School and Upbringing

School and upbringing

By Marianne Haslev Skånland, Professor




Marianne Haslev Skånland is professor of Linguistics at the University of Bergen, Norway. She is also vice-president of the NCHR.

The Norwegian version of this article can be found in NKMR's (NHCR's) Scandinavian article section.

The article has appeared in two slightly different versions in Norwegian newspapers: in "Valdres", a local paper published in the valley of Valdres in eastern Norway, on 7 November 1995, and in "Bergensavisen", a local paper published in the city of Bergen on the west coast, on 9 November 1995.

A critical article by an education professional followed. Skånland replied to this in Bergensavisen on 23 November 1995. Skånland's reply "Teachers and parents", plus a last paragraph which Bergensavisen did not print, is found below, directly after "School and upbringing".



Our society is experiencing tough times at school, with plenty of violence and bad behaviour. People in Norsk Lærerlag (Norwegian Teachers' Union) hold the cause to be big classes and lack of resources (cf "Bergensavisen" (BA) 5 November 95). Classes are no larger now, though, than they were in my childhood 40 years ago, rather the contrary. A Bergen politician is probably closer to making a correct diagnosis when she emphasises "good co-operation between the parent group and the school".

On 1st November BA published another article on the same theme. In this article three teachers strongly oppose the suggested use of expulsion, detention or other real sanctions. They claim that such old-fashioned methods are no good today. Perhaps they are right, for all I know, but if so, why? The same pedagogues have no concrete suggestions of their own, only hot air about it being "deadly dangerous to sketch standard solutions to behavioural problems". They end their argumentation by saying that the responsibility does not rest with the school alone, it "is first and foremost the parents' to deal with".

The same allocation of responsibility is made by "Valdres" in its comments on the efforts of the "Night Ravens" (adults who patrol the streets in the night in order to try to abate and stop youth violence). In their column "Briefly" on the 27 October we read: "But the attitudes of those who destroy and wreck are impossible for the Ravens to deal with. To bring up kids is and remains the responsibility of the parents."

Correct. But society must make it possible for parents to carry out the upbringing of their children in actual practice. Large groups of people in the professions occupied with other people's children have for several generations now been active in undermining the authority of parents and their right to bring up their children. The would-be experts tell us that: "children's own opinion is so important!"; "children should have the right to vote"; "we must understand them"; "the child's needs must be in focus"; "parents are not sufficiently knowledgeable about children, they lack professional competence" - - - the propaganda is endlessly repeated, especially by social workers, educators and psychologists.

We should note, for example, that a term like "behaviour problems" turns reality upside down. Youngsters who behave badly pose a problem for the rest of us. They themselves obviously do not experience their behaviour as a problem. It certainly is not a problem which we have to spend time to "understand". They lack in proper upbringing. But the concept "bring up " - used correctly by "Valdres" - is practically absent from the vocabulary of the professional experts on children. Their formulation is "to set limits" for children.

These two concepts are not the same. "To set limits" imparts the philosophy that the young should take charge of their own development on their own initiative; all the grown-ups should do is stop the youngsters in the very wildest of their unacceptable activities. "To bring up" is to provide children with a culture, a content of life, standards and points of view; to bring across an understanding of the fact that one is not the centre of the universe but must continually consider the feelings and needs of others; it is to furnish them with the meaningful kind of discipline which leads to self-discipline.

But even in setting limits the experts fail radically. Three examples from real life:

1) In a district near Bergen, it has become fashionable for youngsters to consult a school psychologist about their problems. These "problems" are of course of the normal kind: "I feel ... my opinion is ... nobody considers what I want ... my self-esteem is cut down ... mum and dad do not understand me ... I am not allowed to ....".

One result of this kind of talk-show is that adults, by encouraging such circling around oneself, contribute to the development of a negative self-centredness in the young. An even more serious aspect is the activities of the psychologist in question, for instance: A 14 year old girl wanted to go to a large party. Her mother said: "No, I know what those wild, drunken parties are like and you are not allowed to go there and stay out all night." The girl complained to the psychologist. He advised her to ask her mother again and furnished her with arguments to use against the mother's objections! The mother, however, did not cave in, the answer was still no. The psychologist then wrote a report to the child care authorities (!), a report in which he states that the mother has difficulties setting limits for her daughter!

