality Act … You cannot teach kids to be tolerant to people who are different if you are ignorant of those people.”

Were there other complaints?

Similar complaints were made against the school in 2013, when questions on evolution were obscured on science exams, meaning they could not be answered, the Guardian reported.

A spokesman for England’s Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations board said: “Ensuring the integrity of the exam system is of paramount importance to OCR and we will always take all the steps necessary to protect it.”

At the time, the exam board met with the school to ensure it did not happen again, the report states. It maintains that all schools must "actively promote fundamental British values, that include “mutual respect and tolerance of those who hold values different from their own."

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