Norwegian ‘preaching ban’ at schools met with criticism
Education minister Tonje Brenna proposed to extend the 'preaching ban' for public schools in Norway. However, not everyone agrees with her bill.
Bjørn Are Davidsen, advisor to the think tank Skaperkraft, says the proposal is "anything but research-based." In an opinion article in Dagen, he argues that such a ban could even decrease the knowledge of students.
Education minister Tonje Brenna wants to forbid 'preaching' at public schools at all times. Currently, this is only forbidden during religious classes.
Even though Are Davidsen agrees that the school should not be a pulpit, he thinks it is a difficult task to avoid preaching in schools. The advisor points out that the notion of Christian faith has been mixed into several teaching elements and is part of the bigger story.
He mentions the example of teaching material from the National Digital Learning Arena (NDLA), Norway's leading producer of digital learning resources for secondary education. The expert article states that the Enlightenment movement conveys the idea that previously there had been the Church's explanations of nature and science, but that new philosophers and scientists did not accept this anymore. "It was no longer enough to refer to the liturgy or God's will."
According to Are Davidson, students learn from this piece that the Church is portrayed as an opposition to science and that it is nothing but fortunate that the Christian faith has diminished from society. Thus, it conveys that students who want to be enlightened should stay far from the church. However, carefully avoid preaching by not mentioning how and what the Church taught leaves questions open for students. Therefore, Are Davidson worries that students may not be equipped sufficiently with the necessary knowledge if teachers are afraid of being accused of 'preaching'.
The preaching ban solves a problem that does not even exist, Edition manager Karl Andreas Jahr from Korsets Sier writes in Dagen.
He refers to an event where a priest asked high-school students in Oslo what the cross symbolised. No one could answer.
"I asked myself: Is there really a need for such a law?" Jahr writes. He points out that there is no indication that preaching happens at public schools in Norway. Instead, he thinks that "such a law is only suitable for casting suspicion on a small minority in Norwegian society: Christians."
Furthermore, Jahr finds it strange that most teachers are not regulated in their opinion. They are allowed to be open about their political preferences and other subjective attitudes. "Teachers enjoy trust and have plenty of room to make their own assessments. The exception is the Christians and other religions", he writes.
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