Academic journal article German Quarterly

German studies and minority communities

Academic journal article German Quarterly

German studies and minority communities

Article excerpt

I would like to put forth my views on the future of German Studies in low-income and minority communities, and its expected impact on those communities.

Ask some randomly chosen AfricanAmerican students whether they study German, and you will almost certainly get a resounding "No!" in response. Ask them why not, and they will probably stare at you in bewildered astonishment. You might as well ask them why their families do not raise pink flamingoes in the back yard.

Over the past thirty years, in Chicago, I have been advocating for greater enrollment of minority and low-income students in higher education, and assisting them in that direction. My endeavors in this area have been made primarily through the federally-funded TRIO Programs, which of ford disadvantaged students pre-college educational opportunities and collegelevel academic support. In addition, five years ago I began developing new German language programs. Foreign language acquisition adds an invaluable life skill to a student's repertoire, which in the case of the disadvantaged student is already too meager. I chose the German language specifically as the primary language of study for my students because, of the modern languages, German can best prepare students to participate in a global economy. Acquisition of the German language enhances the preparation of students who wish to pursue business and scientific careers.

Initially, I faced a number of barriers to establishing these programs. First, many of the teachers, parents, and students could see no reason to learn any foreign language. Second, there were no longer any German language programs in those public schools that had predominantly low-income or minority populations. Finally, in most African-American communities, Germans were perceived as being all white, racists, and proponents of Nazism.

The situation has not changed noticeably in the intervening five years, and these barriers still represent the challenges facing German Studies in the United States today. If the education profession can overcome these obstacles, German Studies will increase dramatically in American schools as we move into this new millennium, particularly in the minority communities.

Based upon my experiences as an advocate for educational equality for low-income and minority students, I believe that this increase in German Studies has the potential to level the educational playing field. It would open many educational and economic opportunities to disadvantaged students. Expanding German Studies would in turn invigorate the social studies curriculum. Such global education is a must in the classroom and the community in this era. This concern is particularly critical for minority and low-income communities.

American companies continue to shift jobs overseas and/or merge with foreign companies. The merger of the Chrysler Corporation and Daimler-Benz of Germany is but one of many examples.

German Studies has the potential to make a broad cultural impact on the African-American community It is perhaps not widely known, but there are a significant number of Germans who are of African-American descent. While there is no accurate count of these individuals, it is estimated that there are over 200,000 AfroGermans, and, in addition, a significant number of Africans who are either citizens or permanent residents of Germany This invites a large body of serious study which would be of interest to African-Americans as well as to other groups. …

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