Norwegian website informs parents about children’s education

20-04-2023

Northern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Content showing the Gender Bread Person, a symbol that stands for the ability to choose your own gender. The image comes from a science textbook for third and fourth graders. Photo screenshot Skeivteori.no

Often parents have little idea of what their children learn at school. That should change, a group of researchers believed. They analysed several textbooks to see what primary school children are taught about gender and identity.

For several months, the researchers have been busy reviewing textbooks commonly used in Norwegian schools. In total, they reviewed about 20 to 30 exemplars, Dagen reports. Their goal was to discover what Norwegian children learn about gender and identity. The study results are published on a new website launched on Wednesday that is critical of the usual material: Skeivteori.no.

Project manager and Christian Democratic politician Truls Olufsen-Mehus calls the results shocking. "At times, the material we worked with was very heavy. I don't think parents are aware of this", he tells Dagen.

Neither boy nor girl

For now, the results on the website show the study's findings in textbooks used during science and social studies for 3rd and 4th graders (children between 7 and 8 years old).

One of the books examined is the science textbook Solaris, from the Aschehoug publishing house, Dagen reports. Already in the first chapter, there is a story about a child who abides by the pronoun hen and is described as "neither boy nor girl."

The publishing house seems to have a mission to promote progressive views on sexuality because the teacher's guide for grades 3 and 4 from the same publishing house reads that 'children should know that they can be whatever they want and that there are many alternatives.' "I think that's too much", Olufsen-Mehus responds to that. He is especially triggered by the message that children no older than eight are already told that they can choose their own sex.

Another example the website highlights is a YouTube clip called "Gender Explained." The video is an initiative from CBC Kids News, which is also recommended by the textbook mentioned above. In the video, a doctor congratulates new parents on their newborn boy and girl. Then, a young girl interrupts him, saying, "the body parts you were born with don't always dictate the gender you are." According to Olufsen-Mehus, that is "far beyond what the curriculum says the children should learn."

During their study, the researchers also discovered that several publishers had had training meetings with Fri, the association for gender and sexuality diversity, Dagen reports. However, this claim is denied by Aschehoug publishing house in an e-mail to the newspaper.

Weird theory

Olufsen-Mehus says the research has been limited to science and social studies. However, he suspects that the textbooks of the subjects Norwegian, English and the material of Religion, Philosophies of life and Ethics also contain "elements of weird theory."

He points out that the new website is aimed at parents to give them an overview of the textbooks their children are using. "They can use our search monitor to see what the textbooks teach their children about gender." The website will be updated continuously and is to include a report button where parents can report findings that are not on the website yet.

The Christian Democratic politician hopes for greater awareness among parents and more debate. "We want to spread knowledge about what is actually in the textbooks and the teacher's guide. We make it visible, and then we hope that other people take it further."

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