Tuesday, May 07, 2013

the danish model rears its ugly head

i love the danish model. NOT.
honestly, there are times when i'm less than fond of the danish model. i mean in general, not the union model being referred to in this headline (i just couldn't resist using it, since it fit my ironic mood). even down to the word nydansker - new danes - in the little headline below the big one. that term has, in the past decade, taken on a negative connotation. and really, does anyone expect to be allowed by the old danes to actually become a new dane? i don't think so. the danes are too much of a tribe for that. i could go on and on about this, but today i'm thinking about one aspect of the broader danish model that i'm not that keen on...and that's blind allegiance to bureaucracy.

sabin will move over to what is effectively middle school next year. in connection with this, there is a form we had to fill out. after name, address and social security number, the next questions are "mother tongue" and "land of origin," followed by whether or not danish is spoken in the home. it is unclear how this information will be used.

i wrote to the principal yesterday, expressing worries about the purpose of that information. i said that i hoped that the fact that we speak mostly english in our home wasn't going to be used to discriminate against or exclude my child in any way.

i promptly received the answer that the reason it was there was that the school had to send a report about two-language (tosprogede - another word that's taken on a very negative connotation in danish) students to the municipality every year. she assured me that it was not, under any circumstance, used to discriminate or exclude children - tho' she offered no proof of this and provided no information as to what it was to be used for. she also offered no information as to the municipality's purpose in gathering such information on a yearly basis. i can make some guesses about this, with extra funding being at the top of the list. she further advised me to contact the municipality if i wanted further information.

if you recall, this isn't the first time the school has tried to pigeonhole my child with objectionable questions about the languages she may consider native. in that instance, they were also very poor at explaining the purpose of the questions.

and i've thought a lot about that. and i think the answer is twofold. 1) danes trust blindly in their bureaucracy. if the municipality wants a yearly report of what languages the school age children speak in their homes, then they must have a reason for it, so we'll just provide them with that information without asking or even wondering how it will be used. 2) the danish higher education system does not include a set of general education credits which force students to have at least been exposed to basic rhetoric and argument-building. therefore, the principal of the school thinks she actually answered my questions and concerns, not realizing that "the municipality asks for it" is not an argument and does nothing to persuade me that there are not ulterior motives behind it. nor does her proof-less assurance that the information is not used for discrimination or exclusion. these are not arguments, but i have encountered such statements so many times that i have come to believe that danes believe they are arguments. because they don't know any better. me, however, i'm grateful to the TA who taught my rhetoric course at iowa because what i learned from him is still helping me recognize bad arguments on a daily basis.


Elizabeth said...

Sabin is born in Danmark, I assume, and so she is a Dane and she speaks Danish and the fact that she also speaks english is irrelevant information. So in Sabin's case I simply would ignore the question because of total lack of relevancy.

Veronica Roth said...

Boy the world changes. I see this struggle all the time as I move from Canada to England and back. Some cultures are pretty secular and there is very little wriggle room. My kids went thru French emersion and there sure is a difference in the perception of parents, (me), who put their children thru that kind of tortuous non-education! When I made the decision for Jon and Kers (and put them into the only available French emersion program) I was looked down on as a new-age hippy thinker. (Let's not forget that Canada has 2 official languages) Then suddenly, 12 yrs later, I was spoiled for school choices for Chloe and she ended up going to a private preschool for children of French language born parents for 3 years, and the I was discriminated against for not being French/Quebec. Now, my British friends say, "French emersion...imagine that!" Good luck Julie, it's quite a quagmire, isn't it?

DahnStarr said...

Here in the western (USA) we tend to have a lot of spanish speaking people and children. Therefore, when daughter was considering being a school teacher she knew that it would be toward her advantage to be able to speak spanish. My niece teaches english as a second language in jr high which she loves. In this day an age only speaking ones 'native' language is out of date and, I feel, will hinder employment opportunites as well as ones view of the world. To this day I wish that my grandfather would have tought us his 'native' language which he spoke at home, swedish. (He was born and raised in the US.)