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Does Swedish culture hinder Swedish children?

The Local · 31 Jan 2011, 16:34

Published: 31 Jan 2011 16:34 GMT+01:00

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Sweden is a country with a strongly rooted culture. Lots of traditions, varying from the singing of “Helan går” to the celebrating of the name day, all serve to preserve and protect a common sense of identity.

This common identity is also strengthened by the fact that Sweden has always been located on the periphery of Europe, relatively isolated with a landscape and climate that are impenetrable for most foreigners for a good part of the year.

The 20th century was one during which Sweden relied primarily on itself with relatively little need to explore the outside world, only joining the European Union almost 40 years after its conception.

This lack of inter-cultural exposure and the inward nature of Swedes during the last century might be a few of the reasons why the communication skills of Swedes are generally regarded as not very strong.

Swedes are used to low-context communication. In other words, “I say what I think and I do what I say”. There is no reason to beat around the bush or to spend any more words on a proposal than absolutely necessary.

While this kind of communication can work with Danes, Dutch or German people they often fail to see that when dealing with other nationalities this creates a distance with their communication partner or in the worst case even offends him or her.

In order to improve this situation we must begin at ground level, i.e. the schools and universities. But here lies another cultural problem. The strong cultural emphasis on equality (which is only to be applauded as a general principle) had led to a situation in which competition is condemned and excellence is considered elitist.

Children are stimulated to be creative and solution orientated, but much less to know the factual backgrounds and be competitive in order to excel. Jantelagen is deeply rooted in the subconsciousness of many Swedes.

A cultural concept which tells children at a very young age not to believe that they could or should be better then any of their class mates, thus taking away the stimulation for children to strive to be the best they can be.

One of the ways this situation can be improved is by introducing the Anglo-Saxon tradition of “debate competitions” (or in Sweden “debate challenges” might be a better word?).

Debate competitions are a great way for children to improve their English, enhance their self confidence and let them interact in a different and stimulating way.

Yet after talking to different institutions and schools we still find that people hesitate to embrace this foreign concept. The idea of letting students compete against each other and showing off their rhetorical skills in front of a jury and audience seems to frighten the introvert Swede.

Could it be that Sweden’s culture is standing in the way of Sweden’s education?

Story continues below…

We need managers, educators and teachers that are willing to take a chance. A chance to improve the system and give their children a new and valuable tool. A tool that will be useful for their students, whatever career they might choose.

Because we have the duty to prepare today’s children for a globalized world. The world really IS their oyster and if we fail to prepare them, we are preparing to fail.

Ruben Brunsveld is Director of The Stockholm Institute for Public Speaking

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Your comments about this article

17:26 January 31, 2011 by michelhoetmer
As a Dutchman living now for one year in Sweden I also wondered about this topic. I think competition (as long as people don't take it to the extreme) is fine and a great stimulus for development.
19:24 January 31, 2011 by Puffin
I think Jantelagen is more urban myth these days than reality - judging by the intense competition for top grades in school or university - even if they pretend the opposite
19:33 January 31, 2011 by frolixer
...' their oyster'...do homophones hinder local contributers?
19:36 January 31, 2011 by mojofat
Funny, I don't see this being a problem when it's soccer or hockey...
19:37 January 31, 2011 by frolixer
'contributers'...does spelling hinder sarcy comment makers?
21:23 January 31, 2011 by Southerner Up North
As a manager, a foreigner and a mother, I feel that this article describes my sentiments exactly! I am used to celebrating excellence not hiding it or undermining it. I love this country and its people but I will be the first to admit I do not always understand it..
06:58 February 1, 2011 by Zhorka
Do not borrow anything Anglo-Saxon. It will kill off the Swedish character.
07:27 February 1, 2011 by Kaethar
Yet Finland (Sweden's twin) is said to have the best education system in the world. So rather than coping some Anglo-Saxon (read: American) method of learning perhaps we should look to our neighbour in the east to see what they're doing differently? Just a thought...
13:51 February 1, 2011 by Luke35711
Great essay! Liberal education, supposed creativity instead of facts and solid knowledge, is a disaster. It harms children in the long-run. And the idea was borrowed from the US, in the first place. Blame leftist teachers. Liberal education is easy for them. US is reforming now, following the example of Asian countries, which are set to lead in the 21st century.
14:12 February 1, 2011 by nyh2o
as someone who has been studying and working here - I completely agree. Its ridiculous. What this means is that people always are forced to perform at the level that matches the worst student/co worker - because if you do better than they will feel bad/ you will be elitist (instead of encouraging them to step up their game and match the better performing student/coworker). I have tried to ask some Swedes about this but it comepletely seems to go over their head. The earlier generaton of swedes were lutherans with extremely hard work embedded into their system - but walk down drottningatan or stureplan today and youll see that attitude is long gone. It makes me worry about the future of the country.
14:41 February 1, 2011 by scientist22
Ettan förlora, tvåan vann....

