Tuesday, September 21, 2010

According to the experts...

As you know, I surveyed my 3rd year gymnasium students about their perspective on this issue of fighting in the schools. So many of the adults weighed in with their opinions and thoughts on my original blog post, but instead of clearing things up for me about WHY fighting was a part of my regular routine in an American high school, but here in Denmark, it just muddied the waters more as everyone's comments gave me MORE to think about! :-) (which is a good thing, in my opinion!)

Here is what I asked the students:

1. Have you ever been in or witnessed a fight in the Danish school system?
2. If your answer is no, please give your thoughts about why you think fighting is not so prevalent in our schools in Denmark?

Rather than actually disaggregating their data and trying to draw conclusions from what they said, as I read all of their answers, I began to think there is more value in actually quoting some of them. It shows not only their experience related to physical conflicts, but it also gives a glimpse into their opinions about the lesser amounts of physical conflicts in the Danish schools.  I am not setting out to prove or disprove any theories, but rather to talk to as many people possible about this so that perhaps some conclusions will arise on their own... Enjoy!

(And one side note before you read the students' comments---Did you know that it is against the law in Denmark for a parent to physically discipline his child? Just a little more fodder for you! )

I have never seen a fight at school. I think it’s because we are all basically “alike” I mean both financially and that we all have the same “values” or “ideas” of how you behave or treat other people. And I think all that is because of our parents. I think a child’s parents play a very important role in how the child behaves in “public”. It’s so important that you from childhood learn the “right” values and good manners, and the meaning of the word respect. I mean a child can’t be born “bad”. But of course this is just my opinion and I know it’s not that simple, there can be other problems the families are dealing with, and there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

I guess (and I'm no historian or expert in the American society, so it is truly a guess) that Danes have never had to "defend" themselves in that kind of way. You know it's the same with the gun law from what I understand. I would think that it is somehow connected to way back when the colonists came. This might be very stereotypical of me but there seems to be this attitude toward getting back and defending yourself almost like it is holy. Sometimes I think that is very unhealthy.

The other thing is which is probably more directly connected to today is that from what I've heard from two students who were exchange students in the US last year) is that the law is on the parents' side in some states? In Denmark you can't hit your child or whatever and they told me that some of the people she talked to thought of it as normal. So when the Danish children misbehave (fx by starting a fight) they are not being punished by a hand, but are told that hitting someone is always wrong ..

Again don't shoot me, I don't think every single American parent hits their children, but do you see what I'm saying about the connections?

 I have once witnessed a 'fight' at the gymnasium. One of the students from another gymnasium attended the ÆB-café, which is an event for our students only. One of the 3rd-years told him to leave, but he refused, the student told him again and that angered the other student. He slapped the student from our school once, and stormed off.. I think that a lot of the students who attend our school, have a mentality that leans towards 'passivism' - the HHX-students refers to us as hippies, but I guess it's just a compliment, then. ;)

I have never seen a fight in the Gymnasium, and I would be shocked if it happened. The only fight I have ever seen on a school's property was in fourth grade, and that was just some young guys who couldn’t handle losing a football game. It is like we are too "old" to handle problems by fighting, we know that the only way to solve a problem is to start a dialog.

The Danish society is build up by the Welfare State, we pay very high taxes which results in the economic situation between the citizens isn’t as different as it is in America. So that must be one of the reasons. I think the society is very careful in Denmark, the teacher in the primary and lower secondary schools are observing the children all the time. I once had an English teacher who pulled one of my classmates out from the class, she wanted to tell her that her new friends was bad company. Of course she wouldn’t listen to her even though, we all including her knew the teacher was right. So the society is trying to help all the unstable persons. I think we tend to blame the society in Denmark if something goes wrong, if we know that there is a family who is unstable we don’t blame the economic status we blame the people who are surrounding the family and sometimes it is ourselves.


No, I have never been in a fight and I think the main reason is, that it's just not normal (at least not for us girls) to defend ourselves with our fists. In the 'folkeskole' we were taught to turn to our teacher if something was going on, and we had a lot of 'krise-møder' and that helped us to talk things over.  And now in the gymnasium it would seem really odd to start a fight!

I have not experienced a fight at Herning Gymnasium so far, and I don't think I ever will.

The reason why I think that fights are more common in American highschools is because the USA is not as homogeneus as Denmark. The diversity between rich and poor in America is larger and more dominating than in DK. This economic diversity between people makes a huge diversity between "social status" and the young people are raised differently dependent on socioeconomic class, and I think this makes a large space between the young people. These "walls of differences" are made between them, and maybe the fights are kind of a "reaction to the unfamiliar".

Because DK is more homogenous I think it makes us more "similiar" as what comes to class, and thereby easer for us to cooperate. Of course DK is not as multicultural as America, and that is a huge factor as well. If we look at a typical American highschool I also think there are more "stereotypes". Why? I don't know. And I don't know if this is true. But different stereotypes can also mean huge diversities, whereas they can lead to fights as well.

 I have never been in a fight or seen one in Herning Gymnasium. There have been small episodes in "Folkeskolen" that I have witnessed, but nothing real serious.

I don't think we have these kind of fights in Denmark because we probably have more ambitions when it comes to school and education. The society puts a lot of pressure on us to succeed and get good grades that can help us to achieve the top educations.

The gap between rich and poor is so small that we don't really have big economic differences, which means we are all equal. If you need money or help the state will provide that for you. Since we don't have these huge differences in our society it makes us not want to rebel or make physical statements. We have always been taught to handle our situations orally rather than physically because physical contact with another human will not help your situation at all.
It's not that we've never had a figt, but where the fighting in school may happen is in "folkeskole". When we are in "folkeskole" we are not that old, and it's totally different from the gymnasium. We are almost adults now, and we have to take some responsibility. By the way, instead of fighting physically we react by fighting verbaly. Well at least that's what I think.

