Accepted Paper:

”This is private”: negotiating the teaching of religion at a Danish school  

Author:

Marianne Holm Pedersen (Danish Folklore Archives at the Royal Danish Library)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that while both teachers and Muslim parents at a Danish school view religious belonging as a private matter that does not concern the school, they have different understandings of what this means and what it should imply for the children’s participation in school activities.

Paper long abstract:

The Danish state school (folkeskolen) is generally considered a secular institution, but the course Knowledge of Christianity is part of its basic curriculum. While the teaching in the course is not supposed to propagate Christianity, it could be argued that it implicitly conveys particular understandings of what religion is and what the role of religion in public space should be. In this way, the course is part of the civil enculturation taking place in school, shaping not only children, but also their parents to become proper citizens in the Danish nation state.

Although the teaching of religion in school is a widely debated issue in Denmark, little knowledge exists about how parents of Muslim background relate to the role of religion in the children’s daily school life. This paper explores how teachers and Muslim parents interpret the course ‘knowledge of Christianity’ and how they view the division of responsibility for teaching children about religion. Based on interviews with school leadership, teachers, parents and children at a school in the Danish province, the paper argues that while both parents and teachers understand religious belonging as a private matter that does not concern the school, they have different understandings of what this means and what it should imply for the children’s participation in school activities. The paper further argues that the so-called encounter between ‘Muslim practices’ and ‘Danish values’ rather constitutes yet another example of negotiations that have always taken place in modern Danish society between the institutions of family and school.

Panel P115
Raising Europe: managing parents and the production of good citizens