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History Lessons About Germany

 
 
Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2002 02:21 am
Today's Guardian gives some statements of the German ambassador in the UK, who says that focus on Nazi era and repetition of stereotypes are to be blamed for an attack on schoolboys et. al. :

History teaching in UK stokes xenophobia, says German envoy

The comment in The Guardian says:

It is a British habit to keep on mentioning the war, but there is very little to feel self-righteous about

My very personal impressions are that the general British public is today better informed than 30 years ago and that the mentioned stereotypes became less. :wink:
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Steve 41oo
 
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Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2002 11:19 am
It may be me getting old, but I think Britain has become a less tolerant place. We have the worst tabloid press in the world, which constantly feeds an increasingly under-educated "working class" (sorry to sound a snob but I really don't know what alternative term to use) with a daily diet of poisonous vitriol in an effort to outsell rival papers. They get away with this sort of thing because the victim/villain is French or German, whereas it would be illegal to attack Jews or Muslims in the same way. Nearly 2 decades of introspective xenophobic Thatcherism did not help either. I can only apologise for the behaviour of some of my so called countrymen. But let me end on a more optimistic note. We are beginning to learn; in our schools about the meaning of citizenship; and in government about our relations in Europe.
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2002 03:02 pm
Steve, As you have opined, I think "hope" is not lost in the UK, because the educational system is finally doing something about teaching the young about "citizenship." I have visited the UK often, and have never been treated with disrespect. I have even struck up conversations with complete strangers in bars, and all seemed very friendly. BTW, I always thought Thatcher was a good PM for the UK. c.i.
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Mon 9 Dec, 2002 03:16 pm
Actually no-one mocked at me, too, c.i., even in times, when my English was worse than today. :wink:

And people in pubs became really close friends .... after I paid their drinks Very Happy .

No, honestly, I've never been insulted or so because I'm German.
[Only because we have a better football team.]
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Steve 41oo
 
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Reply Tue 10 Dec, 2002 06:17 am
Walter, CI

Glad to hear it. I suppose that would be the experience of most people who visit a country with an open mind and a friendly smile.

(Or open wallet!)

I guess my gripe is with those ignorant nihilistic people who are incapable of expressing their grievances except by attacking something they find to be not like themselves. But those people are to be found anywhere so I suppose I should not single out Britain.

CI Margaret Thatcher is over in the States at the moment, getting an honorary degree I believe. You are very welcome to keep her if you want!

(Actually as a member of the Labour party I should not say that, she has done her own party irrepairable harm and benefitted Labour greatly in recent years...Cheers Maggie, hope you enjoy the bash)
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 06:01 pm
The German Ambassador should take note of the recent BBC "Greatest British Person " poll which gave Winston Churchill that title predominantly for his role as War Leader. It is understandable that Germany should wish to put the past behind it , but many British realize that they or their friends would not be alive today had Hitler invaded. The aftermath of the war is even extant in Germany as reflected by its reluctance to commit its forces to "policing actions".

The "reality" of the present is defined by the past. "Education" is part of that reality, warts and all.
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 02:05 am
Perhaps he had, fresco, I don't know.

But the question wasn't neither about the greatest British nor if Hitler invaded Britain.

It was about history lessons.
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Steve 41oo
 
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Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 10:20 am
Fresco, it doesn't follow that many Brits would not be alive today if the Germans had invaded any more than it makes sense to say many Brits would not be alive if they had not invaded.

Walter, although I understand the German ambassador's point and have a lot of sympathy with it, I don't think you can blame the poor knowledge about Germany today on History teachers.

Children are understandably taught British history, and for many pupils history 'ends' with the conclusion of the Versailles Treaty after WW1.

The study of National Socialism in Germany is of course an important subject, but I suggest that only students taking more advanced courses or at University study it in depth.

Most people are left to read about Germany if they are interested once they leave school, and of course as I mentioned they are bombarded with pathetic tabloid headlines (some of which are not meant to be taken very seriously....a lot of these papers are no more than comics anyway...but I can also understand why they might cause offense).

