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Failure of Education: Franco-German reconciliation with Anti-Americanism

Americans are not doing so well in geography, as Sirocco points out:
In 2002 a National Geographic-Roper study found 83 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 unable to locate Afghanistan - the country whence the 9/11 attack originated and which the US had just invaded - when presented with four alternatives. Now a new such test reveals that nearly two-thirds of young adults cannot find Iraq on a map even after three years of war and more than 2,400 US deaths, at an estimated cost of $1-2 trillion.
This is seems to be the result of a U.S.-centric highschool education. Now France and Germany have produced a joint history textbook, which apparently is not just Euro-centric, but also teaches a pro-European sentiment on the expense of the United States. Chirac and Schroeder started this initiative to contribute to further Franco-German reconciliation and mutual understanding by teaching history to French and German highschool students from both French and German perspectitves, as the publisher explains in German and French. The textbook was written by five German and five French historians. Guillaume Le Quintrec, who headed the French team, told The Times that the book contained "unashamedly pro-European ideology" and an underlying distrust of the United States. The textbook:
starts in 1945, a convenient date that enables the authors to focus on "memories" of the Second World War rather than its causes. "The patriotic cult of victory has given way to a universal demand to remember the victims of the war," the work says. The next stage is the Cold War, where the US and the USSR are presented as broadly equivalent in moral terms. Both were engaged in an arms race described as "the balance of terror" and both sought to "impose themselves by an omnipresent propaganda" that involved "gross exaggerations and simplifications".
While the book might describe different French and German perspectives, according to The Times it apparently ignores the US perspective and describes the EU as good multilateralists and the United States as bad unilateralists:

A substantial section of the work is devoted to the EU -- a startling success story and a beacon for the rest of the world, according to the five German and five French scholars who worked on the project. "Through its willingness to co-operate with the Third World, its attachment to multilateralism, its dialogue with other regions, the EU appears as a model on the international scene," it says. By contrast, modern American unilateralism "enshrined by George W. Bush is widely criticised throughout the world", it says. Music, cinema and other forms of culture are "dominated by American multinational firms, which are the main beneficiaries of the free trade". M Le Quintrec told The Times that it was "largely right" to describe the work as anti-American. But he said that German historians had insisted upon softening the message with sentences such as: "Some people, notably in Germany, consider the US to be a power which defends democracy in a world where the UN is not always able or willing to do it."

The BBC reports how the book was written:
The 10 authors did not encounter major difficulties, according to France's Le Figaro newspaper. Paradoxically it was not World War II which provided the main topic of debate, but the US role in the world since 1945, the newspaper said. It quoted Guillaume Le Quintrec, co-director of the project, who said "the French found the Germans to be pro-American and the Germans found our viewpoint anti-American". Heated discussions, in which each word was carefully considered, resulted in a text which both sides judged to be "balanced".
Bushisms are well known and Sirocco reminds us of the
embarrassing, but harmless  "Grecians," "Kosovarians" or "East Timorians" and links to President Bush confusing Sweden with Switzerland, but France's Foreign Minister is much worse, if the Le Monde is correct. The IHT writes:
He has confused Taiwan with Thailand and Croatia with Kosovo and speaks no foreign language - not even English. Indeed, so gaffe-prone is the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, that President Jacques Chirac routinely orders a civil servant to follow him around with a recording device to keep track of all potential mishaps, according to a scathing account in the newspaper Le Monde. (...)
"Were there no Jews killed in Britain?" he asked [at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem]. "But Mr. Minister, Britain was never occupied by the Nazis," the curator replied. To which Douste-Blazy shot back: "But were no Jews expelled from Britain?" [via BuzzMachine]
More about Douste-Blazy at the Transatlantic Intelligencer.


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David on :

How can you say that American high school education is "US-Centric" when the respondents thought the US population was "between 1 and 2 billion" and 11% couldn't even find the US on the map? I think there should be a congressional resolution that the US only invade a country if it can locate it on a map. That should curtail future adventures.

Thomas on :

If you are US-centric, you do not care about world maps. However, don't forget "reality has a well-known liberal bias (Stephan Colbert). I like your resolution.

joe on :

David, The US military knows and that really is all that is important as it pertains to map reading.

Thomas on :

If US citizens don't even know where Iraq is, they probably don't know much else either. This means they can't make informed decisions about going to war. They can only trust their government rather than make up their own mind. Anybody seen "Wag the Dog"? They chose Albania for their war since it sounded evil.

joe on :

Thomas, You just might be on to something there. Maybe Americans should look to Germany for democratic inspiration. You do seem to have a long history of it. Equally your government is so cohesive. It has to be the results of the well-informed citizens who voted them into power. I marvel each day how Berlin takes on the really difficult problems facing Germany, Europe and the World. There was much truth to that most recent advertising campaign – Proud Be a German.