This is the mindset of the populace....some call it striving for excellence, the Swedes call it showing off...
15:39 February 1, 2011 by Streja
I agree with Puffin.

I have been a teacher for 10 years now and I have never told any student not to excel. There are debates ín school as well. Swedish kids even learn how to debate in a different tongue.

Do that Anglo-Saxons and then come back and bang the drum.
15:43 February 1, 2011 by ghostwriter
I think Ruben Brunsveld - Do you have any proper theoretical framework?

Exceeding in competition does not result in good self-confidence.

The idea that you are good at X because you "won" over others, implies that you are only good as long as it's in a relation to someone else. I.e. if everyone else loses, then i will be good. If everyone else wins, i well be bad. This leads to a view of "good" that turns good into a social relation. When good is dependent on a social relation, "good" will be relative to what other people think. This leads to a society with people who crave for approval of others; narcissism and aggression.

Competition is also a false motivator. While competition can be fun, it doesn't truly motivate students. If you turn learning into a competion, you make it just as interesting as football: You can't be interested in it unless there's scores involved. People get interested in things because things are interesting. If something is not interesting, you can add a competion to make it more fun. This can be good at times, but to build education on competition - I hardly think so.

The only good competitor is noone but one oneself.

People tend to win confidence by competing against themselves: "I better at math now, then i was two months ago"; "I'm better at my job now than five years ago" - Why have competition in the classroom when children could build self-confidence from themselves?

I don't get the idea of adjusting Swedish culture to other countries. We are who we are. That's it.

We're crap at cocktail parties and far too introverted. Yes.

But I don't think that's a problem with competiion and everyone's equal value. It's something else.
17:09 February 1, 2011 by calebian22

Competition with yourself? Does playing with yourself get you a good job? Does playing with yourself earn you a spot in the educational program that you want? No. Life is about competition. Anyone who says differently has been spending too much time playing with themselves.
17:34 February 1, 2011 by upthink
'The world really IS there oyster' - 'there' should be 'their'.
18:18 February 1, 2011 by Carbarrister
For 10 years I managed a department that included offices in 9 countries including Sweden. Just about everyone had advanced degrees. The Swedes were among the most capable and qualified. However, there was a reluctance to step up and take a leadership role. It drove me crazy because I needed them to be more assertive at times. I suspect this is a cultural trait. I saw it in my parents who were born and raised in Sweden. Maybe it was simply a reflection of the individuals I was managing. Swedes do not need to be less Swedish but evolve to meet the needs of a global marketplace.
21:17 February 1, 2011 by BobWas
How can it be said that the emphasis is on equality when those with special needs are segregated and placed in special schools?

