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Frustrated by Anti-Americanism, US Exchange Students Try to Change German Attitudes

"US students are having a hard time in Germany, as they find themselves having to justify Washington policy from day to day. A new pilot project in German schools is meant to help Americans deal with the endless drill" writes Jan Friedmann in Spiegel:
Despite his affinity for German culture, Janssen has hardly been welcomed with open arms. "I don't like having to play diplomat here," he complains. Many of the roughly 3,200 US students enrolled in foreign study programs in Germany share Janssen's experience. They are reluctant ambassadors, routinely taken to task by students and even complete strangers for the perceived offences of their government at home -- an affront that visiting students and academics from China, Russia and Arab countries rarely encounter.
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Some Religious Interpretations Have a Bad Influence in Germany

No religious folks in the former GDR? Think again! "A school in the eastern German city of Chemnitz has taken the Harry Potter books off its syllabus, after Christian parents objected on religious grounds," writes DW World.
The Atlantic Review has written about similar cases in the US: Challenged Books and the "Banned Books Week".

Another uproar: "Politicians, lawyers and migrants' groups in Germany were incensed over a German judge's decision to reject a divorce case, saying the Koran permits husbands to beat their wives," reports DW World.

Germany's Small Freedoms

Writing for German Joys, Ed Philp looks at initiatives against "small freedoms" in Germany, i.e. against the relatively liberal attitudes towards smoking, maximum speed limits on the autobahn, the age of legal beer and wine consumption, and the sale of violent video games.
Ed wonders "how is Germany ever going to convince North American exchange students to spend a year over here without dangling the lure of legal access to liquor in front of them?" Ed appreciates that he can still drink a beer in public and that he could watch some second-rate prime-time nudity on TV, if he wanted to: "Even if these particular aspects don’t interest me, that level of liberalism toward social freedoms does."
According to Ed, "Germany’s small freedoms seem to counterbalance limitations to ‘big’ freedoms, in contrast to the United States, which takes the opposite approach." Unfortunately, he does not elaborate, but in the comments section of German Joys he mentions home schooling as an example of "big freedom."
Dialog International writes that "US Evangelicals Demand German Home Schooling." And even the State Department's report on "Human Rights Practices in Germany" points out:
The legal obligation that children attend a school, confirmed by the Constitutional Court in May and the European Court of Justice in October, and the related bar on home schooling, was a problem for some groups. Generally, state authorities have permitted such groups to establish charter‑type schools.
Two interesting comments at Dialog International: Potsdam Amerikanerin links to a study in International Review of Education, which points out that "Home education is permitted in some form or other in all the European countries studied except Germany." And Little Andy (blog) wonders if the home schooling supporters would continue to criticize Germany, if Muslim fundamentalist parents would make use of a legalization of home schooling.

When German Universities Were Models for American Universities

The New Yorker reviews Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University (, by William Clark, a historian who "has spent his academic career at both American and European universities. Clark thinks that the modern university, with its passion for research, prominent professors, and, yes, black crêpe, took shape in Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And he makes his case with analytic shrewdness, an exuberant love of archival anecdote, and a wry sense of humor." (HT: Chris, who blogs at Edit Copy.)

Likewise, Louis Menand's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Metaphyisical Club: The Story of Ideas in America
(, describes how important German universities were in creating graduate studies in the United States. From Dialog International's review:
The first graduate school was established at Johns Hopkins University and was modeled after the University of Heidelberg. Nearly every serious scholar in America made a pilgrimage to the great universities at Heidelberg, Berlin, Leipzig and Goettingen. Of Stanford University's original 30 professors, 15 had received degrees in Germany and the school's unofficial motto which appears on its official seal is Die Luft der Freiheit weht ("the wind of freedom blows") - a quote from Ulrich von Hutten, a 16th-century humanist.

Brain Drain: German YouTube Founder Enjoys the American Dream

Observing Hermann writes about the third YouTube founder, Jawed Karim, who was born in East Germany in 1979:
Ironically, Karim's family (his father was originally from Bangladesh) left Germany in 1992 after the infamous post-Wall racist incidents in Hoyerswerda, Rostock and Mölln; not the first time that Ausländerfeindlichkeit (hatred of foreigners) has led to the brain drain from one country and to the benefit of another. That's entrepreneurial power that Germany could be using right now, too (should we Americans say thanks to Germany now or later?)."
In spring 2006, Jawed Karim left YouTube for graduate studies at Stanford. He remained an informal advisor and major shareholder. The NYT writes:
Mr. Karim said he might keep a hand in entrepreneurship, and he dreams of having an impact on the way people use the Internet -- something he has already done. Philanthropy may have some appeal, down the road. But mostly he just wants to be a professor. He said he simply hopes to follow in the footsteps of other Stanford academics who struck it rich in Silicon Valley and went back to teaching.
UPI writes about the brain drain (HT: Observing Hermann):
Some 145,000 people in 2005 emigrated from Germany to other countries, the highest emigration total since 1954, according to latest numbers. Mainly young and well-educated people leave Germany, often for better working conditions, such as scientists researching in the United States; a higher pay check, like teachers working in Switzerland; or better chances to quickly find a job, for example in many of the Scandinavian countries.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Germany loses the brightest minds to the US and Racism in East Germany.

Elite Schools seen as "Bastions of Privilege" rather than "Engines of Social Justice"

The Economist's columnist Lexington highly recommends a new book about an old problem: "The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates" by Daniel Golden (,
Mr Golden shows that elite universities do everything in their power to admit the children of privilege. If they cannot get them in through the front door by relaxing their standards, then they smuggle them in through the back. No less than 60% of the places in elite universities are given to candidates who have some sort of extra “hook”, from rich or alumni parents to "sporting prowess". The number of whites who benefit from this affirmative action is far greater than the number of blacks. (...)
Social inequality is rising at a time when the escalators of social mobility are slowing (America has lower levels of social mobility than most European countries). The returns on higher education are rising: the median earnings in 2000 of Americans with a bachelor's degree or higher were about double those of high-school leavers. But elite universities are becoming more socially exclusive. (...)
Two groups of people overwhelmingly bear the burden of these policies -- Asian-Americans and poor whites.
The above quote -- including the comparison with Europe on social mobility in the brackets -- is from the review in the respected British The Economist. (HT: Don)
Daniel Golden was awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for his "series of stories that exposed huge college admissions advantages enjoyed by some privileged white students", available for free at the Wall Street Journal.

Check out the response from Mad Minerva, an Asian-American grad student.

At which American Universities do Fulbright Grantees Study and Teach?

Experiencing America: Through the Eyes of Visiting Fulbright Scholars: Stories of Foreign Fulbrighters in the United States by Zeeshan-Ul-Hassan Usmani
Buy at

Kauf bei

In July, the Atlantic Review recommended the new book Experiencing America: Through the Eyes of Visiting Fulbright Scholars. Don, an American living in London and a regular reader of the Atlantic Review, wrote a comment suspecting that "the Ivy Leagues and the better public and private universities in the US get the lion's share of the feed, which is a shame in a way because places like Princeton, Palo Alto, and Ann Arbor aren't very typical of the US." He suggested: "Were I to design a visiting scholars program to spread knowledge about the US I'd send most of the scholars to places more typical of where the average American goes to college." Read his entire comment.
It is common criticism against correspondents of the foreign media in the US that they live in the big cities and are biased and don't understand Americans living in the "heartland." Is that true of Fulbrighters as well? I have asked some Fulbrighters if they know anything about the distribution of the Fulbright grants.
Continue reading "At which American Universities do Fulbright Grantees Study and Teach?"

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.