Reasonable to force children to learn Danish?

“In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos’” (nytimes):

When Rokhaia Naassan gives birth in the coming days, she and her baby boy will enter a new category in the eyes of Danish law. Because she lives in a low-income immigrant neighborhood described by the government as a “ghetto,” Rokhaia will be what the Danish newspapers call a “ghetto parent” and he will be a “ghetto child.”

Starting at the age of 1, “ghetto children” must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in “Danish values,” including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language. Noncompliance could result in a stoppage of welfare payments.

Is this reasonable? Danish is spoken by 5.4 million people. Denmark is part of the EU and therefore once immigrants to Denmark gain citizenship they can relocate to another EU country where Danish language skills will be useless. If Denmark’s mission is to help migrants, wouldn’t it make sense to educate their children in the language of the parents’ choice, not only from age 1 but right through high school graduation?

[Separately, why are there political disagreements about these “new Danes”? We are told that even the lowest-skill immigrants boost an economy and lower a country’s crime rate (see “Germans shutting down immigration because they are tired of getting wealthier and enjoying lower crime rates?“). Danes now have years of direct personal experience with the positive benefits of immigration. Why wouldn’t voters be clamoring to get more immigrants?]


  • “How Not to Welcome Refugees: With its new immigration law, Denmark is once again sending a blunt message to migrants.” (Atlantic, January 2016): On Tuesday, the Danish parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill seemingly designed to solidify Denmark’s reputation as Western Europe’s least attractive country for refugees—a hard-earned title at a time when many of its neighbors are tightening border controls … recently, the government proposed moving refugees from urban housing to camps outside cities, an initiative that would “shift the focus of government immigration policy to repatriation rather than integration,”


14 thoughts on “Reasonable to force children to learn Danish?

  1. We are witnessing the first European apartheid state. Eventually they’ll drop the nonsense about Danish values and just start treating the ghettos like South Africa treated the Bantustans.

  2. @Tony, how is that so? After all, all public services including schools are in Danish. Furthermore, if you “immigrate” to a country, haven’t you done so with the expectation of living, dying and upholding the laws of that country?

    @Phil: “Is this reasonable? … gain citizenship they can relocate to another EU country where Danish language skills will be useless.”

    Per my comment to @Tony, yes, this is VERY reasonable. If you want to move / immigrate to a country and don’t want your child to learn the language and culture of the country, then don’t move / immigrate to that country.

    A side note. Why NYT and other publications hummer on EU and USA when such “harsh” laws are passed but yet they ignore the far more existing harsh laws that other countries have such as Saudi Arabia to name one?

  3. maybe because it’s a lie and immigrants don’t bring all the wonderful things liberals say.

  4. In practice, the rule only applies to children of people on welfare. The article burys this critical detail in the middle of the article:

    Starting at the age of 1, “ghetto children” must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in “Danish values,” including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language. Noncompliance could result in a stoppage of welfare payments. Other Danish citizens are free to choose whether to enroll children in preschool up to the age of six.

    If you take “free stuff” from a state, then the state can compel you to do things. Why is this shocking or surprising?

  5. Danish does not seem like a particularly useful language but once you know it learning Swedish, Norwegian, German and even English would not be all that hard. So maybe that is why they are forcing these poor people to learn Danish, in the hope that they will eventually move to Sweden or Germany. On the other hand everyone in Denmark speaks English anyway, most of them way better than your average American, so why don’t they just skip the intermediate step and force them to learn English?

  6. George: “If you want to move / immigrate to a country and don’t want your child to learn the language and culture of the country, then don’t move / immigrate to that country.”

    I think the theory is that these folks are asylees/refugees. So they have fled to Denmark. They are not voluntary migrants. If they were not targets of violence back in their home countries they would stay in their home countries. They cannot be voluntary economic migrants or their refugee applications would have been denied. So by definition these are people who are in Denmark involuntarily.

  7. @Phil #6: In that case, they could have chosen to flee and ask for asylum to a country more aligned to their own culture.

    I know I’m blunt about this, but I cannot stand it that a government must meet the needs of everyone. It’s just not possible especially when someone wants the protection and services of that government and is expecting it for free. It’s like saying a Church, a Synagogue, a Mosque, etc. must service the culture and believes of anyone who walks into their building.

  8. EU is done. Fork, stick. Why not prepare them for The Life Danish since that will be their only option?

  9. Overall, people are scared and – similarly to mitigating the impacts of globalisation for blue collar workers – politicians and policymakers are clueless on what to do. This leads to the current extremes from welcoming everyone to demonising everyone.

    1. Integration is an important aspect for living in society, so if you’re applying for the support of a state, including education, and with the intention that it is for longer than a few months, then I believe it is legitimate that the state requires you to learn the local language. Not only it is necessary for you to understand what’s going on, but it will be necessary for you to function in the future.