What kind of special needs preclude a child from attending regular school?
00:25 February 2, 2011 by Freebie
As an American, I'd hope most Swedes will accept my observations as complimentary. 'Preserving and protecting a common sense of identity, is probably the most important advice and education you can pass along to younger generations. Be proud of that identity. In my opinion, the worst decision ever made by Sweden was 40 years ago when they allowed themselves to be suckered into joining the European Union. A faulty experiment at best. You and your fellow countrymen allowed yourselves to be brainwashed by politicians of the day into believing it was for the good of Sweden's future generations. Most member countries comprising the EU are, with all due respect, losers. A growing number of these nations are bankrupt. In most instances, vacant vaults--not because treasures were invested to advance the citizenry, but more likely, lining pockets of corrupt politicians. Now they are all looking to other more austere member nations to bail them out. Be proud of your Swedish heritage and don't allow yourselves to be conned even further by those who try to paint you as 'backwards.' The very best you can pass along to your Swedish children is, be Swedes and proud of who you are and where your roots are, and respectful of those who made sacrifices to enrich the Swedish soil to grow those strong and powerful roots. If 'Sweden's culture is standing in the way of Sweden's education,' perhaps you'd care to take another look at that Utopian globalized world being offered to your children. Sweden indeed has a future, and will be around long after a failed EU is nothing more than an unmentionable and embarrassing memory.
03:37 February 2, 2011 by ghostwriter
"Competition with yourself? Does playing with yourself get you a good job? Does playing with yourself earn you a spot in the educational program that you want? No. Life is about competition. Anyone who says differently has been spending too much time playing with themselves."

People don't "play" with themselves. They reflect upon their on accomplishment, because that's the only thing they've got. Accomplishments of other people are not an integral part of our being. Students should think for themselves, instead of letting others think for them.

It's very important for children to have a strong foundation for when they lose on the job market. When students learn to measure success with reference to their own accomplishments/ability (not that of others), they know how to lose and how to win.

It's also important for students to learn how to appreciate success of others and emphatize with failure of others. The opposite of this nurtures a society with mentality that goes in the line of: "ME FIRST!" - No thanks.
08:39 February 2, 2011 by voidplay
I agree with @ghostwriter

As a foreigner, I think excessive competitiveness in education kills the purpose of education. Children should learn because of their interests in what they are learning and not the scores to impress their parents or for approval among peers.

I have seen many a smart kid being labelled a failure, because they did not want to be dumbed down by the rigid, outdated and often pointless ceremonies that make up their education in most parts of the world.

The Swedish system is by far one of the best systems I have come across so far.
10:11 February 2, 2011 by skatty
I think competition normally takes place in the frame of some values. There is competition in Swedish culture like other cultures but with different values. Sweden likes to be number one in the world like many other nations, we hear about it several times in a week by media.

However, the schools may not encouraging competition like Anglo-Saxons (especially American) way of competition, because there has not been a need for that level of competition. Sweden really has never been a land of immigrants. Jobs mostly have been granted for Swedes and foreign workers have mostly never got the chance to compete with Swedes in high positions (white collar jobs). The education system is relaxed and suitable for a nation, which does not permit challenge to outsiders for better jobs. It's why a low educated Swede can get a high position, but very high educated foreigners get low position (even with education from Sweden).

This is different with American way of competition (or let say Anglo-Saxons), which mainly takes the best and encourage high level of completion, regardless of being insider or outsider. The values are different, high incomes, bigger dreams for different people from different countries, anybody who can be better.
10:17 February 2, 2011 by nyh2o
Swedes should continue to 'play' with themselves while India and China 'play' with each other and with training become stronger and more capable each day. Its Asia's time anyway. You guys rest and take your CSN money and go to Australia while it stll lasts....but about your children - yeah that might not play out so well :).

And as for research on this: http://www.thelocal.se/30668/20101207/

yeah hard to argue now isnt it. playing with yourself isn't really working out as well as some may have thought.
14:14 February 2, 2011 by Eagle63
Living in a strong 'globally competitive' nation doesn't mean it's also the best place to live; I'd think on average you're better of living in (for example) Denmark than in France or Germany.

Also the Canadian education system might be of interest to Sweden; it's a bit like the American system but of higher quality and without the rough edges.

Btw; does anybody know if that 'equality-complex' is limited to Sweden or is it also present in the other Scandinavian countries...?
14:19 February 2, 2011 by jeffi_in_denmark
Competition does not develop a "me first" attitude. That is generally more developed in highly consumer-based cultures, where the "I want my stuff" attitude is more prevalent.