Perhaps some of the bad attitude of some people towards Germany is from jealousy, Germany is a richer country than Britain (so we all believe) and we think of Germans as hard working, clever engineers always beating and cheating us at our own game (football) but with no sense of humour. Of course these stereotypes are worthless, but there is no denying that's how some people think. I don't believe you can attribute this to poor history teaching, although I do agree with the Ambassador that many Brits' knowledge of modern day Germany is pitiful. It must also be very frustrating when someone who knows next to nothing about Germany nevertheless latches on to all the bad things about WW2 and the nazi period.

Unfortunately no one can deny the importance of WW2 and of course its still within the living memory of millions of people. It was also a battle of ideas not just territory, and those ideas are still around in some quarters. So I think its unreasonable to expect people to just forget about it.

In Britain we should certainly be more knowledgeable about modern day Germany, but the fact that we are not cannot be blamed on poor history teaching. (so says Mrs Steve (as 41oo) Head of History!)
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 12:47 pm
Might be that British history is more important - we had (and pupils nowadays have) to learn it until now.
Might well be that you learn a lot more of modern history by learning its language (English lessons at school cover a lot of "history" as well).

And certainly you get some deeper knowledge of history at university: I'd never known about e.g. the "Essex pauper letters (from the time of the Old Poor Law before 1834)", if an history professor at my university hadn't taught about that.

Surely, I never wanted to blame any English (British) History teacher - nor Mrs. Steve (as 4100) or some other.
Sorry, if my responses seemed to sound like that!
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fresco
 
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Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 03:07 pm
Steve

No British Jew, Gypsy, homosexual or non Caucasian would
take your "equivocal logic" seriously. If history has any "function" at all it is surely to warn us all of the fragility of so-called "civilization". As far as I know, responsible teachers have this as a prime directive.
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Steve 41oo
 
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Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 04:20 pm
Fresco

All I really meant is that hypothetical ideas are interesting but don't carry much weight. Who is to say that if the British peace party had suceeded (and by that I mean the appeasers and those elements of the ruling elite who were desperate to make peace with Germany) the population would not have increased significantly by the happy union of German and English youth?

Walter

No I don't think you are in trouble with Teacher! And neither does Mrs Teacher. [now doing quick research on Essex Pauper Letters!]
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Setanta
 
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Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 07:38 pm
My middle- and high-school history teacher (same woman) was a total nut case. She would spend the entire hour at times extolling the greatness of the German people (mostly German by descent, her people had been in North America for more than a century when she was born--she dug deeply into the ethnic origins of everyone in the classroom, after having vaunted her "pure" racial origins). What we were taught about Germans and Germany in her classroom was the Germans had made the Roman empire strong once again, at a time when it had become vitiated by luxury (weirdest twist on Gibbons "Decline and Fall" horseshite i've ever run across); that the HRE held Europe together as it threatened to implode during the "dark ages"; that Prussia had quelled the threat posed to an otherwise peaceful and enlightened Europe by the French in 1870; that Germany had suffered unduly in the first world war because of her noble stand on her commitment to her allies; that Hitler was among the greatest, and the most misunderstood leader of all time; that the Germans demonstrated their superiority in their military during the second world war, but were overrun by a satanic cabal between the "Jew" Rossevelt, Churchill and Stalin. I was saved from that rot by having already been introduced to and well guided in the study of history by my grandfather. It was once pointed out to her that Hitler was Austrian, not German, and this lead her into a red-faced, raging diatribe on the obvious stupidity and inferiority of non-Germans, who were too dull-witted to know that Austrians are simply Germans who were lead astray by the "closet Jews" of the Catholic Church. Obviously, this was NOT a typical view of the Germans to be found in American public schools. However, it is worth noting that this line was not necessarily offensive to the local parents, many of whom shared her admiration of Germany and all things German, and who never saw her in action in the classroom.

