Education and Society in Germany

Education and Society in Germany

Education and Society in Germany

Education and Society in Germany


The German education system has long been admired and, at times, envied by the rest of Europe, but the history of German educational development is a turbulent one. Concentrating on the post-war German scene, this timely book examines the interrelationship of educational and social developments in Germany from 1810 to the present day.Providing new insights into German history and challenging traditionally-held opinions about Germany, education and society, the author questions, for example, whether Germany's rapid industrial growth and economic success in the late nineteenth century were based upon its academic development, or the country's much less acclaimed training in crafts and vocational subjects. The rise of a new academic elite and its possible contribution both to the collapse of Germany's first democratic government and to the emergence of National Socialism are examined, as are the stagnation of the educational system in West Germany, which led to the student unrest of 1968, and the modern system introduced in East Germany under Soviet influence, which failed to be implemented in an open and democratic fashion.In considering the opportunities offered by re-unification and the effects of emerging reform movements, the author argues that Germany now seems to have reached a new impasse with overcrowded, under-resourced universities, a socially divisive school system and uncertainty as to how to meet the challenges of the next century.The interdisciplinary nature of this volume will make it essential reading for all those interested in German history and politics, comparative education and sociology and a core text for students.


A discussion of education in relation to social change may inevitably evoke reminiscences of the 1960s and the height of German modernism and give rise to accusations of anachronism and an outdated methodology of Education Studies. However, both pedagogics and modernism are deeply indebted to the Enlightenment, an age which discovered the childhood psyche, the process of growing up, of self-reflection and self-awareness.

The experience of the Enlightenment and the tradition of education in Germany are different from those of its Western neighbours: the German concept of Bildung concentrated on character perfection within an artistic and secularized Christian environment, but at the expense of social, economic and political considerations. The German Bildungsroman (novel of education) is unique in European literature, portraying adolescence and the organic, psychic, artistic and intellectual maturation of the artist hero, with little reference to the social and economic themes contained in the roman social or its British equivalent. As a result of this elevated and aesthetic approach to education, German scholarship tended to be lacking in positivist and empirical research. Despite its often abstract and theoretical nature, however, its more metaphysical and epistemological outlook has made an invaluable contribution to the furthering of empirical knowledge.

An entertaining introduction to the tradition of German education--as seen through British eyes--is Thomas Carlyle Sartor Resartus (1834). This biography of Professor Diogenes Teufelsdröckh from Weissnichtwo describes an apparently aimless, badly organized and rather inert education system, a Gymnasium where 'hide bound Pedants, without knowledge of man's nature' cram their pupils with 'innumerable dead Vocables' (R. 99). At university, young Teufelsdröckh encounters 'controversial Metaphysics, Etymology, and mechanical Manipulation falsely named Science' (R. 99). And yet, such an atmosphere, free of the serious constraints of more disciplined studies, allows him to read and expand his mind at leisure, so that he matures into a supreme product of that 'learned, indefatigable and deep thinking Germany [. . . ] where abstract Thought can still take shelter' (R. 3). Teufelsdröckh's life-work becomes the 'Philosophy of Clothes', 'a masterpiece of boldness, lynx-eyed acuteness, and rugged independent Germanism and Philanthropy' (R. 5f). In spite of Carlyle's benignly satirical description, one has the feeling that Teufelsdröckh's research would pass today for a major sociological study, introducing scholars to empirical fieldwork.

Mark Twain, a satirical American commentator, often prepared to cast a critical eye on matters German, is moved to describe German university life, however, in terms of benevolent admiration, praising an academic freedom which produces . . .

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