Jantelagen, if I am not being totally forgetful, was from a fictional novel in the 30s or so, though a proper Swede or historian is free to correct me here. I have a feeling the roots might go back a bit further.

It is difficult to see Swedes as non-competitive, however, given how many Swedish hockey stars figure prominently in the highly competitive National Hockey League in North America.

Competition is healthy, when done properly and at the right ages and stages. It teaches one many things about managing pressure in a performance situation that is pretty vital in an adult life. It certainly isn't supposed to be about one-ups-man-ship.
14:31 February 2, 2011 by calebian22
Well you go right ahead and emphathize with the losers at the back of the line. You can pat each other on the back and wonder where it all went wrong.
15:22 February 2, 2011 by Juan Harry Bush
Swedish, or rather, Scaninavian culture as a whole, is vanishing fast. Either they don't care, or don't know.

Albeit most of the readers here know what I'm getting at.
15:33 February 2, 2011 by Eagle63
Sometimes they don't care at all; like when they squander a Swedish icon like Volvo to the Chinese...
15:51 February 2, 2011 by Hermlover
I'm a US immigrant to Sweden via the UK and have often found that my ways of thinking and being don't quite fit in with Swedish culture. I find it odd that the notion of 'equality' is somehow being used to explain why Swedish culture doesn't value competition as highly as other nations seem to. What I find most difficult is the notion that one must not be too individual or want to stand up, stand out or be noticed. Equality is a beautiful concept. OBLIGATORY CONFORMITY is in my opinion where the problem resides.
15:56 February 2, 2011 by Eagle63
Well said #28...
18:37 February 2, 2011 by Chickybee
@Freebee: I think you will find that Luxembourg with one of the highest GDP in the world and one of the founding countries is no loser. I think you are still too remote from appreciating Europe and still have your American mentality whilst being in Europe - something most of us glady cannot comprehend.

I am a Swede who spends 50-50% of his time in both countries.
18:55 February 2, 2011 by dammen
Being a Brit and living here I was victim of jantelagen for many years - till I learned there are still courses held at the universities on how to uphold jantelagen. It explained a lot of how my own work colleagues treated me and my work!

This attitude holds back people from realizing their own potential and I can see the same effects now in my kids

It might be a cultural tradition and I can see the logic in it - but at the end of the day, we live in modern times and need to find our own place in the world and realise what we can do - not just wishing for it. Perhaps the reason there are so many other social problems here in Sweden is that underlying there is a set of medieval morals for people to live by.
19:03 February 2, 2011 by ccb
Being here for almost 2 years I have to agree somewhat with the article. Sweden does have a good education system, however, the average Swede does lack the ability to express themselves in any public or formal fora (in English or Swedish). Which can be a significant issue when competing in the world market. Yes Swedes usually have a good command of English and excellent pronunciation, despite this, persons with lower abilities still tend to outshine in their expressions, or at least that has been my experience. Being competitive has always seen many persons excel in their field and interestingly enough some Swedes have done this despite their cultural shortcomings. So who knows what could happen if this problem were addressed in the future.
04:26 February 3, 2011 by för30årseden
Kurt Vonnegut wrote a very good idea of this version of "equality" where we force people to be more equal that God made them and it sounds like a system run by feminist Swedish ministers. In fact, I suspect that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General in the story is a Swede.

It's called Harrison Bergeron and the full text is here:


Enjoy it, if you are allowed to or unless it gets banned by the Handicapper General.
10:19 February 3, 2011 by msaliassweden
Swedish culture hinders Swedes period. I think that the Swedish children have more of a chance to excel and broaden themselves in every aspect and is possible now with the internet. They can socialize more with other cultures. Not just by text, but by video etc. Even with the Swedish friends that I have had for 20 years over the internet they still fall back into their Swedish clam shell when it comes to feelings or expression, when faced in person.

I also agree with ccb above stating it is hard for Swedish people to express themselves. Not by not knowing a language but exactly by the culture being so closed and inexpressive.

So whether or not Swedish culture hinders Swedish children? Well you can also say the same about American culture hindering American children...

