Theater of Cruelty

Books in the back

The new social science books for high school make a jump presentation. Many of them are remarkably quiet in content.


When the school bell rings in August, the knowledge lift begins. All books at all stages should be replaced. More than 500 new books will be launched, and approximately seven million school books will be printed each year over the next three years. What are the more or less knowledge-hungry students going to learn?

The new curricula confer more power on the teachers and textbooks. You probably remember the headlines "Ibsen out of the Norwegian subject" and "2. world war disappears from history lessons, ”which came precisely because the new curricula are far less detailed than the curricula Gudmund Hernes made.

That is why Ny Tid is now reviewing the new social studies textbooks for upper secondary school to see what the students are presented with.

Where is the facility?

We are at Oslo Cathedral School. The students in the corridors have just had an oral exam, and the mood fluctuates with the results. We have come to hear what they want from the new social science books.

- I like that there are summary questions at the back, as it is here.

Sverre Olav Trovik eagerly flips through one of the smoking fresh books.

- But where is the fasit? There must be a conclusion as well, so that you can repeat, says Trovik.

- There is no final answer to the big questions in social studies. The point is rather to practice the students' ability to reason on their own, says Nur Zubeidi.

Will the students be presented with the most modern thoughts and updated world views when all textbooks will now be replaced?

No, says Frank Aarebrot, professor of comparative politics at the University of Bergen.

- You can look at a social studies book when the author stopped studying. The books reflect old social science, Aarebrot believes.

- But textbooks in high school should not go so far into postmodernism and the like?

- No, but even if the books to a small degree

referring directly to different theorists, one can still clearly see who the author has been inspired by. For example, you will find little thought stuff from French thinkers of the last decades, says Aarebrot.

The textbook authors do not agree with the claim that they have an old-fashioned worldview.

- We have a lot of new material in the book, including results from the power investigation, says Berit Lundberg, one of the authors of New Agenda.

Kjersti Garstad, co-author of You and Society, also does not agree with Aarebrot's claim. She believes that the authors' gender and age are more important than the time they studied.

Conservative book market

Dagrun Skjelbred is a professor of textual science at Vestfold University College. She wants more genre variation in the social studies textbooks, more use of sources, more texts that require reflection and debate, and stories to explain what the terms mean.

- The textbook market is partly conservative. Teachers often choose textbooks that are similar to those they already know. Therefore, it can be difficult to win with something a little different, says Skjelbred.

In the classroom at Oslo Cathedral School, social studies teacher Hanne Skogvoll admits that teachers are a bit conservative.

- Yes, that's right. It is comfortable to keep the old, and it is safe to use the same teaching material. I do not see anything wrong with that, says Skogvoll.

She likes that textbooks have examples.

- At the same time, the students should be able to work with the book independently, and then it is important that all the concepts are reviewed and explained thoroughly. It's fine with some examples, but it must not be a weekly magazine.

What about the political balance in the social studies textbooks? Did the Social Democrats – who largely ruled this country in the post-war period – use the textbooks to shape us all as good Social Democrats? No, says Professor Frank Aarebrot.

No? Does this mean that the once self-critical Social Democrat Aarebrot has lost the reflected gait? Best to check with a wide range of opposite political halfway point. Neither professor and Conservative Francis Sejerstedt, Memo-columnist Jan Arild Snoen nor Young Conservative chairman Torbjørn Røe Isaken have experience with social studies books with a social democratic slant.

- The intelligentsia in Norway in the social sciences and humanities belongs to a large extent to the political left, and I reckon that this affects selection and angle. There are no completely objective representations, says Røe Isaksen.

Until 2000, all school books had to go through a public approval, and this is an important reason why the books have not had a political bias, Aarebrot believes.

- At the same time, you must keep in mind that the distances in Norwegian politics have increased in recent decades. In the 1970s we did not have Frp. What was generally accepted to mean in the 1970s, for example about development aid, can be controversial today, says Aarebrot.

- I remember Uncle Lauritz in the children's class who called for a boycott of South Africa, occasionally songs where Sisters Bjørklund and Thorbjørn Egner sang about Negroes and

hottentotter. One should be kind to those out there. No one asked critical questions about aid, and that was not exclusively a good thing, was it? asks Aarebrot.

weekly magazine

The textbook authors do not deny that their political views to a certain extent shine through in the text.