I've witnessed a few fights in my folkeskole, but that was before 7 grade. The thought of a true fight happening in the gymnasium is absolutly absurd. It would never happen.

I think we just view it as normal to NOT walk up to someone and hit them. It would be very out of place.


I have never seen a fight in the gymnasium or in my "folkeskole" :) It is really interesting that you take this up for debate! I had never thought about it before. It is not often you hear about fights in DK. if you do, it is only at parties, where people are drunk.

So what's next?

Have I solved anything? Or just muddied the muddier waters even more? 
I am guessing that whoever said that stimulating Dialogue wasn't a bit muddy never asked the questions I am asking! 


ladyfi said...

Interesting! One thing that struck me is that if you live in a culture where you are not allowed to hit your kids - both at home or at school - plus firearms are banned, then this leads to an environment where people actually have to have a dialogue about their problems without resorting to anger or violence.

Caution Flag said...

Obviously, I can talk only about my experiences here, but my husband's experiences in metro Detroit were vastly different from mine in Kentucky. He went to a suburban district where unions were king and most families were the first generation of white flight out of the city. My husband was/is a loud-mouth and fought constantly in school. He says the teachers would break-up the fights and send everyone on his way. I went to a small-town, CONTROLLED school. It was almost too controlled with its high academic and behavioral expectations. Family and conformance were the driving forces. I can remember ONE fight which happened at a football game and the disgust from the faculty afterward. Those students lost the respect of the teachers - even though it didn't happen during school.

I really do believe that cultural norms and values influence behavior at school.

NotQuiteDanish said...

Gawd, I wish my Danish was as good as their English. Aside from that I don't know why. Perhaps it is the welfare state and the J Law. I'd be interested to know what it's like in Sweden and Norway.

Archaeogoddess said...

Someone brought up somewhere (oh, don't ask me to find the source *sad face*) that this is a gymnasium we are talking about. I always get in trouble for thinking that a gymnasium is just like high school in America (that is, everybody from 9th grade to 12th grade). But gymnasium in DK is actually very different. There are different tracks and entirely different schools for kids with different goals. "Goals" is not a good word here, sorry, can't think of a better one right now. Career path? Ugh. Sounds so '90s.

One of your students sort of mentioned it - "the HHX-students refers to us as hippies..." This suggests that the student population of your school is even more filtered than what non-Danes would expect. The kids at your school are like the honors track or possibly also include the college prep. track (a step down from the honors students, but still college bound) in some American high schools.

These students in your school, Kelli, are more homogenous than even the rest of Denmark. (Were you to go to downtown Copenhagen and grab 30 people off the street.) These are the students who are actively pursuing higher education, and by that I mean a 4 year university degree. Bless them, they are nerds.

Nerds will definitely talk out a problem rather than fight, heck their college career is on the line! They often come from a family that puts high value on thinking and education.

I would say that is the big difference in your school here in DK, Kelli, and your school in the US. The homogeneity is not specifically racial or cultural or even economic (although Denmark does have a higher level of homogeneity than the US, there still are plenty of safe, fight-free American schools) - it's that you have nothing but college bound high achievers. Who are apparently known among their peers at non-gymnasiums as "hippies" (and as a girl from Berkeley, I say, peace out, dude).

Anyone work in a HHX or whatstheotherone and want to check with their students? I'm curious to see if this is a nerd herd phenomenon or if grouping students by goals/career path at a fairly early age (15? Someone correct me here.) might result in better group cohesion and less animosity.

nell said...

I've never really had an opinion on spanking until I watched a Nanny911 episode. (a show I typically do not watch but I was taking some "me" time to do nothing) Her explanation that it brings fear for the children and teaches them to hit when they are angry because you hit when you are angry with them really gave me an "eureka" moment. Punishing your child for hitting their brother with a hit (spank) from you just seems backwards. So, there is my 2 cents.
But sadly, spanking alone isn't the issue. It's unequal distribution of wealth, poor health care, poor nutrition and poor parenting that brings violence to any society.

Nina Ø said...

Great input from the students Kelli. It is obvious that the major feeling is that violence is not an acceptable or normal option to solve problems and there is more a sense of equality in general. It was really authentic to hear direct from the kids. Thank you for taking the time to do that. I tried to spank my son once and the dog bit me. My daughter, my son and I all ended up rolling on the floor with laughter. The dog was obviously smarter than me.

Dansk Viking said...

Really interesting series...! I have absolutely no experience with the Danish school systems. But I have read many newspaper articles about bullying and psychological pressure betweens kids in Danish schools which seems to be regarded as a big problem here. Have you noticed anything in that area?

Alex said...

Interesting. I think I would tweak the socioeconomic idea just a little. It sounds like (and I may be misinterpreting) that maybe your students are thinking that the fights often happen between poor students and wealthier students, when they are just as likely to start between two poor kids or two rich kids. And, in the right neighborhoods, girls are almost as likely to fight as the boys. However, I do think that being poor tends to breed frustration and powerlessness that can only be released in a fight...often released at someone in the same socioeconomic bracket.

The other thing is that I very, very much agree that physical discipline often leaves a kid with a hairtrigger willingness to go from zero to sixty in two seconds flat. It wasn't true of my sisters, but it was definitely true of me. Part of that is subtly encouraged by a culture that glorifies the lone wolf. You also have to realize that this country (the USA) was wild not so very long ago, when Europe was civilized. So I think ecology of place also has something to do with it.

Great to think about. Cheers.