A debate over whether Norwegian youth are “spoiled and lazy” has played out in the local press this summer, but as school starts all over the country this week, young Norwegians themselves have been rising to their own defense and claiming they’re far better than their reputation.
“Dear VG,” wrote one angry 13-year-old, curiously not in newspaper VG, but in Aftenposten. “When you write that ALL youth are lazy, impolite and ungrateful, I think you’re judging us much too quickly.”
The young teenager described being head of the student council, holding the school’s 17th of May address, taking part in a wide variety of activities and feeling a need to read newspapers regularly. “Our whole class got good marks last year, we care about our school, our community and have a social conscience,” the offended teen wrote. “We are not lazy. If you think that, then I’ll think that all adults are sour, fat and sit on a bench in the park and eat pastries!”
Mads Danielsen, another engaged teenager and head of a state youth panel, also took exception to the picture painted of Norwegian youth in the media. He cited Socrates as writing in the year 400BC that youth of his time also “preferred luxury, have poor manners, oppose authority, have no respect for their elders, talk when they really should work, challenge their parents and tyrannize their teachers.”
Danielsen, writing in Aftenposten earlier this summer, called the media debate part of “perpetual complaining” over youth of any era. He claimed that much of it involved rash generalizations and was simply unfair.
“There certainly are children and youth who are impolite and should behave much better than they do,” Danielsen wrote. He contended that there “undoubtedly are many adults who are at least as impolite as the youngsters,” and they don’t get collectively judged in the same way.
He and others objected to use of the term “diva generation” to describe today’s youth, allegedly spoiled by Norway’s newly affluent society. Several other articles describing Norwegian youth also paint a different picture, like news that many teenagers are drinking less, actively take part in sports, still like to go hiking in the mountains and are socially committed. One young man, for example, spent his summer bicycling around Norway to raise money for cancer research.
Norway’s children’s ombudsman, Reidar Hjermann, was also provoked by the debate. He objected to a proposal that Norway’s legal age should be raised from 18 to 21. “That’s one of the most backward ideas I’ve heard,” he told Aftenposten.
Thoughts from au pair in Norway
Meanwhile the debate goes on, with some interesting comments reported by newspaper Dagbladet last week, made by foreigners working as au pair in Norwegian homes. Their impression of Norwegian youth was not altogether positive.
“I noticed very quickly that children in Norway don’t respect older persons, their parents or their au pair,” said one young woman from eastern Europe, who lived and worked in a home in Oslo. “My family was nice, but greedy.”
One woman from the Philippines noted that Norwegian children “have much more freedom than children in other countries,” while a woman from Ukraine thinks Norwegian parents “are more relaxed and have fewer rules for their kids than what I’m used to.”
Another au pair from Germany said she’d never seen children who were so mean to their parents as those in the family where she worked. “They don’t see their parents so often (because the parents work so much), so the parents give them everything they want so that the kids will like them,” she said. “That’s just wrong.”