- But I think the three of us who have written together have quite different opinions, so that the overall impression is balanced, says Kjersti Garstad about the textbook You and society.

- If something had been particularly unbalanced, the publisher would have corrected it. Besides, I think it is not so stupid that the texts have any attitudes, the subject should train the students' reflection skills, says Agenda author Berit Lundberg.

Back in the field at Oslo Cathedral School. Students discuss a short text in one of the new social studies textbooks.

- This article goes against what is written in the book otherwise. It's funny, and I think different texts help to form students' own opinions. It is easier to follow and get into the material if the book uses many examples, says Maria Ana Lanca Campos.

- But this was a pretty bad text, says Ane Sydnes Egeland.

- It seems as if they are trying to speak the students' language, says Sverre Olav Trovik.

- That looks like a weekly magazine, says Ane Sydnes Egeland.

Bigger store than fiction

[turnover] It costs more than three billion kroner to replace all textbooks in primary and secondary school over the next three years.

- I want to believe that the total turnover for textbooks can surpass the turnover of fiction in 2006, says Paul Hedlund, leader of the teaching aids committee in the Publishers' Association.

In 2005, the turnover of textbooks for schools and universities totaled 837 million, while fiction had a turnover of 942 million.

The publishers have intensified the marketing and invited the teachers to everything from fun coverage at Hotel Opera in the capital to lasagna in the canteen at Spjelkavik upper secondary. Fagbladet Utdanning has increased advertising revenues by 100 percent this spring.

This fall, high school students will have to pay for the books themselves, but the Soria Moria Declaration promises free textbooks at this level as well during the four-year period.



Mette Haraldsen and

Jostein Ryssevik

Aschehoug (2006)

Grade 6

Congratulations, this is the book social studies needs. From the first to the last page, Fokus is both professionally updated and engaging.

Each chapter opens in a way that makes the path into the material easier. The democracy chapter begins with the story of the "wave". The chapter on war and peace begins with mortal love in war-torn Bosnia. Even the chapters on Norwegian politics and economics are engaging and show how it is possible to influence the development of society.

The authors problematize Norway's humanitarian self-image and ask whether the UN should be reformed. The book addresses globalization, and that Norway has become a multicultural society. It is on a par with the challenges of our time. The many questions stimulate debate: "Why do you think it is easier for rich countries to provide aid to poor countries than it is to open their home markets to cheap goods from the south?" Had Norway and the world been linked even more closely together, the result would have been ingenious. The focus is just sparkling. But it lasts a long time.




Martin Westersjø, Åse Lauritzen and Jorun Berg


Grade 3

Goodbye, the Halvorsen family

"You will get to know the Halvorsen family well", readers are initially promised. The Halvorsen nuclear family is white and heterosexual with three children. Father Jan also has two children from a previous marriage, Linda and Thomas. Thomas lives in partnership with Anders. And not only that, Halvorsen's neighbors are immigrants "from a country in Asia".

This should result in many exciting examples that explain important concepts. But the examples are vividly told. The good doctrine "show, do not tell" is not followed.

Occasionally, small boxes appear in the margin with a solitary, meaningful sentence. These views are without argument and are hanging in the air: "Youth culture is just drunkenness, noisy music and computer games".

Gender roles, identity and multicultural issues are well presented. We are told early on that many questions do not have definitive answers, but this is not followed up to any great extent. Instead, the text is full of formulations such as "someone will say that". Thus, the language becomes heavy and boring.

Kaare M. The picture



Ellen Arnesen, Marianne Heir and Pia Skøien


Grade 5

Thumbs up

Unlike many of the other books, Streif has captivating examples that effectively explain the phenomena, baked into the running text. The examples are well connected with traditional explanations of the concepts. The summary questions are graded from definitions to discussions.

The book also stands out visually. The photographs are exciting and action-packed. The graphics are inviting. The illustrations are part of an enriching interaction with the text. In many of the other books, the pictures are more stagnant and appear as obligatory, random illustrations.

The book also uses other genres to practice students' ability for reflection and source criticism. This can be both factually argumentative newspaper articles and fun, argumentative ladivarkark under the logo free kick.

In terms of content, the book follows up with updated perspectives on gender roles, globalization and cultural encounters: "Norway has always been a multicultural society". Engaging. Recommended!