To most Swedes, I am loud, obnoxious and "Oh my god, did she just say/do that?" Well my only answer is "I'm American" lol
13:37 February 3, 2011 by Swedesmith
Thanks för30årseden, I remembered reading that story as a kid but couldn't remember the title. Damn Diana Moon Glompers must have given me a dose of Alzheimers.
13:52 February 3, 2011 by soultraveler3
Comment #28 from Hermlover was spot on, especially the last sentence.

Sweden is a nice country but this whole attitude that stems from Jantelagen is just sad and awful. Anyone who thinks that this attitude isn't alive and well in swedish culture is diluting themselves. You can see it in public, in the workplace and in schools.

I actually was reprimanded during a språkpraktik at the library for working faster than the regular employees that had been there for years. The head librarian took me aside and said that people had complained because I put the books away too fast and that it was supposed to take 30 mins not 5 mins. She went so far as to say that I needed to slow down so others didn't look bad. When I told my friends about this many of them had similar stories or had heard similar stories at their workplace. This way of thinking seems to be pretty common place.

I have a little job teaching a hemspråk english class at the local primary. You can see it there as well. Competition is looked down upon. That's not always a bad thing and in some areas like youth sports, fun should take precedence over winning. What is worrying to me and some of the parents, is that the subjects taught are the same but they seem to be about 2 years behind with the skill sets when compared to other countries. The children are from Jamaica, England, America and Wales, in case anyone was wondering.

That combined with almost no classes for gifted children and a lax attitude in general towards education will probably hurt society in the long run.
15:06 February 3, 2011 by Freebie
@ Chickybee -- Sorry for offending you--suppose my stroke was too broad when attempting to paint a picture of what people (Swedes) should see when looking in life's mirror for self esteem. My Swedish godson would probably be confused with your inability to 'comprehend...the American mentality.' However, my European grand parents might have influenced MY ability to 'appreciate Europe.' Again, sorry for offending you.
21:59 February 3, 2011 by Joeboyscout04
@Freebie - I don't think I've ever seen anyone apologize on a message board! That took guts, and I think I speak for most readers when I say thanks for keeping the conversation at a civil level :-). Hats off to you!
22:02 February 3, 2011 by mikewhite
Having been brought up in the English school system, my memory of primary education was not about competing against my classmates, rather it was doing well against the test being set.

How you did against your classmates was after the fact and did not enter into the equation.

So as long as the Swedish tots get their kicks out of beating the test, I can't see any problem !
23:58 February 3, 2011 by alecLoTh
The 'Tall Poppy Syndrome" as it is known in New Zealand. Having a smaller population that scrambled from the paddocks to the cities for work...we saw this clearly and it was taught i our universities.

The phenomenon was mentioned as far back as Aristotle...so it is an old problem, but other populations have stared it in the face and dealt with it. Sweden is ...dancing with it.

There is a reason New Zealand has such an inventive social culture, its because we value a person who endeavors and attains. We encourage sport...look at what we do to the world in rugby....any Australians care to elaborate hahaha

Anyway, Sweden would do well to draw in some values from other cultures...it dosent mean they'll be less Swedish....what can be wrong with encouraging debate or my persoal favourite Toastmasters?? Absolutely nothing - if anything it helps create healthy, balanced individuals.
14:49 February 4, 2011 by lauraagustin
This article seems to me to have an out-of-date idea about Sweden - harking back to Svensk Mentalitet's days more than Är svenskan mannika's

Several separate topics are being muddled. Debatt programmes are rife on the telly and radio, why don't you count those? And 'debate' itself comes in many forms, the one you refer to involving direct competition and winning is only one, and no longer the most common even in anglo countries.
16:07 February 4, 2011 by Juan Harry Bush
"Does Swedish culture hinder Swedish children?"

No, But others coming here affect the "Scandinavian Culture"

Enough is Enough.

