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Disputation: Ole Henrik Borchgrevink Hansen

Ole Henrik Borchgrevink Hansen will be defending the thesis Public education and diversity: promoting tolerance and autonomy in liberal democracies for the degree of Ph.D.

Trial lecture - time and place

April 27th 10:15am-11:00am in Gamle festal.Trial lecture topic: How to stem the waves of hate speech and narrow-mindedness? The role of education.

Adjudication committee

  • Professor Inga Bostad, University of Oslo (leader)
  • Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (1. opponent)
  • Associate Professor Julia Köhler-Olsen, Oslo and Akershus University College (2. opponent)

Chair of defence

Vice Dean Alf Petter Høgberg


  • Professor emeritus Tore Lindholm, University of Oslo
  • Professor Kristian Skagen Ekeli, University of Stavanger


This thesis ask how the liberal values of tolerance and autonomy should be promoted in public education in a way, which seeks to accommodate religious- and life-stance diversity. When tolerance and autonomy are operationalized into pedagogical goals, this proves challenging for several reasons. First, because tolerance and autonomy may come in conflict with each other. Second, because promoting tolerance and autonomy may collide with the parental interest to impart on their child the more particular religious or moral values of their own tradition.

The thesis argues that tolerance and autonomy should be promoted in a way, which aspires to balance pupil’s rights and interests, parent’s rights and interest, and the interests of the state in upholding democratic stability. This implies that both tolerance and autonomy require a number of qualifications or caveats in order to function as guidelines for public education.

Tolerance should for instance be restricted to the classical understanding of the concept, in the sense of accepting something you disagree with, instead of a more modern understanding, which sees tolerance as being open-minded and unprejudiced. The promotion of autonomy, although remaining a central concern for public education, should also be constrained, and pupils should for instance not be encouraged to reflect critically upon religious- or life-stance issues.

The thesis emphasizes that an important element in a successful promotion of tolerance and autonomy lies in the ability of the state and public education to adopt a position of liberal neutrality. This is important because neutrality expresses equal treatment and increases the level of trust from parents towards public education.


Published Apr. 3, 2018 3:23 PM - Last modified Aug. 9, 2019 1:17 PM