The Fritt Ord Tribute 2018
Simon Malkenes

The Fritt Ord Tribute is to be awarded to Simon Malkenes for his critical focus on the lack of freedom of expression culture in the Oslo school system.

“Through active participation in the public space in recent years, he stands out as one of the clearest, most incisive voices in debates about development trends in the Norwegian school system. On several occasions, Malkenes has drawn attention to the conditions for criticism and debate in the school system”, remarks Grete Brochmann, chair of the Fritt Ord Board.

This spring, by pointing out the adverse consequences of free school elections and funding schemes, Malkenes helped show how difficult it is to express opinions freely and be critical of problematic aspects of school policies and school administration.

Malkenes’ critical assessments of the system, and the many positive and negative reactions to them, have sparked wide-ranging discussions in recent months. In political circles and in the educational sector itself, discussions are currently raging about how both formal legislation and regulations and informal administrative and freedom cultures are impeding free, critical discussion in Norwegian schools. The newspaper Dagsavisen published an appeal on Friday, 11 May from 363 teachers in the Oslo school system, who wrote that teachers must be able to address negative aspects of the school system without fear of reprisals. Multiple descriptions of a ‘culture of fear’, where employees dare not express opinions for fear of damaging the reputation of the school system, are making it more difficult to dismiss this as something with which one ‘cannot identify’.

The Malkenes case also led Inga Marte Thorkildsen, Deputy Mayor for Education in Oslo, to organise a conference today, Monday, 14 May, on the freedom of expression culture in the Oslo school system, with all sides of the debate represented.

For the Fritt Ord Foundation, the freedom of expression culture in the public sector is a key issue. Without proper understanding and practice in this context, society will lose important and insightful voices. Simon Malkenes’ efforts represent a strong contribution to engendering discussion about this social challenge.

Simon Malkenes (44)

Simon Malkenes was born in Florø on 24 September 1973. He has a graduate degree in general literary science and has worked as a lecturer at Ulsrud Upper Secondary School in Oslo since 2005. Malkenes has published three debate books and one textbook: Apocalypse now again? (2008) on the language and rhetoric in the descriptions of the end of the world, Apocalypse Oslo (2012) on right-wing extremist rhetoric before and after the terrorist attack in Norway on 22 July 2011, Do something! Class leadership in practice (2012) and Behind the façade in the Oslo school system (2014).

The Fritt Ord Tribute

The Fritt Ord Tribute is accompanied by a cash award of NOK 100 000, and it awarded by the Fritt Ord Foundation’s Board to show appreciation for constructive actions to promote freedom of speech, often in conjunction with a current event. The Fritt Ord Foundation’s Board also awards the Freedom of Expression Foundation Prize.

The award ceremony for Simon Malkenes took place on Friday, 1 June, at 11.00 a.m. in the Fritt Ord Foundation’s premises at Uranienborgveien 2.