Just Sayin' : -)
03:01 February 5, 2011 by marcelj
Sweden need not have an identity crisis. Western counties are looking to sweden as an example. (The usa is not looking to china as was stated for an example.) Sweden is looked to, and admired, so It is important to retain the culture and identity. Private schools in the usa are good but the public school system needs some help. Also, the school system in the usa will indebt a person forever with huge interest payments. Sweden is the example for the rest of the world.
08:23 February 5, 2011 by Mad Mac
It would be better for other developed countries to learn from the Swedish example than for Sweden, and Swedish people, to try to become more like today's British and Americans, with their shameful dog eat dog, devil take the hindmost anti-ethic.

Incidentally, why does the author believe that working for academic excellence is in some way competitive? It's more about doing the best we can, and the satisfaction is in the achievement, not in what material benefits that achievement might bring, still less what advantages over others we might gain - unless, of course, you think like that money-worshipping corrupt reptile Tony Blair; and there's an example of everything Sweden should try not to emulate!
13:48 February 5, 2011 by skatty
I think many comments in here don't know what Jantelagen, mentioned in the article means, check here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jante_Law

The ten rules are:

1. Don't think you're anything special.

2. Don't think you're as much as us.

3. Don't think you're wiser than us.

4. Don't convince yourself that you're better than us.

5. Don't think you know more than us.

6. Don't think you are more than us.

7. Don't think you are good at anything.

8. Don't laugh at us.

9. Don't think anyone cares about you.

10. Don't think you can teach us anything.

I should say after many years life in Sweden, the laws are very correct about the Swedish mentality (I didn't live in other Scandinavian countries and can't judge about them). However, in contrast with the explanation in Wikipedia, I think with all the jealousy and narrow mentality, Swedes acknowledge individual effort and don't place all emphasis on the collective.

I think to acknowledge individual effort depends to the class divisions in Sweden. In contrast with Anglo - Saxon mentality, which is common to acknowledge individual efforts in all classes to compete for higher positions, in Sweden the over-class have the privilege to acknowledge individual efforts openly and loudly, but the ordinary people work on it silently, I have seen hundreds of articles about top executives and powerful people, who openly acknowledge their own importance in all different ways.

I believe these laws can be more touchable if you live as an immigrant or refugees in Sweden, in general these laws are more some kind of protective laws to distinct between insiders (Swedes or Scandinavians) and outsiders (non-Swedes or non-Scandinavian), rather than a distinction between individual and collective in general in Scandinavia.
18:39 February 5, 2011 by Maler1971
I see how both sides benefit. You want to keep humbleness and swede culture in tact but not lose that edge in a global marketplace that we live in now.

There is always a happy medium, and that is where we need to find our place.
07:41 February 6, 2011 by Decedo
I recently moved here from Canada. I'm here with my (Swedish) wife, and my 2 yr old son. I was shocked when I leaned that there aren't any organized sports in schools. In Canada I was on the wrestling and football teams. Now understanding the Jantelagen mantra I totally understand why this is so. How can you have a school team when everyone needs to be a winner!?!? It's alot like the Swedish hockey teams, they're so happy to win bronze, while the US and Canada strive for gold or nothing. It's only after years in the NHL, that Swedish players learn competition.
08:23 February 6, 2011 by thestudent
You people are morons regarding competition.

In case you havent checked, Sweden ranks #6 (Finland #3, the USA #17) in Winter Olympic medals per capita and ranks second (Finland is #1 and USA#28) in Summer Olympic medals per capita.

So much for the lack of competition in the Nordic Countries
08:59 February 6, 2011 by Rick Methven
"It's only after years in the NHL, that Swedish players learn competition."

What you mean is that Swedes in the NHL taught the Canadians how to play hockey instead of fighting. We have plenty of competition here.
09:28 February 6, 2011 by thestudent
and oh... where is mighty Canada, the proponents of competition ?

#9 and #29 respectively ...

'nuff said
14:11 February 6, 2011 by countrysidedrive
I am an American. Lived my whole life in California. My ancestry is mixed between Norwegian, Italian & Irish. My personality is like a Swede. I say what I mean and mean what I say. I also like things orderly like a Swede. Now my Swedish wife has a completely different personality. She makes statements based on feelings not logic. And is not orderly in the least bit. With this said I don't believe that Swedes are so orderly. But what I do believe is that they are very passive and therefore not likely to debate issues or do anything to rock the boat.
12:23 February 7, 2011 by Ruben Brunsveld
Dear readers,

First of all thank you for all your comments and feedback. On the basis of this contribution a lot of assumptions are being made about what I think or do not think of the Swedish educational system. So let me try to put a few things into context.

