Education for Democracy in West Germany: Achievements, Shortcomings, Prospects

Education for Democracy in West Germany: Achievements, Shortcomings, Prospects

Education for Democracy in West Germany: Achievements, Shortcomings, Prospects

Education for Democracy in West Germany: Achievements, Shortcomings, Prospects

Excerpt

"Have the Germans really changed?" Is it possible that yesterday's Third Reich has become today's Wunderkind of the Western World, as some appearances seem to indicate? And if it is true that this change has taken place -- will it last? Or, must we expect another reversal?

Questions of this kind are frequently -- and understandably -- raised in this country. In fact, a huge question mark seems to have succeeded the Swastika as the symbol of Germany. The free world is ready to rejoice at the transformation of its new ally, but it cannot quite suppress the deep and dread memories of only yesterday. What is more, it cannot quite suppress the misgivings that come with these memories, and this uneasiness is shared also by a great many Germans themselves.

In this extraordinary volume, German authors present a collective progress report on the political education of their people. The editor has painstakingly assembled what German experts -- with a small number of competent foreign observers admixed -- have to say about the challenges, shortcomings, methods, and achievements in their special fields of educational endeavor. Their observations range from grade schools to television audiences, and from the academy to the army barracks. Their composite report with all its little-known facts of great general interest supplies essential material for an answer to the question-marked German problem of today -- and of tomorrow.

Originally, most of the papers and articles in this volume were written for German readers, a fact which might well increase their value to American readers eager to know what Germans "really" think and say. Even the translation -- often leaning toward the literal rather than the idiomatic, and sometimes more faithful to the German original than to American usage -- retains the special flavor of the subject, that is, of Germans struggling hard to educate their fellow-citizens in that civic spirit which hails from the Anglo-Saxon world. The editor has wisely and fairly included contributions of varying view-points culled from official and other memoranda as well as from the daily press, learned journals and private reports, in order to present a composite picture closely reflecting the many-sided reality. After publication of this volume, one must hope that it will be less easy -- and less easily forgiven -- when some American students hold forth on "lasting German characteristics" and harp on outdated stereotypes while they ignore the important, stimulating latest developments.

The majority of writers in this volume seem to agree with H. G. Wells who remarked (as a pessimist or an optimist?) that history is a race between education and catastrophe. Since they have witnessed the Nazi tyranny, and are still witnessing . . .

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