Saturday, 10 November 2012
Danish public schools facing collapse
Suddenly the real causes are being discussed
With a tax burden of almost 49 percent (all taxes and fees divided by GDP, according to the government's own calculations as of August 2012), Denmark is the world's most heavily taxed country. In recent years, Denmark has competed with Sweden for the top position but has now emerged as the clear winner.
Danes among all the peoples of the world retain the lowest share of their income after being visited by the taxman. And surprisingly, they seem to like the system. In one election after another they have delivered massive votes for Social Democratic and Socialist parties that have advocated even higher taxes, whereas center-right politicians that have urged tax restraint have been exposed to heavy criticism for giving "un-financed tax breaks" for "the rich".
This ideological consensus is based on the Social Democratic state myth that the objective of all politics is to create the largest possible public sector because the state is our wise friend with our best interests at heart, and surely better placed to spend our money for deserving causes.
For decades, the swelling Danish welfare state has been the pride of the political class and almost all political parties have done their best to expand it.
Now there are indications that this welfare state is in danger of imminent collapse because there is not enough money to pay for it, and because the problems facing it are of a kind that cannot be ameliorated by more money or more public employees.
The writing on the wall became clear to many when the center-left government led by the Social Democratic Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt came into power after last year's election. It was won on a wave of promises of new and expensive government initiatives intended to reverse the welfare cuts, which the former center-right government was accused of having made. But hardly had the new ministers occupied their offices before it became clear that it was financially impossible to keep the promises. The new government was accused of a breach of trust, two of its constituent parties – the Social Democrats and the Socialist People's Party – have nose-dived in the polls, and Danish politics is now in deep crisis. If elections were held today, the current government would be swept away.
The situation in the Socialist People's Party is so serious that a rebellion among its members has forced Party Chairman Villy Søvndal to resign while two of the party's government ministers have just been replaced.
However, the political crisis cannot be solved by changing the leadership. In reality it is so deep that even an entirely new government would be unable to solve it unless it were prepared to slaughter a number of Danish politics' most sacred cows and follow a course that has been anathema for decades.
This is best seen if one takes a look at conditions in the public schools, which can be characterized as the Danish society's most essential institution. It was in the public schools that almost all Danish children – regardless of social class or political, religious and cultural background – were introduced to the country's basic values and the skills necessary for leading happy and productive lives.
The public schools might be described as the glue that kept the entire social fabric together. Now the public school system is falling apart. There are huge problems with discipline; children – and in particular children from immigrant families – are not learning enough (it is estimated that 40 percent of children of Arabic descent leave school as functionally illiterate). As a result more and more parents are taking their children out of the public schools and sending them to private schools, where discipline is better – particularly because there are fewer so-called "double-linguistic" pupils. "Double-linguistic" is the official term for children of third-world descent, i.e. primarily from Muslim countries. The term does not imply that they can speak two languages but most often that they speak, e.g., Arabic and Danish equally badly, so perhaps "double half-linguistic" would be a better description.
It came as a shock in the middle of October to learn that half of the families living in the inner Copenhagen neighborhood of Nørrebro are sending their children to private schools. This is especially noteworthy in light of the fact that Nørrebro is one of the reddest areas in the country, where voters routinely cast massive votes for left and far-left parties, i.e. the very parties that are particularly keen on more immigration and on upholding the public school system.
A few days later, Danes received a lesson in the kind of problems that motivate the reds to send their children to schools that they are ideologically disposed to reject.
The bomb went off at the Ejerslykke School in the city of Odense. The school's principal, Birgitte Sonsby, had become so annoyed with the way some of the pupils behaved that she exclaimed: "I'm so damned tired of you Muslims who ruin the lessons." The father of one of pupils reported the principal to the police for racism and, as is customary in such cases, Ms. Sonsby had to withdraw her remarks and offer an apology. She was subsequently chewed out by Odense's Director of Public Schools.
This would normally have re-established an idyllic political correctness, but something quite surprising happened: The Chairman of the Ejerslykke School Board, Peter Julius Jørgensen, wrote an op-ed for the newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende, in which he called attention to the kind of problems with "double-linguistic" pupils that the school had to contend with. They didn't shy away from calling their teachers "fucking whores" and showed so little respect that it made teaching impossible.
To his surprise, Peter Julius Jørgensen received many positive reactions from fellow citizens, who were happy that he had dared to speak up.
The reaction in some of the media was also unexpected. Instead of the usual diatribes about terrible Danish racism and admonitions that the schools' problems had nothing to do with religion or culture, a number of newspapers began writing articles with a new angle. Yes, perhaps the problems were indeed linked to religion – more precisely, to Islam.
On October 27, the mass-circulation daily Jyllands-Posten printed a remarkable editorial: Ms Sonsby's tirade against the ill-behaved Muslims was "rather mild compared to what the principal, her teachers and the school's other pupils have been exposed to. A group of Muslim pupils have exposed them to far worse language and gestures of a latrinal and sexual nature. They have been accused of racism and discrimination when they have dared admonish the pupils to behave. But when they have offended the tender feelings of Muslims, and it certainly doesn't take a lot, then attention is directed not at the naughty and ill-behaved brats but at the principal, who is suddenly made to appear the sinner."
“The problem,” Jyllands-Posten continued, “is not the principal but the ill-mannered children, who are not properly brought up by their parents but rather supported in their destructive behavior."
And why, asked the paper's editorial writer, may we not "call Muslims Muslims when they themselves put so much emphasis on this identity"?
The day before, the editorial writer for the daily Kristeligt Dagblad called for unqualified support for Principal Sonsby. To be sure, the paper thought it too "simplistic" to blame the pupils' bad behavior on their religion. Even so, the editorial writer admitted that there was a "real problem", which had not been openly discussed: "The fact that some double-linguistic pupils ruin the education for others and that their lack of respect has something to do with their religious and cultural background."
Despite some reservations, these statements amount to a revolution in a country where the only accepted explanation for the bad manners of the "double-linguistic" has so far been poor social conditions. In other words: If extra billions were pumped into the public schools and parents of naughty boys were given more money, the problems would disappear.
If, on the other hand, the public school system's collapse is entirely or in part caused by religion and culture and the fact that Muslim parents cannot or will bring up their children to become integrated into Danish society, what could possibly be accomplished with more money?
Can Muslims be bribed to integrate into a Western society? So far it hasn't happened anywhere.
This sheds a new political light on the entire problem: By what right do Danish politicians allow further immigration of Muslims, knowing that the public school system – the institution that more than any other has made Denmark a caring and cohesive society – cannot integrate them?
So far nobody has asked that question.
Posted on 11/10/2012 11:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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