Department of Government

New article from Kjetil Børhaug in Policy Futures in Education

Professor Kjetil Børhaug has written an article on “Selective Critical Thinking: a textbook analysis of education for critical thinking in Norwegian social studies”. The article has been published in Policy Futures in Education.

Main content

A critical citizenry is crucial for democratic processes. The question raised in the article is whether Norwegian social studies explicitly offers discourses about society that open up for and illustrate critical discussion.

The analysis is based on textbooks used in Norwegian lower secondary schools in social studies, and it is found some critical approaches in relation to most themes. It is concluded that critical assessments are encouraged by this school subject, although the criticism is selective and never directed towards important political and legal institutions.



Current Norwegian curricular guidelines oblige schools to educate citizens with a critical perspective on society. From a discourse theoretical perspective, this obligation implies that various school subjects, and in particular social studies, offer discourses on social issues that allow for different points of view and critical evaluation. Educational systems have a strong tendency towards legitimising the existing social and political order. It is therefore important to examine whether critical perspectives are articulated at all, and exactly what students are encouraged to criticise. Globalisation processes are assumed to affect the extent and form of critical assessment. In this article, the textbooks used in Norwegian lower secondary schools in social studies are examined. It is found that critical perspectives are articulated, but systematically directed at issues that do not challenge core political and legal institutions, such as economic policy, non-voters, non-democratic regimes far away, and racists. Political and legal institutions, the United Nations, and Norwegian multiculturalism are above any type of critical assessment. It can be concluded that critical assessments are encouraged, albeit being guided in some directions and not others.


Read the full article here.