Jorg on :

There was not an advertising campaign of that name.

joe on :

Thanks for the correction

beth on :

Interesting post and comments. I can't speak for ALL Americans, of course, but I can find Iraq on a map. Just so you know :) we aren't ALL that ignorant. About portraying the USSR and US as morally equivalent following WWII - I think the Germans and Japanese can speak best to that. To whom did the Germans prefer to surrender when the end came? Who treated them better following the war, the US or the USSR? I would seriously like to know from the German perspective. The Japanese haven't done that poorly following WWII either as far as I can tell. When it was over, it was over. Most of my uncles fought in Europe in WWII. My father and some of my uncles fought in the Pacific theater. I never heard any of them say a negative thing about the German people (or the Japanesse for that matter). They didn't like the Nazis - but the overall attitude I got from them was that they respected the Germans (and Japs) as fierce and tenacious warriors. But for the insanity of Hitler and a few military blunders that fell our way, they very well may have beat us, or we'd still be fighting it out. About the textbook from hell. As I was reading the post I kept thinking 'those that forget history are doomed to repeat it'. The French are a whole nuther story, of course. :)

John on :

Of course most Germans would say that the US was no better than the USSR at the end of the war. Germans would never, ever burn Russian flags in the streets as they burn American ones. Germans spit on America for the wars in Iraq and Vietnam, but they don't seem to worry about what the Soviets did in East Europe (I don't expect Germans to give a shit about what happens to Slavs or anyone living in that area of the world) or Afghanistan. And that is what you call respect. The Germans know exactly what the Russians did to the German civilian population once they reached the Reichsgrenzen in 1944/45, and they know that the US gave them billions of dollars in aid and helped (allowed) them to build them into the country they are today, even after murdering 25 MILLION civilians in 6 years. Should we as Americans really expect the Germans to respect us after rewarding them for the butchering of millions? If you give a bad kid candy, he's going to continue to be a little prick. Just look at Israel. Most Germans I know are obsessed in one way or another with that country (more than 50% believe that what Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is the equivalent to that what Germans did to the Jews in Auschwitz). 6 Million Jews were murdered but there was no real attempt at revenge from individual Jews or the state of Israel. The German nature sees that as a sign of weakness. But what is truly disgusting about all this is that not only do the murderers and children of the murderers get the 3rd largest economy in the world today and still get to boss many of the other European countries around, but that millions of children and grandchildren of the murdered are still living in abject poverty after we stabbed their countries in the back at the end of the war and gave money and aid to the German pig. Of course I'm not maintaining that the US was the epitomy of all that is good and moral for building Germany back up at the end of the war. I'm saying the exact opposite. We aided the murderers, and stabbed our allies, countries who had been fighting with us since the beginning of the war - Poland, Czechoslovakia, elements in Yugoslavia - against the German pest - in the back and sold them out to the Soviets even after the Germans had wiped out millions in their country. I'm sorry to have to point this out for any German who is reading this, but far too many Germans have taken pleasure in telling me during my stay why Arabs want to cut my throat and those of my family. I couldn't help in noticing the hypocrisy when I heard Germans talking about how stupid and disgusting Poles are even after murdering 20% of that country during the war and then getting away with it and getting money from the Americans for it, on whom they now spit. (and I don't want to hear any bullshit about Schlesien, Pommern, or Ostpreussen. A lot of countries lost territory during the war - while the Germans murdered 25 Million civilians and only lost 1.5 of their own and have the 3rd largest economy in the world now).

littleandy on :

Sorry, John, but you generalize in a way, that's as dangerous as the general anti-Americanism you can find in German (and other) media. Not all Germans are anti-American, not all Germans are unthankful for American aid.

littleandy on :

By the way, I think missing geographical knowledge of other regions is not a US-problem, but a general problem. Most people in Germany wouldn't know, where Utah or Missouri is (just for example), at least I think so. And that's the same for many of the Southern American or African countries. So I think, that's something, Germans and Americans have in common :-)

proud kaffir on :

I saw a tv show once in France. They were conducting a street interview in Germany about general geography. It was interesting to not that almost no one could name all of the countries that border their own country. Some very interesting responses were Alsace, Portugal, and Spain. And in a recent survery of the French, 2/3rds thought that Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was only a movie that never actually took place. Not to mention the fact that the much talked about Israeli massacre of Arabs fails to account that the population of Bedouin Arabs in Israel has risen from 500,000 at the end of the 6 day war to it's current level of 1.5 million.

Ingo Dierck on :

Well, talking of Alsace as a neighbour of Germany is not completely wrong. Regards Ingo

Taffy Curtis on :

You know what? The anti-American stance of France and Germany is so old news it is hard to believe that people are being paid to write about it. Of course these countries are ethnocentric! It is basic human nature to be ethnocentric. It doesn't even overly surprise or alarm me that these two countries have decided to link arms and portray themselves together as the good guys and the Americans and Russians as the bad guys. What does alarm me is the current American lack of ethnocentrism. We are more than willing to side with anyone against ourselves, as evidenced by the second paragraph in which the author draws the fabulous conclusion that American youth can't locate Afghanistan or Iraq on a map because of an American bias in our high school curriculum. Has anyone asked these same students to locate the U. S. on a map? I completely believe that our high school students can't locate a foreign country on a map. They also can't describe the location of their spleen or idntify the adjective in a simple sentence or tell you the answer to eight times six. It isn't because of a U. S.-centric high school education. It is because they don't watch the news or open a book or attend to what their teachers are saying in class or even attempt to engage their brains in anything higher than idle. Sheesh! Give us a break! Stop feeding us bogus conclusions that an eighth grader of average intelligence can see right through. I grow weary of sifting through the garbage looking for any useable wisdom.

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