Central concepts in the Højskole movement

Central concepts in the Folk High School movement are open mindedness and tolerance. The ‘Grundtvigian’ Folk High Schools appeals to those from all political perspectives– liberal, socialist and conservative. As long as we, the Danes (could also be any other nationality), can share and have in common our history, culture and democracy, having different political views will never become a negative issue. We can and must respect one another.

Since its establishment in 1849 the Danish democracy has had many different parties sharing power (currently eight, excluding the four Faroese and Greenlandic parties). This forces the parties to cooperate and figure out comprises to ensure continuity. No one party can get all their ideas implemented.  

When Danes hear that governments from South and Central Europe have not done as they promised for their people, they would wonder why they do not listen to their voters. After all, that is the very core of democracy. 

In the last election, attendance was above 90%.

The Grundtvigian idea is ‘folkeligt’ (literally: as the people), which is to say, national. The national feeling and thoughts in Denmark are that God has created us with different nationalities and mother tongues. Therefore, Denmark has no right to rule or annex any other nationality against their will. Therefore, it is today considered wrong that Denmark imposed Danish culture upon the Faroese, Greenlandic and Icelandic people. They should have their own culture in order to gain self-esteem, which in return gives the world a flourishing culture. The Grundtvigian movement was also in favour of making the Norwegians return to their own cultural roots after being politically, economically, militarily and culturally dominated by Denmark for almost half a millennium.

If we are rooted in our own Danish culture, we must also accept that other people are deeply attached to theirs. Therefore, Grundtvigians do not consider Danish culture any better than, for instance, German culture. German culture is good for Germans, Danish culture is good for Danes. It is not until we accept our neighbouring nation’s cultural quirks and traditions that we can begin to think internationally.

Grundtvig was not in favour of all the ideas of Christian Protestantism and Martin Luther. One might even ask whether the Danish Grundtvigian Church can be considered Protestant. 

Christianity was, according to Grundtvig, based on the congregation and not the written word (the Bible). The Christian congregation was established before the first Gospels were written. In this way Grundtvig was in many ways closer to the Catholic and Greek-Orthodox Churches. He rediscovered Christian metaphysic, in which the Communion and Baptism were crucial sacraments.

When Grundtvig says “Human being first, a Christian afterwards” he mean we are to have our own culture, history and personal development in order before we can approach the Gospels. If we base our belief on the Gospels, then we become one dimensional and potentially fundamentalist. In the Danish case this means that Danish history and mythology should always be read before the Gospels.

The Grundtvigian ‘folkelighed’ that emerged from the ‘folkelige’ (like the people/people-like) godly movements in the first half of the 19th century created a tightly connected Danish people. A people with strong roots. It was therefore no wonder that no more than 2 percent of the Danish people voted for parties such as the Communists or Fascists throughout the 1930s. That is the absolutely lowest percentage of votes for extremist parties in any country in Europe, despite the fact that Denmark had the highest unemployment rates in Western Europe during the 1930s.