Kendskabet til dansk sprog, litteratur og samfundsforhold i udlandet er en vigtig værdikamp, som Danmark er ved at tabe.
It is vital for a small country like Denmark to create awareness of its culture and values – so why would the Danish government shut down a program that does exactly that?
Spreading knowledge of Danish language, literature and society to other countries is an important fight when it comes to the battlefield of values – a fight Denmark is losing.
“Why do you want to study Danish?” I asked the young female student.
“Denmark is known for their equality, and I would like to work with women and children in South America,” was the somewhat surprising answer.
In the six years, I taught as a Visiting Danish Lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle, I time and again was met with an interest in Danish values, culture and society.
In the Government’s new 2022 Finance Bill, it is stated on page 127 that they want to phase out the Visiting Lecturer Program.
The program is responsible for spreading knowledge of the Danish language, literature and social conditions abroad. 26 Visiting Lecturers work all over the world, from the USA to Hungary, to Russia, Germany, France and China at various prestigious universities in Berkeley, Skt. Petersburg Vienna, Paris and Beijing , where they represent Denmark and spread the knowledge of our small, beautiful country’s language and culture.
It has taken decades to build the relationships and cooperation that Denmark has with foreign universities. In fact, the partnership that started of in 1937 has survived a world war, an oil crisis, the poverty of the eighties, and the differences of changing governments.
The reason is probably quite clear. Denmark needs the world to know us. And the pennies it cost to run the program, just under 9 million Danish crowners a year, we build ourselves a name and reputation in the world that no communications agency could ever create with these important university partners. Other Nordic countries have the same program as well as does the Baltic countries. It is infinitely vitally important for small countries to spread the knowledge of their identity to survive.
Seattle is located 7782 km from Denmark, further than the distance between Copenhagen and Kabul. If there is one thing that should be abundantly clear during these disturbing times, it is that the values we are up against are under pressure and should be fought for.
The Danish government apparently does not think so.
If you turn your gaze from little Denmark and ask people around the world if they know Denmark, you often get an answer about HC Andersen and the little mermaid. If you are lucky, a few are able to say something about Lego or wind turbines. But Denmark is so much more – and the Visiting Lecturers do everything they can in their daily work to make sure that the world knows.
The Visiting Lecturers represent Denmark when they are out serving at various universities in the world. They do not only teach Danish language and literature classes but also social conditions, gender equality and the Danish welfare system. The Visiting Lecturers are the link between Denmark and the country to which they are sent.
If the government terminates the program for what must be considered pennies in the Danish federal annual budget, not much make sense in terms of how important our politicians say the importance of spreading Western values are.
The issue is about so much more than the cost of the Visiting Lectureship and the financial budget and bottom line – it’s about exporting our Danish values.