Primary school has a tremendous effect on our culture, since it is here that future generations are taught all the basics of our language, culture and values. Children in that age are very open — and therefore also very vulnerable — and we should be careful with what we teach them. Having a full time job as a school psychologist, I see on a daily basis that children are very much influenced by what they learn, especially in the early grades.
Just a personal anecdote: I went to a school with the journalist Morten Vestergaard, who wrote the article below. And I participated in a debate on our national state tv-channel DR with Lise Egholm, principal at RÃ¥dmandsgade Skole, who is mentioned in the article. I ended the debate with Lise Egholm with this comment: “Up to now there have been no examples in history or anywhere in the world of Muslim culture being able to integrate into other cultures, and it does not seem to be happening in Denmark, either.”
Translated from the Danish by Nicolai Sennels, Jyllands-Posten March 20: “Islam on the table in first grade”:
Several school leaders believe it is natural to introduce students to other religions.
A number of schools to whom Jyllands-Posten has spoken say that they are beginning to introduce other religions, especially Islam, already in the first grade, although according to Ministry of Education pupils only have to learn about Christianity up until and including 6th grade. Danish schoolchildren should no longer just hear stories from the Bible and on the subject of Christianity in the early grades.
Principal Rani HÃ¸rlyck from SÃ¸ndervang Aarhus School says: ‘It’s not about pandering to children with a different faith than Christianity. We focus on the individual children, and 80 percent of our pupils have Muslim backgrounds. They are thrilled that they can use their own experience,’ she says.
Involving other religions
Many other principals, including Lise Egholm from RÃ¥dmandsgade Skole and Peter Aksten from NÃ¸rrebro Park School in Copenhagen, share HÃ¸rlyck’s view.
John Rydahl, chairman of the Religion Teachers, believes that it is common to teach other religions in the early grades nowadays. He points out that in recent years several textbooks for primary school teaching both about Christianity and other religions have been published.
The Minister of Education, Christine Antorini (Social Democrats), does not mind that schools teach religions other than Christianity in the early classes, as long as they follow the required curriculum, which includes that children in primary school hear stories from the Bible and know Christian hymns.
Morten Thomsen HÃ¸jsgaard, General Secretary of the Bible Society, is skeptical. He emphasizes that schools must first and foremost ensure that students get to know about Christianity.
Several schools, including EllekÃ¦rskolen in Aarhus, stick to the Bible in primary school.
‘For us it is important to keep in mind that we are a normal Danish school. We are not a special school for Muslim children in Bispehaven (Muslim dominated area in Aarhus),’ says Bispehaven School’s educational leader, Christian Wibe.