Højskolen og den folkelige almendannelse - en transformationshistorie i systemteoretisk perspektiv: The Danish Folk High School and Public General Education

Michael Kirkeby Salbo

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Summary – The Danish Folk High School and Public General Education The concern of this thesis was the 150-year long institutional history of the Danish Folk High School. Its history evokes attention because its prominent position in Danish educational and Enlightenment history stands at a crisis. The history of the Danish Folk High School as a pronounced cultural, political, and social or public education institution is commonly described as; either a long successful and continued history of ideas from N.F.S. Grundtvig until today; or as one long history of ideas in decay. These narratives of either continuity or decay are easily constructed based on moral convictions about the development since Grundtvig. There have always been ’mythologists fighting to raise the original Christian and national Folk High School. On the other hand, the ’humanists’, supporters of the continued history, point out that there is a core of ideas and values from the first folk high school in Rødding 1844 that can be identified in the many different schools of today. The two perspectives agree on one thing, namely that the question about the success or crisis of the Folk High School – and its future – concerns the delicate balance between tradition and renewal. The aim of the thesis was to examine, how the folk high schools have tried to establish common ideas about the function of the School, i.e. its values and future, and why this function does not seem to be acknowledged in the contemporary Modern society. Contemporary discussions about the future seem to have reached a point where the possibility to build bridgeheads between fundamental historical positions and disagreements can seem impossible. The question is how open or closed the School should be towards the general societal change and new concepts of public general education. This disagreement, concerning the identity of the school, threatens the Danish Folk High School as a movement and as a central institution in the Danish society. Further more, the disagreements contribute to the general societal confusion about what the historical School’s contemporary function is and should be in the future. The simple theoretical response is, that confusion about functions is a major problem for institutions in a Modern functionally differentiated society which is based on demands for distinct differentiated functions, efficiency and perceptible communication – especially so, if the institution has lost an historical position as a protected discourse in societal and political life, as seems to be the case for the Folk High School. The reader should not expect a remarkable new tale about the Folk High School or its charismatic founding fathers. However, two alternative and parallel narratives are put forward as potential ways of analysing the crisis. They both draw on the insights of social constructivism and the system theory developed by Niklas Luhmann. The first story concerns the establishing, stabilization, and development of the Folk High School as a communication system and how its differentiation and communication forms have transformed through history. It is demonstrated how the Folk High School as a communication system has transformed through history and how these transformations have contributed to the adjustment of the frames of the Folk High School to the changes of contemporary societies. The second story has focus on the increasing semantic differentiation between the single autonomous folk high school and the Folk High school as a movement and. It demonstrated that the historic success of the folk high school in close related to this differentiation and segmentation between the schools. One the other hand it is demonstrated that the same differentiation and segmentation is a problem today in the light of increasing politisation and commercialization. The conclusion of the thesis is that the successes as well as the crises through the history of the Folk High school are closely related to the development op the functional differentiated society. The analysis has demonstrated that the Folk High School for a century has managed to reproduce a discourse about public enlightenment and general education to the benefit of the society by establishing a semantic – i.e. an emergent system of notions and ideas – that differentiated the school from other educational and general public institutions. This semantic set the borders of the function and communication of the Folk High School and was relatively closed. On one hand it was relatively flexible to interpretation and societal change because the folk high schools fought the idea of simple and specific definitions of the concept of public general education and enlightenment. One the other hand it was a barrier to the development of notions and concepts adjusted to general societal demands for distinct differentiated functions, efficiency and perceptible communication. The problem for the Folk High school in a Modern and almost fully developed functional differentiated society is that this discourse and semantic was reproduced through traditional notions and ideas belonging to former society, differentiation and communication forms. The future of the Danish Folk High School is thus closely related to the development of an unambiguous semantic about the modern function of public general education. The attempt to re-establish a general semantic about the Folk High School and its function as public general education by establishing an intermediary organization is related to the functional differentiated society. The paradox is that that this necessary transformation and organizationprocess has taken over 150 years – now the new organization, the Folk High Schools association I Denmark (FFD) potentially opens for quick decisions and thus fast transformations. Deciding the right transformations is the biggest challenge to the Danish Folk High School in the future.

UddannelserForvaltning, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) KandidatFilosofi, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato1 jun. 2005


  • funktion
  • livsoplysning
  • sociale systemer
  • systemteori
  • Grundtvig
  • Institutionel historie
  • uddannelsesystem
  • semantik
  • oplysning
  • folkehøjskolen
  • dannelse
  • system
  • Højskolen
  • Det funktionelt differentierede samfund
  • transformattionshistorie
  • analysestrategi
  • almendannelse
  • det senmoderne
  • Luhmann
  • dansk oplysningshistorie
  • socialkonstruktivisme
  • kommunikation
  • det folkelige
  • funktionelle systemer