German Education
Dear Teacher,

I am a survivor of a concentration camp.
My eyes saw what no man should witness.

Gas chambers built by learned engineers.
Children poisoned by educated physicians.
Infants killed by trained nurses.
Women & babies shot & burned by high
school & college graduates.

So, I am suspicious of education.
My request is that teachers help students
become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned
monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated

Reading, writing, arithmetic are important
only if they serve to make our children
more human.

from: Haim Ginott (1972). Teacher & Child

My fellow PA'ers will know just what I'm talking about when I say that our education shapes our form of government. Matthew 12:33 says that the tree is known by its fruit. Look at education as the preparation of the soil, and it is a little easier to see how that will one day effect the face of our civil government.

I'm sure most have heard the statistics about how our schools are failing in the international realm. These flawed statistics are continually used as a basis for throwing more money at a failing system, for more reform and for more of the federal government's control. But these statistics are like comparing apples to oranges. Let's look at the German education system since Germany continually outscores us and I am intimately familiar with it. And it is this system which homeschoolers in Germany find in violation of the human rights of their children, which is leading their case to the International Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg. Is this the model we should be looking toward as No Child Left Behind is now recommending high school students choose majors?

Germany has a three tiered education system. I'm too young for Brown vs. the Board of Ed, but I got my taste of "separate but equal" in the German schools. Education occurs on three levels, with students being separated into their "tracts" at 10. The highest is the Gymnasium. Here, students are prepared in academic subjects with university level work as a goal. This would be loosely equivalent to our more rigorous honors programs, except students have a separate building, separate facilities, separate teachers. These are the students that the whole of our student population competes against. The Gymnasiaten are the only German children educated through to twelfth grade. There is no special ed department...not even for those disabilities such as deafness or paralysis that do not affect intelligence. Sorry, college is not in their future. Gymnasiaten may go on to take the Abitur, the great final test of the German education. Passing the Abitur in Germany is basically equivalent to possessing a two-year degree here, and it qualifies one for most professional positions. These are the only students who may take the Abitur and have the option to go on to University, if they so desire.

Next down is the Realschule. This is where I was supposed to go to school if I had stayed with my first host family. The problem was, I was a senior trying to get senior credit in an American high school. They were willing to accept 11th grade work, but not tenth grade. And tenth is as high as you get in the Realschule. Students are prepared for the workforce, with greater emphasis on those skills needed for what we would consider "entry-level" positions.

At the bottom is the Hauptschule. Here, students are educated all the way up to eighth grade. They are given a rudimentary basis in math and literacy and move from here to a trade school. Basically, it is vo-tech, but again, they are held completely separate from their more high achieving peers.

There is no movement between these schools. It is theoretically possible, but as a rule does not occur. Where you are slated to go at ten will affect you for the rest of your life. As you can imagine, there is quite a bit of tension between these groups. The Gymnasiaten look down on the other two groups, and the others view the Gymnasiaten as snobs. But it prepares a good workforce, because we know that a competitive workforce is the main goal of education.

Oh, and special eduction. Would it surprise you if I told you they had separate schools, as well?

I actually attended a sort of experimental school called the "Integrierte Gesamtschule." This is basically a bit of hope for more high achieving Realschule students. The school takes these students, educates through twelfth grade, and tries to prepare them for the rigors of university work. There are not many of them...mine was the only one in East Frisia, with students travelling an hour one way to get to school.

You can check out this website for more chronicles the German Education system as the most "segregated in Europe."

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