    The EU states are still sovereign states, therefore countries are not obligated to prepare the refugees they host to be integrated in Europe, but choose to help them by being integrated locally. The fact that they may leave in the future makes no difference, just like my Portuguese parents could not force the state to teach me French if they were planning to emigrate to France. They could have put me in private school, but that is not state financed. Why would a refugee have an extra right, when compared to a national? Plus, nordic countries are great in English, so you’ll certainly receive a good education that prepares you to be a future citizen of wider Europe.

    2. It’s not hard to believe that immigration has positive effects, especially in dramatically ageing countries like many in Europe. But, just like carrots are good for your diet, and exercise is good for your health, if run a marathon every day and eat nothing but carrots you will die young. Immigration by itself is not good or bad, it can be both. Furthermore, what something is and how something is perceived are very different things.

    3. In addition, you should better understand the EU movement rights. The free movement of people has rules, it’s not a “free for all” and it is not like moving across states in the US. First there’s the distinction between traveling for visiting/tourism purposes and moving for residency/work. If the country is a member of the Schengen area, a residency permit allows you to travel within the Schengen space, which is not the same as moving for work. [1]

    If you want to move to work, you have the right to do so, but there are limitations: if you have a job contract, then it’s almost like in the US, and it’s equivalent to moving to another city in your country (unless you loose they job). But you still have to register, after 3 months. If you loose your job and are not a permanent resident, you are subject to conditions special conditions.

    If you’re emigrating, i.e., you want to move, “settle”, and look for a new job, then there are limitations. Essentially you cannot settle until you find a job. You have 6 months to find one, you may have to register, you may have to prove you’re actively looking for work, your social security costs are covered by your home country and you don’t have a right to non-contributory welfare benefits. After the 6 months pass, if you do not have a job, local authorities can ask you to leave. If you loose your job and you were on the job for less than a year, the 6 month period starts again, and if you were working for more than a year, you have the right to stay providing you maintain the local status of jobseeker. [2]

    Permanent residency is easy to get, as it is automatically granted after a continuous period of legal stay as a worker. [3]

    So it’s only a “free for all” for a period of three months. Yes, the lack of borders does make it harder to strictly impose these limits, but countries may exercise their rights to make the process harder to dodge if they so wish (one of the reasons the Brexit argument on immigration was always weak). For instance, you may require local registration after 3 months. And you may condition access to housing, by requiring proof of salary to issue a rental contract, or proof of residency authorisation, which you only can have after getting a job. Also, while you can get basic bank accounts, you may not have access to many banking services without a local address and/or work contract. You can still move easily within the EU region, but if you want to have a “normal life”, i.e., rent property, have banking services, access welfare system if needed, etc, this only happens if you manage to find a job. Practically, this is assumed to be “self-regulated” or that the quantities of people that disrespect this are minimal, as there are no large organisations “scooping” illegals up and inviting them to leave the country.

    Therefore, for all intents and purposes, the Danish refugees are Danish residents, and, while it’s easier for them to move than any other non-resident foreigners, they’re still bound to Denmark if they do not follow the rules above.


  10. @philg: «So by definition these are people who are in Denmark involuntarily.»

    This is semantics, but they are only involuntarily exiled. Unless you prove no other country in the world accepted them as refugees, or that they were routed to Denmark by EU bureaucracy against their original choice, they are involuntary exiles voluntarily in Denmark.

  11. Absolutely! We have the same problems in Texas. Go to El Paso or McAllen and try to order food in a restaurant. If you don’t know at least minimal Spanish, you’re in trouble. If you speak English, you get a higher price on auto repairs. In a country, all customer interactions should be in the native language of that country. I’m talking regular customers not tourists. If I need to learn German or French, there’s Google translate and DuoLingo. Immigrant students should learn the native language of the country they live in.

  12. I do not agree with separating small children from their parents 25 hours a week. I think this could be done with a weekly class and some “homework” which might help the parents learn some Danish as well. I think the goal could be achieved with a 2 hour a week class and 4 hours a week of homework. If they really did it 6 hours a week, they would be literate in in 6 months or a year (at least the parents). I also think the government is taking on a big liability if something happens to a kid while in education classes. Children under 3 should not be separated from their parents.

  13. Interestingly, it says these children of immigrants are taught ‘Danish values’ rather than ‘Danish’. In America, by contrast, one might argue that white, evangelical home schoolers are simultaneously exemplars of old school ‘American values’ and probably most likely to resist government schooling in ‘values’.

    Are these Danish immigrants more representative of ‘Western values’ when they resist such governmental intrusions?

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