Woonschool: Dutch cities try once more to school anti- and weak social families to live like decent citizens
The Dutch embraced in the 1920s the idea that they could improve society by forcing antisocial families in so-called housing schools. Slums were cleared under the pre-text of urban renewal, and vulnerable families were put under supervision in special projects that became known as “Woonschool”. This government interference into the lives of citizens resulted after WWII into the deportation of two thousand people from the larger Dutch cities to remote provinces to be trained in becoming decent citizens, starting with the forced removal of victims of the German bombardment of Rotterdam. Shifting opinions on what deviant social behaviour is and what the role of the government should be in society gradually eroded the support for housing school practices in the late 1950s, early 1960s.
The fact that the approach hasn’t been successful did help. However, a new generation of populist politicians was able to breathe new life into this old concept: smaller in scale than previously and now marketed under the Danish name “Skaeve Huse”. Once more, cities test the boundaries how far the government can go with intervening in the lives of individuals for the benefit for society.
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