In the worst case, very unvarnished dissemination of research leads to the authorities not doing well with the measures to help vulnerable children.
This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
My article “Home for Christmas” (December 26) has received opposition.
University lecturer and SV member Rune Flaaten Bjørk (January 1), Sandra B. Midbøe in Save the Children (January 3), three writers from the Children and Family Agency in Oslo municipality (January 5) and three researchers at NKVTS (5. January) everyone thinks I’m wrong.
It is not easy to understand what they are criticizing me for. Among other things, they seem to assume that I do not care (enough) about children who are exposed to violence, abuse and neglect. But they have no basis for claiming this.
My concern was, among other things, this:
The school’s main task is education – of all children. The most important reason for keeping schools open is therefore the consideration for education. There is a duty to educate in Norway, and almost 100 per cent of the parents have chosen to fulfill this duty by letting the children go to school. It is obvious that most children also experience many other qualities at school, which they do not associate with learning.
There is a tendency to want to give schools responsibility for more and more tasks. But schools can not take responsibility for everything. It will displace and impair training. Therefore, it is important that we constantly remind ourselves of the school’s primary mission: the education of all children.
This does not mean that schools do not have a responsibility to help particularly vulnerable children. The Education Act contains clear provisions on the duty to notify and provide information, for example when there is reason to believe that a child may be abused or exposed to serious neglect. There are also several provisions on how schools should follow up children in difficult situations.
“Schools know who they are”
I have no doubt that school is an important source of the messages of concern that come. But I do not think it is a given that these children have been caught to a lesser extent during the pandemic than they usually are. The schools have mostly been open to the families and children who need it. And to quote the school board in Oslo: “Schools know who they are.”
Children who are or may be exposed to violence or abuse deserve all the support and help they can get from the aid system, organizations and us as fellow human beings. But if we are to succeed with the measures that are put in place, it is important to have as good a knowledge base as possible.
On 16 December, one of the NKVTS researchers told Dagsnytt 18 that we now “know”, on the basis of research that NKVTS itself has done, that “1 in 4 children have been exposed to violence or abuse during the pandemic”. This was presented as some of the “consequences of using home schooling”.
May be hurtful remark
If you look more closely at the research from NKVTS, you will discover that the words “violence” and “abuse” are used about incidents that in ordinary speech are not considered to be violence or abuse. It can, for example, be a hurtful remark that the young person in question hears once.
In NKVTS ‘survey, approx. 15 percent of young people who say they have been exposed to “violence or abuse” during the shutdown. For the most part, these are psychological violence and one-off incidents, and for the most part this is a hurtful remark.
There is nothing wrong, as far as I can see, with the survey that the NKVTS has done, and it is certainly true that definitions of “violence” and “abuse” have also been used, which are also used by the WHO. But the concepts are very unsuitable when the research is to be disseminated, if this is not explained in more detail.
No secure documentation
Has the incidence of violence and abuse increased during the pandemic? As far as I can see, there is no reliable documentation on that. Some reports indicate that it has become smaller, others more – or that the difference is not so great. Some have also escaped violence and abuse because they have not been to school.
the school’s most important social mission is the education of all children
Why is this important? In the worst case, very unvarnished dissemination of research leads to the responsible authorities not responding well to the measures that are put in place to help vulnerable children.
In addition, it leaves the impression that the home is a much more dangerous place than it is for most children.
It can make us forget that the school’s most important social mission is to educate all children – not to protect them from their own families.