To begin with I do believe there are a lot of things very good in the Swedish educational system (emphasis on creativity, solution oriented not purely facts based etc.). But at the same time I notice some areas that seem to be underdeveloped or that could at least be improved upon, such as presentation skills, public speaking skills etc.

To answer one reader's question: do I have a proper academic theory to back this thesis up? No. I am by education a Human Rights lawyer, not a rhetorical scholar. However I do have extensive practical experience dealing with this subject. My observations come from working years as a professional negotiator/diplomat in the EU, my work as an active volunteer for the Dutch Debating Institute and my current work giving lectures/courses on this topic to companies, universities and organizations in Sweden.

At no point in this article do I claim that competition is the only or even the best way to advance children and to improve knowledge. As with most things in life it is all about finding the balance between different educational styles, tools and instruments. Since I was involved in the organization of many debate competitions in the Netherlands I have seen how much fun children have with it, how much it increases their self confidence and how it enhances their language skills. So although it is definitely not the only tool a school should have in its toolbox, I do believe that by offering this kind of competition schools give their students a tool that will benefit them throughout their careers and throughout their lives.

To make sure there is no misunderstanding, this article was written as a friend of Sweden and an admirer of its culture. A culture that is worthy of protection. But like with any person, organization or country there is always room for improvement if one is willing to look in the mirror and open for new idea's. In the end that is how we evolve and grow.

So if you are a parent, teacher or educator that would like to organize a master class on Pubic Speaking or even a debate competition at your school please do not hesitate to contact us at info@stips.se.

Ruben Brunsveld
13:57 February 7, 2011 by keepvogel
I'm wondering how Swedes will respond to a foreigner at any degree of this 'Jante Law'.

I really don't get a clear idea of this part of Swedish culture. Is it out-of-date, or do I really have to watch out what I'm doing/saying? I'm going to be working in Sweden for 6 months so I'm trying to understand the culture. I thought Swedes were just as reasonable as most other well-developed European countries. Is it a big thing or just an ever-decreasing part of Swedish culture that only some of the people still emphasize?

I already have some Swedish friends I met trough the internet, when I'm going to meet them in real life I just don't want to look like some douchebag having different thoughts on social expression. Do I have to watch out or not?
14:38 February 7, 2011 by Rick Methven

Just be yourself and you will be fine.

Jante is used by disgruntled immigrants and others who have never even been to Sweden to knock Sweden and Swedes.

Ignore them
15:01 February 7, 2011 by calebian22

Jante law and other complaints about Swedish culture is valid. I am guessing that you will be in one of the larger metro areas, where international influence is greater. If you are somewhere less "international" the curious nature of Swedes is much more apparent. Either way though, 6 months will probably not be long enough for you to really notice anything.

Even though I rarely agree with Rick on these forums he is right when he says you will be fine. Enjoy your time here.
17:20 February 7, 2011 by keepvogel
I am staying in Göteborg, so I think that will be fine.

Thank you both for your answer, appreciate your input!
05:35 February 8, 2011 by technoviking
Sweden has people of both sorts. A larger amount of conformists for certain but also a decent amount of avowed non-conformists which balances it out nicely I think.

The fear of competition and the socialist mindset is certainly a handicap in the long run, as it reaches extremes.

It will instill a complete lack of motivation for kids who have curling parents, a social system they think will take care of them regardless of what they do and a culture that's never demanded that they do something to be special. Mediocrity isn't going to cut it in the next few decades.