Kaare M. The picture


Social Studies

Henry Notaker and Johs Totland


Grade 2

The county municipality under debate

"All people are interested in politics," this book states in the introduction. In a recent poll, however, half of the people say that politics cares about them in the middle of the back. The disagreement boils down to what is meant by politics – and how does this book present politics?

The section on the county municipality during the debate is accompanied by a graphic presentation of the division of tasks between the state, county and municipality. Compared with the other social science textbooks, this book goes a long way in presenting politics such as bureaucracy, administration, organization and structure.

In the review of ideologies, a distinction is made between socialism, Marxism and communism. The latter gets the most space. Both Lenin's Soviet Union and Mao's China are mentioned without a word about how many tens of millions of lives these regimes have on their conscience.

The culture chapter is better, but to change the result of the poll, and "contribute to active citizenship", as stated in the curriculum, I would rather recommend one of the other books.

Kaare M. The picture


You and society

Hasse Bergstrøm, Johan T. dale and Kjersti Garstad

Dale subject

Grade 3

Thin tile with an appealing exterior

You and society have a relatively fresh visual expression. The examples are printed in red, there are references to websites, the pictures are relevant and the illustrations are telling. The text, on the other hand, is more of a list of some key concepts than a coherent presentation.

You and society are not hopelessly stern, but neither are they fully on a par with 21st century politics.

It speaks in favor of the book that the new curriculum topics on personal finance and business start-up are not an unmotivated appendix towards the end of the book. Baking this in gives the reader closeness to politics and society. This closeness is also repeated in the examples.

The danger is that what is at stake in politics

comes in the background. The authors fall into this trap. A story from reality, a controversial play that the students have to decide on, would do a lot.

Halvor Finess Tretvoll



Egil Andresen and Rune Henningsen


Grade 4

Emperor's New Clothes

There are two archetypes among the new textbooks for social studies: the traditional and the hip. Cappelen is the only publisher that has thrown itself into both competitions, and this is the book for the last category. Radar sets the mood in the introduction: In the social sciences, it is not possible to put two dashes under the answer. The pedagogical emphasis is on methods instead of facts. It opens up several questions for further reflection, but all the sections are divided into three levels, so that the students themselves can choose how much work they want to put into the reading.

The book seems promising from the first moment. The authors provide a good insight into the gender debate, and have clearly familiarized themselves with the various lines of conflict in the debates described in the book. Nevertheless, this is more traditional in its description of the right / left axis than in the other book from the publisher, Ny Agenda.

This book is bad at globalization. The review of the structure and threats of democracy is good, but students are not invited to think further about the possibility of developing democracy. This is old new in new packaging.

Martine Aurdal



Erik Sølvberget, Nils Petter Johnsrud and Sølvi Lillejord

The trade book publishing house

Grade 2

The world stopped

Spectrum does not even make a clever attempt to be interesting.

From the classic role theory in the chapter "Individual and society" to the long yawn "Politics and democracy", it seems as if the world stopped in the 1990s. The Internet sacrifices exactly ten sentences, and is treated exclusively as a possible channel between the government and the citizens. How is it possible not to have a single picture from 11 September, but old pictures of Norwegian UN soldiers in Lebanon and a number of orientalist pictures from Africa?

The chapters on culture and international relations are more up-to-date, but are unable to put the questions into a Norwegian political context. There is little about how the multicultural society or globalization challenges the classic right / left axis. The book lacks good ideas for debate, because the current text is so flat that any debate must come from the good and committed student. In that case, she must obtain the knowledge needed from other sources.

Halvor Finess Tretvoll


New agenda

Trond Borge, Berit Lundberg and Ole Aas


Grade 3


This book will solve the students through the curriculum and apparently little else. That is exactly what it does. Here is the classic basic book template, the students understand what they need to learn and get enough information to pass the exam, in a simple and easy to understand way.

The authors seek objectivity and often obscure their own opinions under the entrance "someone thinks". Different theories and models are outlined, but they are little problematized. That is why even the so clearly well-meaning authors fall into some classic traps. It does not help to write "someone" when you consistently refer to immigrants as a group. What does the problematization of bigamy do in the section on partnerships? And why is sexual harassment not more clearly defined as a type of bullying? The authors' fear of appearing politicized means that they undercommunicate important debates.

The authors are able to provide insightful information about the new dividing lines in politics in scarce space. It reaches in a small space through many important topics, and is able to convey essential facts in a concrete way. Simple, straightforward – and boring.

Martine Aurdal

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