Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Today I read an article in the Badische Zeitung titled: Der Blick nach Deutschland (Looking unto Germany) referring to a blog by Richard C. Longworth called Another Way To Work. The blog published in The Midwestener discusses a book entitled Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? by Thomas Geoghegan.

In his blog Richard gives lots of flowers to Germany and in particular to its economy. For me, however, the article smacks of the stinking dictum: Am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen. (The German spirit shall heal the world). I rather prefer the German proverb stating: Not all is gold what glitters.

Let us compare job security. Traditionally jobs are more secure in Germany than in the States but it does not mean that one cannot lay off people when they are no longer needed. Since unemployment (comes right after inflation) is such a political issue in Germany firms during the recent economic crisis asked their staff to work fewer hours (Kurzarbeit) instead of laying off part of their work force. This practice was honored by the German government paying most of the difference between the full pay and the loss of income due to Kurzarbeit. This measure - meant to avoid social tensions and psychological traumata of the workers being unemployed - had an additional benefit. When China re-started ordering massively high-technology products in Germany production could be increased without delay with the trained workforce still present. All seems to look good, however, since Germans are notorious Bedenkenträger (worrywards) they ask: But what will happen in the long run if the diligent Chinese have copied Germany's high technology?

Comes in education. We can only keep our export driven economy alive if we always remain a step ahead of our competitors. This means keeping up or even increasing the standard of our intellectual and skilled work force. When comparing our education system to the States we feel quite humble. Most of the Nobel prize winners come from the US and I am convinced that all these people practice life-long learning (LLL).

Good old Wilhelm Busch wrote in 1856 when schooling in Germany became compulsory:
It was decided that man/woman must learn (German stamp)
LLL, lebenslanges Lernen, recently became the catch word in the discussions about Germany’s education system. Education here as in the States is not centrally organized as in France. We in Germany boast of as many and even more education systems as we have Länder (States). In European comparisons (PISA Studies) of schooling results German students never even come near to the top, a fact that regularly causes a national outcry. At present the university reforms within the European Union, e. g., changing the traditional degrees of diploma to bachelor and master, cause frustration among students. Will Germany meet the challenge of keeping its educational system at a necessary high standard? Will people accept LLL? Only the future will tell. Discussions about education and formation in Germany are in full swing.

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