By constrast, Germans and Germany were hardly mentioned in the survey courses i took at university (which were desigend for history majors), other than as they figured in those portions of the texts and lectures which were devoted to England, France and, to a much lesser extent, the HRE. I was snidely informed that my opinion was not wanted in one classroom in which i asked if the correct name of the last named empire were not "The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation." Everything remotely accurate and historically valuable about Germans and Germany, i have learned on my own. Acknowledging that my earlier experience verged on psychotic instruction, and that survey courses teach us little about any particular nation, i would still say that the emphasis of history taught in American schools is primarily toward American history, the history of England and her once-empire to a slightly lesser extent, the history of France and the French to a much lesser extent, nods to the Spanish in the new world, and finally, to a pathetically small extent, everybody else. It is also worth noting that i am referring to the 1950's and -60's, and all of this may well have changed. I did have a sense at the time that academics tended to miminize the importants of Germans and Germany, because they were "the bad guys" of the 20th century, and that small-town populations in the US, with many German roots, had little to quibble with the contention of German racial superiority. Whenever i look back on the culture of the US in the 1950's and early 1960's, it simply looks more and more bizarre as i grow older.
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Thu 12 Dec, 2002 09:20 pm
Setanta, Seems to me you have learned your lessons well - even though the lessons may have been tainted with (total nut case) bias. Wink c.i.
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Steve 41oo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Dec, 2002 07:46 am
So Eva Braun escaped to become a history teacher in an American public school. Nothing surprises me any more.

Not even Turkey joining the EU. It does make you wonder if the foreign ministers of the various EU nations ever take a look at an atlas.

But George Bush demands we are nice to the Turks because he wants to strike at Iraq from Incirlik.

So we have to admit a poor non European state with a completely different ethos and outlook to the rest of Europe, an appalling history of military dictatorships and human rights abuses, a state that may very well be overthrown by Islamic fundamentalists, (you know the same guys W is supposedly fighting in his war on terrorism), just so Bush can re-order the middle east for the security of American oil.

So where's next to join the EU in Asia Minor? Syria? Why not Iraq itself, its only next door. Or lets keep going a little further east, Iran Afghanistan and then China.

I am not a racist. But I don't want the entire stability of the European project undermined by being forced at American behest to bite off more than we can chew. Dubbya, you stink.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Dec, 2002 09:56 am
Steve, Not all EU countries are created equal. Germany is still the wealthiest country in the EU, but they're experiencing close to a ten percent unemployment rate, while the UK keeps its economic engine running pretty smoothly. Why in the world would the UK consider joining the EU at this juncture? BTW, how did Ireland become a member of the Euro when it's part of the UK? c.i.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Dec, 2002 11:19 am
Oh my god . . . c.i., don't ever ask a question like in Ireland, just for your own safety, 'k? The Republic of Ireland is not a part of the UK (although, on a technicality, they could be described as a dominion of the British crown, no one is that loony in either London or Dublin--at the moment), and joined the E.U. as the independent nation which it is. You are confusing the six counties of Ulster with the 26 counties of the Republic.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Dec, 2002 12:41 pm
Setanta, Since I have that disease called "foot in mouth," I'd better stay clear of Ireland. c.i.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Fri 13 Dec, 2002 02:58 pm
Oh, Boss, don't, it's an incredibly lovely country . . . just don't mention politics . . . never a good topic of conversation there . . .
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Dec, 2002 03:11 pm
Setanta, I know Ireland is a lovely country. Visited Southern Ireland a few years ago, and especially loved Wexford, Dublin, Tralee, and the Ring of Kerry. Even saw a pub with the name "Bill Clinton's." Wink c.i.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Fri 13 Dec, 2002 03:13 pm
Kerry can be breathtakingly beautiful, and pretty damned scary when a storm rolls across the coast . . . i've not been there in more than 20 years . . . sigh . . . i'd love to go back . . .
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