So, the thing is, it’s not like the schools I went to were particularly brilliant or anything (no offence, Miss Burt!). They were bog-standard, run of the mill state schools. My junior school had outside toilets and loo roll that was so cheap and hard, it could’ve been used as tracing paper. My senior school had more temporary classrooms than ones in buildings (nice drama studio though, huh, Miss, and one famous pupil – Lady Mary from Downton Abbey!).
And you know, it’s not like we never had ANY racist, sexist or classist teachers ever – not gonna name names, here, we had a few, if I’m honest….but they were in the minority, and about to retire. Every single racist teacher I had retired the next year. I never met a German PoC who could say the same thing.
But here’s the big thing, the biggest thing, the most important thing: our teachers LIKED us. They liked us, they were interested in what we thought. They wanted to know our opinions. They argued with us till they were blue in the face about was Shakespeare really funny and entertaining („He’s actually really funny and entertaining, if he was writing nowadays, he’d write comedies, or maybe for Eastenders!“) or was the Merchant of Venice an antisemitic play or not („It’s a play ABOUT antisemitism!“) They liked us, not all of us, and not all of them, and certainly not all of the time – but most of the teachers who taught in my schools liked me, liked most oft he pupils, and were interested in what we had to say.
Maybe they were racist. My infants and junior schools were both, I’d say, 90% non-white, I think my seniors was more like 50% non-white. Maybe our teachers were secret racists. But they managed to hide it enough at work to make us think they liked us.
I’ve always suspected that German teachers hate their students. I was twenty when I came here, back in the year 2000, and I was horrified at what I saw on my internship as part of an exchange programme. I was working as a language assistant at a primary school in Wilmersdorf, and it just seemed to me like these German teachers, who were officially so anti-racist, so anti-nazi, didn’t respect their students of colour WHATSOEVER.
I’ll never forget one time, in the staff room, when a teacher told another teacher that a child of Arabic origin was meant to go to Gymnasium. They both laughed. The teacher explained the joke to me: The parents think they are German! But they’re actually Arabs!
Now I might be wrong, I might be wrong, I might be completely wrong: but I don’t think our teachers laughed at us in that way in the staff room. In fact, I think they wanted the best for us. I was clever, they wanted me to go to uni, some of them even nagged me to go to Cambridge – but even the naughtiest boys in the school, even them: I do not believe our teachers laughed at them maliciously for daring to think they belonged to the country they were born in. Even the naughtiest, naughtiest boys, the really naughty ones: I think our teachers hoped they wouldn’t end up in prison.
I have been in Germany for twenty years and nothing has happened to make me think German teachers like their pupils or want to teach them. All they EVER do is complain about them on talk shows or write books about them, maybe they would have more time for marking papers if they took some time out of their busy slagging off their students for not being exact replicas of them schedule.
And there is no affection there, when they complain, no affection, no humour, no delight. Just absolute horror that some pupils don’t do their homework (dur) or spell das „dass“. (I think I might have got that the wrong way round.) The spoddy, unbearably unoriginal and uninspiring books they write! Those books grassing their students up, especially the so-called Migrationshintergrundler, for not being quite as absolutely unimaginative and uninteresting as they are.
Like for fuck’s sake, GET OUT OF TEACHING IF YOU HATE IT SO MUCH. I am being harsh. I think most German teachers would be really good at teaching, really – if there weren’t any students involved.
I feel like my schools, which were far from perfect, underfunded, overstretched – my primary school was considered the worst in the borough because so many of the pupils didn’t speak English at home – were, for all their problems, despite all my problems, ultimately more good than they were bad.
I had to conform, I had to fit in – we even had to wear uniform and yet the curriculum was, on some level, designed just for me, designed to find out who I was, to teach the person I was in the classroom. The teachers probably found us kids frustrating at times – I grew up in Essex, the white kids celebrated their ignorance, their dumbness, like it was an achievement, and all of us, we swaggered with confidence and generally rebelled.
I remember walking into Science once and smiling at our Science teacher, an Indian woman „Hello Miss!“ She took one look at me and handed me the card for the withdrawal room. The funny thing is, I think now, she was probably in the right. But all of them, they tried to make lessons exciting and fun, tried to meet us where we were, as wanky as that sounds, and make us actually learn.
I remember our History teacher telling us which parts of the History book she thought were made up propaganda, I remember our English teachers trying to convince us to rewrite Shakespeare as a soap opera, I remember people TRYING. I remember our German teacher and a music teacher crying because we were dicks to them (sorry). And I remember the teachers fighting amongst each other – I remember the Geography teacher coming up to me in the corridor and telling me he had fought for me to be made prefect.
I once told a German friend a story about how awful it was, growing up in Essex, the home of ignorance, how we had started reading our set text, Wuthering Heights, I‘d finished it in the holidays, and after two lessons our teacher realized it was going to be too hard, the rest of the class wasn’t going to finish the book, and we changed to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. My friend stared at me in silence for a few seconds and then he said: „The teacher changed the book, because she thought it was too hard for you? To a text that she thought the class would be more likely to read?“ „Yeah,“ I said, shrugging with disappointment. „Such a typical Essex thing, race to the bottom.“
„No, that’s amazing,“ he said. „That’s so amazing. She thought it was too hard, and students wouldn’t get anything from it, so she changed the set text to a book from the 20th Century?“
„That’s just amazing, no German teacher would ever do that. I don’t think they’d be allowed to, but even if they were, they wouldn’t want to.“
German schools are so inflexible. The whole point of them is not to actually teach anything, but just to fill the students with the necessary information to pass tests. In a way, Schulpflicht is racist really. You take these inferior people from inferior cultures and you squash enough information into them to make them kinda German. It’s about taking people’s personalities and squashing them into little German shapes.
