Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon is fending off criticism from teachers, students, media commentators and even a few psychologists who haven’t embraced the so-called “Dignity Days” he introduced into schools in Norway. He denies the events can cause conflicts or be counter-productive for children and teenagers.
Newspaper Dagsavisen unleashed the latest batch of criticism against members of the royal family when it reported over the weekend how some teachers in Oslo wanted to drop this year’s “Global Dignity Day,” scheduled for Wednesday. Teachers at Oslo Katedralskole, for example, claimed the “Dignity Day” events had little pedagogic value and took attention away from United Nations Day, a traditional student fundraising event called Operasjon Dagsverk and other important classroom teaching.
Willy-Tore Mørch, a professor of child and youth psychology, told Dagsavisen the teachers had “good reason” to be worried. He thinks the methods used during Dignity Day events, which include young students revealing personal stories in front of an audience of peers, can even be damaging.
Likened to a ‘revival meeting’
Crown Prince Haakon brought Global Dignity Day to Norway in 2006 after it emerged at a World Economic Forum he’d attended in Davos. Global Dignity Day is now an annual event to be held on the third Wednesday of October, during which young students discuss dignity and share their own stories.
Nine years after it began, though, teachers are beginning to question the value of the program and not least its timing. United Nations Day is October 24 and Operasjon Dagsverk is also set for late October. There’s a limit, the teachers say, to how many events can be held in the same week that call students out of the classroom.
The content of the Dignity Day events can also appear vague, they argue, nor is it always a good idea for young students to share their own personal stories that can involve bullying, psychological or health problems. “The pupils are so young, and don’t understand what happens with the stories they tell afterwards,” Marit Eikeland, a teacher at Oslo Katedralskole told Dagsavisen. Some critics have likened Dignity Day to a religious “revival meeting” but said they felt they had no choice but to go along with it, not least since it’s been fronted and backed by the crown prince.
‘Not worthy of a future king’
Stian Seland, board leader of the national children and youth organization LNU, doesn’t think the crown prince, who caused an uproar last year when he pulled his own two children out of Norwegian public school and enrolled them in private schools, should involve himself in school programs and has asked him to withdraw from Global Dignity Day.
“The crown prince has shown a lack of understanding for his role that is not worthy of a future king,” Seland told Dagsavisen. Commentator Hege Ulstein wrote in the same paper that the crown prince got involved in Global Dignity Day in order to portray himself and “the outdated institution he’s part of (the monarchy) as something modern, folksey and morally righteous.”
‘Negative and incorrect’
Both Crown Prince Haakon and Thomas Horne, manager of the Global Dignity Day organization in Norway, stressed that it was voluntary for schools to participate, even though it was obligatory in Oslo until this year. School authorities in Oslo also note that the “Dignity Day” program only lasts two hours, can improve the overall mood at schools and can be combined with participation in both United Nations Day and Operasjons Dagsverk.
Crown Prince Haakon defended the program when confronted with the criticism during a public appearance on Monday. He claimed published reports of the complaints weren’t entirely correct. “We stress the positive stories (told by students) and help to share them in a good manner,” he told Dagsavisen before referring to Horne, who wrote a rebuttal that Dagsavisen published on Tuesday. In it, Horne claimed Dagsavisen’s article and commentary painted a “negative and incorrect picture” of Global Dignity Day, and said many other teachers found the program valuable. The same article, posted on Dignity Day’s website and on social medi also hailed the roughly 1,000 volunteers who assist with Dignity Day’s programs along iwth a wide range of humanitarian, athletic and religious organizations, although the programs are non-denominational. Among those involved are the Red Cross and Amnesty International.
More than 120,000 students have taken part since 2010, Horne noted, and 93 percent of students surveyed recommended that the program continue. Horne also denied that the Dignity Day events collided with other programs, arguing it was fully possible to still hold other types of “solidarity” programs as well.