No, the mother - and millions of other parents - have no difficulties in setting down limits to their children's behaviour and activities. But they experience great difficulties having their offspring respect these limits, because the parents are undermined by "experts" from outside the family.

2) A Swedish mother wants to save her daughter from going to the dogs. The daughter's childhood has been unproblematic and normal. Then comes adolescence and revolt. At 15 the daughter runs away from home and teams up with a group which dabbles in the production of home-brew and in other petty crime. All of them are in the "care" of the Swedish child care authorities; that is to say: they live in a so-called "youth home" of the type we know from Norway too - perhaps we recall the "homes" in the Hamar district where a boy was kept captive for years by the child care authorities. The boy became one of the three who killed a passenger on the Stena Saga ferry. - In the Swedish youth home the child care authorities pay out literally millions (yes, millions it is) on all sorts of luxury; the youngsters can have anything they want and do what they like. By and large they do nothing. No doubt this kind of regime functions as bribery to make the youths stay put in the "home".

This is where young Karin wants to live. Her mother tries to get the child care personnel to support her efforts to bring Karin back home. But oh no, a total of 30 persons on the pay-list of the child care authorities have been busy "analysing and assessing" Karin and writing long and deep reports about her conflict with her mother. They of course maintain that this conflict should be blamed on "psychic neglect" on the part of the mother, and that Karin is in great need of care. They decide that she shall live in the youth home so that they can give her their type of social-psychological care there.

3) A 6 year-old boy in the Telemark County in eastern Norway was taken away from his mother by the child-care authorities. Without any real reason, mind you, as is usual with our public child-care. He has been placed in a "milieu home" far away, and his mother is prevented from meeting him and protecting him. In this "stimulating environment" there are several other foster children, among them some hard-boiled 14 - 16-year-olds who threaten the little boy in no uncertain terms: "We are top dogs here and you have to do whatever we say or else ....!"


* * *

All through the ages and in all societies, lots of children have been recalcitrant, foolish, stubborn, disobedient and wild, and parents have had their hands full both keeping their children in reasonable order and protecting them. All this is natural because we are the kind of biological creatures that we are.

A normal, healthy society does not blame all difficulties on parents, but rather supports parental authority and possibility of bringing their children up while the bonds of love between parents and children are maintained, not destroyed.

Our psycho-socio-pedagogical society, however, has grabbed the "limit-setter's" role, and effectively hinders parents in helping their children themselves. It is curious, though, how they can imagine that it is possible to bring up children while at the same time lying to them and keeping them away from the people they love.

We witness the results.

True enough, not all parents try to give their children a real upbringing. Quite a few have been misled by the same experts on children and young people who now stand helpless in the face of behaviour which the experts themselves have helped create. But many parents do try, only to find that society treats them as the least relevant persons of all in the lives of their children. Responsible teachers try too. It is time that they confront their colleagues and their colleagues' ideology head on.


Teachers and parents

by Marianne Haslev Skånland


Gunnar Hagen in Norsk Lærerlag (Norwegian Teachers' Union) believes (BA 16 November 95) that I blame only today's schools for bad behaviour on the part of children and youth. He ought to read my article (9 November) again.

Norsk Lærerlag's proposal seems to be more money and more talk - resources and socio-pedagogical personnel to record, discuss, make plans, survey and report "suspicions", plus teach parents to record, keep up and follow up. But isn't this precisely what has been going on for 40 years now? Today's state of affairs does not exactly offer support for that being a solution, does it? It would seem more promising if sensible teachers were an active force in combating a materialistic and mechanistic-deterministic view of people and their behaviour.

Gunnar Hagen wants to co-operate with parents. Fine, but how is that possible if he also means to continue to "pedagogue" parents by pretending to possess superior knowledge, and breaking parents and their children down by robbing the parents of their legitimate power and handing it over to other people, people with "professional know-how" in sundry screwy philosophies.

Not a single word does Hagen waste on the tragic slaughtering of families which is now so regularly carried out by our welfare states, through hyperactive representatives for social and also pedagogical professions. Qualified personnel. People with certificates of competence. Experts.

I can tell Norsk Lærerlag that that was the hub of my article.


The State replacing parents in Sweden & North Carolina

Destroying the Family: Swedish style 

Lawless Sweden

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