It’s interesting when you talk to Americans and British people about Schulpflicht. They see Schulpflicht as a kind of negative thing, you know? You can’t really translate the word Schulpflicht – compulsory school attendance? When you speak English, it’s better to say: home educating your kids is banned in Germany.
I’m going to be honest: I have always thought the German education system was racist. Therefore, it stands to reason that not being allowed to opt out of this racist system must be racist too. Not being able to educate your kids at home, yourself, with your own ideas, with their own ideas. But I never cared until kids would die for it.
Until corona, I always believed the propaganda that the benefits of Schulpflicht – school as a great equalizer,for example – outweighed the bad. But this insistence that kids attend school even when it might kill them has opened my eyes. It’s not about making kids equal. It’s about making them conform.
It has been decided, by white people with power, that Schulpflicht is worth dying for – or at the very least worth killing your grandparents and Krebskranke in the U-Bahn for. Or, to be more exact: EXAMS are worth dying – and killing for.
The fact that Abitur kids in Berlin were sent back to schools before Maskenpflicht (compulsory mask wearing) was introduced is a disgrace. The fact that MSA kids were told they would have to go back before they knew that a Maskenpflicht would be introduced is a disgrace! And the fact that kids are going back at all is, to be frank, a fucking disgrace – but the worst thing of all is that they have to go back, because Schulpflicht hasn’t been abolished.
What can these ever learn at school – what lessons about enzymes or caterpillars or Kant or algebra – will ever be worth the lesson which Germany is teaching these kids now. That not all human life is sacred, and that people with medical conditions are second-class citizens. That people who live in the same household (often migrants) are less than human. That pieces of paper with numbers on them are worth more than people’s lives. What lessons are we teaching them, and how do you sleep at night, you cunts, who are enabling this. Not just enabling – enforcing this.
I have total solidarity with the school strikers in Nordreinwestpfalen, and nothing contempt for the people who have put them in this position. Yeah, I realize that it would probably not be doable to keep them off school for 18 months – although it should absolutely be an option and home education should be legalized, just for the duration of this pandemic.
But sending them back NOW? With just DAYS to prepare the classrooms, the class sizes, the lessons? Before they’ve got used to wearing masks in public? Putting them through exams in the midst of a deadly pandemic? Just a matter of mere days after they were told not to go meet their family for Easter to SAVE LIVES? You are scum if you think this is a good idea, and to be frank, murderous scum at that.
Look, I know forced home-schooling is driving parents, especially mums, insane. You might think because I am against Schulpflicht I am in favour of home education but actually I just think it should be an option for parents who want to do it! To be honest, I don’t think ANYONE should be forced into home-schooling against their will.
Because, this, I think is the most important thing: Germany could have – and should have – put German children’s emotional health above their academic achievements. Home-schooling should have been optional, and the absolute dickheads, emotionally dead cunts running this country, should have admitted to themselves, to parents, and to the teachers that there would be consequences to this pandemic.
THERE WOULD BE CONSEQUENCES TO THE ECONOMY AND THERE WOULD BE CONSEQUENCES TO EDUCATION. You can’t fight off this deadly virus in your spare time – there are only 24 hours in a day. What childishness, what vindictiveness, what pathetic spite, to pretend that Germany would suffer no consequences! So childish, so silly.
Of course there will be consequences: and the German teachers and education ministers should have told the kids and parents of this country that all that matters now is the kids health – mental and physical. But they weren’t emotionally adult enough to do that.
And now we have burnt out parents, burnt out, traumatized kids – and those kids are about to travel on public transport to sit exams. It is so pathetic I cannot fathom how anyone can be stupid and evil enough to think this is in anyway an acceptable idea. Shame on you, Germany.
The people who made the decision to reopen schools – the Leopoldina schools, the education ministers, all of them – they all know that the kids who live together with their grannies and grandads in one household will be the Migrationshintergrundler they so despise for spelling dass with one S.
Guess what, Germany. You despise them for not spelling dass properly? You don’t think being bad at spelling is slightly less despicable than sacrificing our children for no reason whatsoever? For promising us one minute us you will be capable of protecting our kids from corona – and then the next that online classes are so difficult to organize that you’re not even going to try.
Like all decent human beings, I am absolutely disgusted at this decision and the complacency about the literal destruction it will cause. I really really fucking hope Schulpflicht gets abolished in time for the next deadly pandemic.
Because although you don’t actually learn nothing in school, we have all been learning some important lessons recently: we know now how much Germany hates their schoolchildren. We know how much Germans hate their children, collectively, and yes, individually. We know kids often survive (although the kids who have died in Britain and the States have been, I want to add, non-white).
We don’t know yet, we cannot know yet, what quality of life those kids will have afterwards. We could have given them a month off school and found out. But Germany hates children, and would rather stomach the idea of orphaned children with permanent lung damage than a teenager having a lie-in on a Tuesday. Shame on you.
The German school system is designed to produce robots, memorizing meaningless information and repeating it at the correct moment in fucking time. It’s not designed to produce human beings who actually think human life is sacred, that non-white people are human too, or that laziness is less of a vice than murder.
And it obviously hasn’t, or the outcry over this horrific decision would be louder – and the solidarity with the students whose lives and health have been endangered far, far greater. Shame on you. Shame on you all.
This article first appeared on Jacinta Nandi’s taz blog. Reproduced with permission.