The Swedish Educational Model

From Biblical Worldview, November 1994.

Twentieth-century socialist regimes have followed an educational path that is designed to mold children in terms of State interests. Education’s purpose, in the words of former Swedish Minister of Education, Ingvar Carlsson, “is to produce a well adjusted, good member of society. It teaches people to respect the consensus, and not sabotage it.” As Roland Huntford demonstrates in The New Totalitarians, Sweden is described as a “peaceful utopia” totally controlled by a bureaucracy which actively discourages all signs of individuality.

Home ownership and small houses are discouraged to prevent what Huntford felicitously calls “Nurseries of independence.” In Sweden, people live as tenants, crowded into concrete beehives with the Government as their landlord. Sweden’s educational system promotes a single worldview with no competing philosophy to “confuse” the people.

Is America following the Swedish model? Ideally, the Socialist educational system intended to turn out good civil servants devoted to the interests of the State. In order to accomplish this, a complete break with the past had to be made. “It is a truism that to change people it is desirable to cut off the past. In the Swedish schools, the study of history has been truncated and the emphasis laid on the development of the Swedish Labour movement . . . [T]he European heritage and the classical background have been dismissed, and an atmosphere created in which only recent decades appear to count.” For Sweden, “Nothing matters before 1932,” the year in which the Social Democrats came to power.

Of course, the anti-historical bias of younger intellectuals is a universal phenomenon, at least in the West. What is distinctive about Sweden is that this bias is, if not exactly shared, at least encouraged and exploited by authority.

The State has monopolized education in Sweden. Teachers have no independence and are bound by the methods and contents of the lessons provided by the Schools Directorate. “Textbooks are severely controlled. They must be approved by a State commission, subordinate to the Directorate, and they may not be used without approval.” The content of the textbooks must conform to the official policies of the State. Criticism of Swedish social policies is not permitted. The goal is to eradicate reactionary tendencies. For example, at a 1969 party congress, Prime Minister Olof Palme quoted a passage from a certain textbook that displayed a non-socialist viewpoint. “That book,” he said, “had not been investigated by the textbooks commission.” He was implying that if it had been investigated it would not have been adopted by the committee and would not have gotten into the hands of students.

Socialism, at least in the Swedish model, views contact with the past a risk. But by ignoring the past, educators lose a reference point for evaluating current trends. As one critic of the Swedish education system observed, “Scrapping historical knowledge deprives pupils of the instrument for criticizing society here and now. And perhaps that is the intended effect.” The result is that “Sweden has been dechristianized more efficiently than any other country, Russia not excepted.”

Sweden has been able to condition the people by controlling every facet of a child’s education. Competition from private schools is nearly non-existent. Pre-school training is designed to cut children off from their social and historical heritage. In the words of Ingvar Carlsson, “school is the spearhead of Socialism.” How has Sweden accomplished this goal?

In the attainment of these goals, great care has been devoted to severing intellectual roots. The general curtailment of history has been one method. Within this, there has been included the more refined concept of cutting Swedish links with Western Europe. Whatever the public justification for such a step, the consequence has turned out to be a cultural vacuum, and it is such a state that mass conditioning is really effective.

Creating a vacuum by erasing the past and the nation’s identification with it is a necessary step in reconditioning the people to accept a new world-view. American education has taken the same path as Sweden. While there is still time, Christians should remove their children from government schools.