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Professor of religious studies: Stop controlling our children’s thoughts


“Every one of us has a unique way of searching for knowledge, so we shouldn’t view ourselves as part of a knowledge collective,” says Jari Ristiniemi, professor of religious studies at University of Gävle.

Jari Ristiniemi. Foto: Britt Mattsson

Jari Ristiniemi. Foto: Britt Mattsson

For the last 200 years, we have tended to view education as the process of being guided in a certain direction, according to Jari Ristinemi, so this view is part of our cultural baggage. Even though our perception of children has changed, as we now view children as more active agents in their search for knowledge, the old notion still prevails in curricula today.

- For example, when preschool children have to use mathematics to solve life problems. Mathematics is of course important, but it should be used as a life problem solver already in preschool, says Jari Ristiniemi.

Science as ideology

As our culture builds on objectivity and rationality to a large extent, we think that our conception of the world is based on our ideas of the world. It follows that we believe that we learn something about the world when we learn about how everything works.

“Science as an ideology provides clear-cut truths, but there is an element of uncertainty in this way of searching for knowledge that at times goes unacknowledged. There is always an element of uncertainty in life that we must deal with and accept, much more so than we do today.”

A time of double truths

to elevate themselves and their position. As a counterforce, he wants to see more of a dialogue between the teacher and the children, where the acquisition of knowledge takes place in interaction with the teacher.

That instead of seeing the teacher as the one who conveys knowledge and the children as lonely islands in their search for knowledge, we should understand that we become carriers of knowledge, ideas and values, in interaction with each other.

“This includes the right that children can have their own thoughts and ideas and then also that the teacher has the right, in the light of their professional role and knowledge, including curriculum, to express their thoughts and ideas when it is time for it.”

To Jari Ristinemi, it is fundamental that everyone has a unique way of searching for knowledge. Therefore, we cannot all be perceived as belonging to a knowledge collective. Accordingly, children’s process of acquiring knowledge is not a collective process.

“It is the best resistance to a totalitarian world where learning is governed by an idea and where there is no place for the individual's own thinking or individuality at all.”

We become who we are in interaction with others

The whole person must be considered in school and in all teaching activities. For this reason, Jari Ristinemi regards the aesthetic subjects as crucial since they deal with the questions of who, how and where humans are in relation to people.

“The adult world needs to realise that we become the individuals that we have the potential of becoming in interaction with other people. Importantly, all individuals have the right to their own thoughts and ideas in this interactive process,” Jari Ristiniemi says.

“In human potential, in her humanity there is enormous power, only we see it,” says Jari Ristiniemi.

Text: Douglas Öhrbom

Research presentation Jari Ristiniemi


Jari Ristiniemi, professor of religious studies at University of Gävle
Phone: 073-401 10 58
E-mail: jari.ristiniemi@hig.se

Published by: Douglas Öhrbom Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2022-04-13
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)