The Norwegian Government prides itself on being one of the first nations to have an action plan against antisemitism in Norway. A central strategy to rid us of this scourge is to have more education about Judaism and antisemitism in school, as well as dedicating more funds towards research on the subjects.It is therefore highly ironic that the national syllabus on Religious Education in secondary school does not mention Judaism even in an parenthesis.
lifted from utrop.no (google translate)
Judaism made invisible in school textbooks
Judaism’s space in textbooks has become as small as the period before the 1970s. With growing anti-Semitism in society, this is unfortunate, according to a researcher.
– Christianity and Islam have very large place in the textbooks, which makes Judaism a little dot in relation to the other religions, says Suzanne Thobro.
Thobro (36) is a PhD candidate in Religious Studies at the University of Tromsø (UiT). She has researched books on religion course for high school and have seen the development right from 1935 and until today.
She says it’s striking that Judaism’s space in textbooks has become increasingly smaller, and she considers it a setback for Judaism’s place in the study of religion.
– It will be like before 1970, where Judaism is relevant in a historical context of Christianity. It suggests that you do not consider Judaism as important to learn about, says the researcher.
She believes publishers must take their share of responsibility for how textbooks marginalization of Judaism affects teaching and students.
– The responsibility is twofold. There is a greater social responsibility and everyone must cooperate. But you can not relieve the publishers and authors of these books for responsibility, says Thobro.
Judaism out of curriculum
In Reform 94 (R94) stated in the curriculum for religion, beliefs and ethics (RLE) that “students shall have knowledge of Judaism’s sacred writings and oral teachings (Talmud), history, tradition, self-understanding and religious life.” In the transition to the Knowledge (LK06) – which came into force in 2006 – Judaism is not mentioned explicitly in the curriculum. Only Christianity and Islam are listed as areas of specialization in the competence aims for RLE subject, in addition to an optional religion.
Directorate of Education (Udir) is responsible for development of nursery, primary and secondary education. In a mail the directorate doesn’t answer why Judaism is taken out of the curriculum, but says it is up to the schools, teachers and students to choose which “optional religion” they want to immerse themselves in. He adds that Islam is specified because of its essential place in Norwegian society.
– We have no responsibility or approval of textbooks in the subject, writes senior adviser in Udir Day John Sunde in an email to Utrop.
For the study of religion in high school, there are currently three books on the market. Despite the fact that publishers relate to the same curriculum, they have different priorities for Judaism in the textbooks. Aschehougs “Faith and Reflection” has no chapter on Judaism at all, Cappelen Damm “in the world” has a full chapter on Judaism and Gyldendals “Existence” writes about Judaism in connection with Christianity.
An editor at Educational 8-13 in Aschehoug Arne Fredrik Nilsen says it’s a difficult balancing act to select the topics to be covered in the textbook.
– What we’ve included in the textbook is Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. It is not a separate chapter on Judaism there, but that’s not to say that we believe that a specific religion is unimportant, says Nilsen.
Nilsen stresses that Aschehoug has a separate digital section on Judaism and says it’s an old-fashioned attitude that only textbook covers the curriculum, but admits that the textbook is a good structuring element in the subject.
– The textbook forms a coherent whole that is well planned, but there is a space requirement and difficult priorities that underlie the choices we have made with regard to putting something into the book and other things digitally, says managing editorship.
Hege Simensen Hermo, editorial director at Cappelen Damm, said in turn that the textbook can provide guidelines for what teachers emphasize the subject.
– There was really no discussion at all about whether we should take something else, traditions within the disciplines says that these five religions are defined as world religions, explains Simensen Hermo.
She says Cappelen didn’t want to set guidelines for what teachers of the subject should cover in particular.
– We wanted them to have full opportunity to choose all religions, says Simensen Hermo.
– You mean the publishers make the choice for teachers when they choose to withdraw Judaism from the textbooks?
– They affect at least some teachers who do not want to go out of the paper book to find out useful information about the other religions. Teachers’ lives are so busy before that many are glad that we are making choices about what students need to be, or what they have to read the material, so that they achieve competency goals, says the editorial manager.
In the context of Christianity
Gyldendals editor May Lisbeth Dahl says that “Existence” is least used in the school and that the textbook has not been revised since it was released in 2008, and therefore choose not to comment.
In an email she shows however journal Religion and Spirituality, where the authors of the textbook including wrote: “Full descriptions of Judaism (…) will is found on the books website . However, we have included in the textbook in-depth descriptions of Judaism until Jesus’ time, as the basis for Christianity’s emergence. ”
Researcher Suzanne Thobro believes it is illogical that Judaism has no more space in the textbooks in terms of government action against anti-Semitism.
– It is contradictory that the government expresses that one will have a greater focus on Judaism to work against anti-Semitism, but also taking Judaism out of the study of religion.
– Which has the role of Judaism today that allows it should be given more space in the textbooks?
– We have a Jewish minority in Norway, that in itself is the reason good enough to clarify Judaism in the study of religion in schools. We’ve got a history of World War II, and with increasing anti-Semitism in Europe, which also makes Judaism relevant, says Thobro.
She adds that the debate about what students should learn in school is about a value choice.
– When preparing an action plan to combat anti-Semitism, it is very obvious that the community believes that it is important to grasp and that it is important to increase knowledge about Judaism in Norway.It is then a logical consequence that one should prioritize Judaism more in school subjects. It is possible to argue for doing it one way and the other way, but the important thing is to think about what would be most appropriate for Norway, elaborates Thobro.