Erling Kristensen



When I met Erling as the headmaster of the new Rosborg Gymnasium on Monday the 13th of August 1973, I almost got a culture shock. And I don't think that I was the only one feeling that way. Many of us came from old public schools, that were very old-fashioned and stiff. My own school, Nyboesgades Skole, has later been written into history by the Author of the "City West", Ulrik Gräs as a school where specially picked teachers took care of the young people with intellectual powers. The rest was up to Satan and the local industry to share. Gräs is somewhat older than me, so that tendency may have been relieved a bit, before I began in school, furthermore I was one of the youngsters, of whom the specially picked teachers took care. And you couldn't complain about their professionalism, we seemed very well electroplated for meeting the gymnasium. I cannot say either, that they didn't take us seriously. But democracy, participation, influence, transparency were completely unknown to most of them. One day, when I was in the 5th grade, I sat looking in the local phone book, and all of a sudden I noticed, that one of my teachers actually owned a telephone. I became aware of the fact, that these teachers also were private persons with a life of their own, family, and a place to live in. Of course - in a way - I guess I knew that already, but my school was a remote and rather unpersonal kind of world, which lived in its own right. And now all of us were sitting in a big room at Hældagerskolen being high-school students of the not yet builded Rosborg Gymnasium, listening to a headmaster, who not only spoke about the possibility, that we could have influence on our own life at the school, but who also expected the pupils to put on themselves an engagement in creating a life and traditions of this new school.

Least of all these were not empty words. There was always a possibility of getting influence and being heard. In November 73 for instance a meeting with the architect of our future gymnasium was being held. Here all the pupils were invited to take part in the discussion on an early stage in the proces, where alterations could still be made. Erling also deliberately made the gap between teacher and pupil, and between headmaster and pupil very, very small. We really were close to one another in our temporary school in Bredballe, but Erling frequently left his door to his office open during the breaks, and he normally participated in the parties at the school. Not for a single moment one doubted, that the headmaster of the school and the teachers of the school were real human beings of flesh and blood.

Ove Ancker, Erling's brother og Erling himselv in front of his domicile at the school of Sorø Academy.

Erling and his teachers by this pioneering work established that special Rosborg-culture, which is still present at the school today. Of course adapted to a big school with approximately 800 pupils. The basis, which Erling made, was as a matter of fact quite simple. If you expect a bunch of young high-school students to civilize themselves and to commit themselves, then they'll do exactly that. If confidence and obligingness are the starting points of being together, then it will work both ways, because young people, who are treated seriously, don't want to spoil it all, and - on the contrary - helps to maintain the positive atmosphere in stead. I have thought that over again and again since 1973 - and it seems to be that way.

Lena and Erling at the first fancy-dress ball of Rosborg, February 1974.

Erling is a Copenhagener with a lot of that characteristic sort of moderately brutal charm, that is so common to Copenhageners and by which they are easily recognized, and which makes you feel comfortable in their company. Originally he had a commercial education and had worked for different shipping companies. During this chapter of his life, he from time to time had met the rather strange prince Knud (brother of the late king Frederik IX), of whom Erling quite often told stories, and Knud and his wife also played their own small roles and lived their lives inside our education in mathematics (Erling taught us that subject). After some years, however, Erling changed his life, he graduated from an upper secondary level evening school, and graduated again as a Master of Science a few years later. Then he got for a short time a job as a teacher of the same evening school, from which he graduated a few years earlier, but in 1971 he came to Vallensbæk Statsskole near Copenhagen as a vice-headmaster, and two years later he, being only 35 years old, became the headmaster of Rosborg Gymnasium. He may be described as a socialdemocrat with the emphasis lying on the last part of that name. Erling posseses a lot of social engagement, especially when it comes to discussion about equal rights to education, but he is not a man of the fluttering red flags. His open-mindedness and his undogmatic way of leading his own life is the reason why he so easily can communicate with people of very different points of view. Erling is also a very aestethical kind of person - a person with a sense of the common education that lies whithin education in music and musicology, and he was definitely one of the reasons, that music became a factor of creating identity to many pupils during these first years of Rosborg's existence. Erling himself was a "jazz-man" - already during the fifties he had been a member of different jazz clubs of Copenhagen, being at the same time active musically on soprano saxophone. That is - he never played it publicly. But he was the one who first-time performed "Rosborg Blues" as a singer, when it had been written to the first spring-concert of the school in may 1974. On other occaisions the roguish Copenhagener inside himself allowed him to sing the old Copenhagen-song, which the folk-singer Cæsar also had taken care of: "Flade Jensen" / "Flat Jensen"

Erling enthusiastically sings "Flat Jensen" back in the Rosborg-years. During a visit to Vienna in October 2003 where I took up this old song, our Austrian hosts told us, that this melody was known to them as and old student song "Gold und Silber lieb' ich sehr".

After my happy high-school years, I have found deep joy in the memories of a colourful headmaster, who dared be himself and who dared be a headmaster. Of course Rosborg couldn't keep Erling. After being the headmaster of that school for 8 years, he became the headmaster of Sorø Academy. A school wiht a lot of very old and firm traditions somewhat a contrast to Roshorg, which in 1981, hadn't finished the work of building up its owntraditions. But in Sotø he also began a democratizing process - not always an easy job and certainly not without striking a blow. A class-mate of Maria's, Ove Ancker, got a job at Sorø Academy in 1986 teaching Danish and Religion. We payed a visit to him from time to time and tried to keep up with the changes, that Erling made, and we still do. During the mid-eighties the lines were drawn between the supporters and the opponents of the weeding of the old traditions that took place. We also see him at Maria's former headmaster of Hældagerskolen, Aksel Mark and his wife Kirsten. They have kept in contact with Erling and Erling's wife Lena since the pioneering years at Hældagerskolen in the mid-seventies. Present and past also melted together, when we participated in the celebration of Erling's 60th birthday and his 25 years as a headmaster in 1998, in which both Sorø Academy and Rosborg was heavily represented. Rarely we make a trip to Copenhagen without paying a visit to the old bishop Absalon in the abbey church of Sorø, to see if he is well. If we are slightly forward, one might say, that it is a kind of a family-visit, the Hvide family being related to the Hundevad family, from which I descend, way back in history. I guess almost any Dane may be able to find a link to the old warrior and bishop. Being in Sorø, we clearly notice, that the reforms are not only taking place in the inner life of the school. During Erling's period as a headmaster, a lot of new buildings have been erected within the boundary of the academy. Among other things a new wing containing various practical rooms, a new big sports centre, extensive renovations of old buildings and now - in recent years - Absalon's grandfather has got his own house through the newly built "Skjalm Hvide's House" containing rooms for the boarders and a canteen.

Erling outside the academy together with one of his old teachers from Rosborg, Erik Stengård, for some years the chairman of the upper secondary school teachers' association and today the headmaster of Haslev Gymnasium.

Read about Erling taking leave of Sorø Academy, October 2003

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Opdateret d. 27.1.2005