Trouble in a European social paradise? A striking headline on the front page of Monday’s New York Times that made “mandatory” pre-school for immigrants in Copenhagen sound the same as child kidnapping: “For Help From Danish State, a Demand: Give Us Your Children.” The print-edition text box (note the word “values” in danger quotes) reads: “Immigrants Must Take New ‘Values’ Classes.”
Reporters Ellen Barry and Martin Selsoe Sorensen leaned toward hostility toward the Danish government ("sinister...punitive") for demanding a quid pro quo from migrants using its generous welfare state:
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. Other Danish citizens are free to choose whether to enroll children in preschool up to the age of six.
Denmark’s government is introducing a new set of laws to regulate life in 25 low-income and heavily Muslim enclaves, saying that if families there do not willingly merge into the country’s mainstream, they should be compelled.
The reporters' attitude toward the rules was quite clear in their tone:
Politicians’ description of the ghettos has become increasingly sinister....
Some are punitive: One measure under consideration would allow courts to double the punishment for certain crimes if they are committed in one of the 25 neighborhoods classified as ghettos, based on residents’ income, employment status, education levels, number of criminal convictions and “non-Western background....
Strict curfews are evidently “too radical”:
Some proposals have been rejected as too radical, like one from the far-right Danish People’s Party that would confine “ghetto children” to their homes after 8 p.m....
The reporters really got hung up on the word “ghetto”:
Yildiz Akdogan, a Social Democrat whose parliamentary constituency includes Tingbjerg, which is classified as a ghetto, said Danes had become so desensitized to harsh rhetoric about immigrants that they no longer register the negative connotation of the word “ghetto” and its echoes of Nazi Germany’s separation of Jews.
The expectant mother ranted:
“Nobody should tell me whether or how my daughter should go to preschool. Or when,” she said. “I’d rather lose my benefits than submit to force.”
So it’s not strictly “mandatory,” is it?
This is how you get the New York Times to come out against mandatory pre-school: Apply it to immigrants in Denmark:
About 12 miles south of the city, in the middle-class suburb of Greve, though, voters gushed with approval over the new laws.
“They spend too much Danish money,” said Dorthe Pedersen, a hairdresser, daubing chestnut dye on a client’s hairline. “We pay their rent, their clothing, their food, and then they come in broken Danish and say, ‘We can’t work because we’ve got a pain.’”
The new hard-edge push to force Muslims to integrate struck both of them as positive. “The young people will see what it is to be Danish and they will not be like their parents,” Jesper said.
The Times’ typical fondness for the left-wing European socialist society is in conflict when it imposes restrictions on incoming minority groups as well as the general native population.
Not even the left-leaning commenters at nytimes.com bought into the story’s sinister tone toward pre-school. Here's one example:
Generally "ghetto" children have been among the 10% that does not attend; they are often cared for at home by grandmothers. That means they miss out on everything day care offers, from Danish language exposure to making friends of various cultures to learning simple social skills (like taking turns) and academic basics like letters and numbers.