The world is changing and they really not be prepared for the unforgiving nature of it.
10:06 February 11, 2011 by Anarka
Once again Swedes trying to adapt to foreigners when foreigners should be adapting to Swedish culture. Ok and this jantelagen (jantilaw) it has its bad sides when it goes too far but like everything else it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here in Finland we teach people from other countries that they have to adapt to our way of life and not the other way around.Thats why our country works. This is done to prevent the cultural chaos for instance that exists in sweden. As Finns we have the attitude that this is our country and if you want to be part of our country you can but you have to earn it by adapting to our way of living and culture.Why is this too much to ask if we as Scandinavians are giving them money, a home, a new life and not only a free education but an education that they are getting paid for.The reason why Sweden is in the mess that its in is this attitude of adjusting for others.

Competition- What is the most competetive country in the world? USA is and their country has lots of problems more then we can imagine as well as a messed up disfunctional culture. While sompetition in some small ways is good what does it do when it goes too far? It awards the child with the loudest mouth and biggest ego who has walked all over others to be number #1. While the shy quiet kid in the back of the class who has low self esteem is forgotten about and disregarded with his lack of esteem to compete.
19:35 February 11, 2011 by Baroness_Fredericks
Why attack Swedish traditions? Because, how can you accept Islam's intent if you don't give up your own traditions. They surely won't budge an inch to give up theirs! Make a study of what I said and see. Using common sense and not anger. You shall, in future, lose your Nation to this influx with such an intent as to never assimilate into your or any other society or State.

Watch all the videos in sequence: *(Very Important to see and pass on.)

Go to youtube and type in: Islam Rising 1-17

I ask you to do this to save some part of Your Own Culture, rather than to sit back and allow your generation to be the one to let it all go after so many centuries of culture and pride.
00:54 February 13, 2011 by iona
It all depends on what sense you mean by "best that you can be" economic success, scholarly, morally etc etc.
02:20 February 13, 2011 by waffen
I am not any better than anyone else, and no one is any better than me.

I also do not have to apologize or to explain anything about being Swedish to anyone. Those of you who are Swedish who think that the American way of competition is what you prefer, move to America. Those of you who live in Sweden but who are not Swedes and who find fault with the Swedish culture, the answer is simple, move back to where you originated.

This article is an insult to Swedish culture and Sweden.

The author should move to where he finds the competition more to his liking, but in no way should he advocate that the culture in Sweden should change.

04:20 February 13, 2011 by alecLoTh
There is a lot of blinding emotion here. The author clearly states that there is a need for public debate competitions or something similar. It's not necessarily to run roughshod over your peers and be the king of the hill - it's a good way to defend your liberties, opinions, rights and self-image.

I value most sports and toastmasters in my education ....the rest could be attained by anyone disciplined enough to open a book.

But acumen, wit, subtlety, delivery of a crafted speech, holding the gaze of a crowd, steadfast when nervous, convincing people, stirring emotion......these are life skills, they do not exist in books, halls, or libraries.
09:24 February 15, 2011 by loudasthunder
The old way of "Swedish Culture" seemed to "Logom", non-competive or accepting fate, as being narrow minded with "Blinders" on . The new genration, however, is more of a competative open minded society.


Other cultures are becoming a hinderance to the Scandinavian culture as a whole, and if We're not to careful, We could lose it forever...
12:04 February 16, 2011 by BelleSuede
I think the Swedish educational system has many flaws and needs a lot of improvement. This is very important for the future, and it is a big challenge, which is why it needs to be thoroughly planned.

One of the few great things about the system though is the non-focus on competition. Kids should be encouraged to do the best of their ability, and inspired to do grand things - together. The society of the future will depend on the togetherness of the citizens. The development right now in Sweden is going in the total different direction, with privatizations, elite schools etc, which increases the differences between people.

What we need to do is think long-term, and by doing that we realize that what we need is to teach the next generation just how much we can do together. Schools should be far better than what they are today, focus more on knowledge about how to effect and develop society. There should indeed be more focus on public speaking and e.g solidarity exercises. In the future countries will cooperate even more than we do today and we need understanding and communicative abilities. The kids should be creatively encouraged in all different subjects so that all different sectors of the society evolves. We need more - and better - teachers so that enough time is spent on really making sure each kid gets enough attention.

I do not think we need a competitive school in the sense of competing against each other to be "the best". We need a competitive school in the sense of competing to give the best education for the next generations.
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