Examples of work
A lively discussion developed between the English and German partners about the role of history in the different countries. Starter was an article from the Sunday Times reporting that the German miniter Naumann felt that Britain was obsessed with the past and, in particular, with the Second World War.
Here is an excerpt from the exchange of views on this subject. The following questions were posed by the German students; the answers are given by their English counterparts. Then the reactions of the German students follow:
The central topic of the summer term, however, was 'nationalism' amd its different aspects in the 19th century. We mainly concentrated on the Second German Empire and particularly on Bismarckian Germany. Different web sites on this subject were exchanged and Bismarck's domestic and foreign policies and his impact on the development of Germany in the 20th century discussed- these discussions were sometimes controversial. Some excerpts from our exchange of views:
Here is a summary of English students' assessment of the aims of Bismarck's domestic policies: Questions2.html.
An excerpt from the German students' assessment of Bismarck: "On the one hand he established a political and social system that was outdated, he did not care for a suitable successor, and he created the image of a successful strong man who can solve all the problems of the country and whom one can rely on without any reservation. On the other hand he unified Germany and gave the people a new identity (with sometimes negative consequences, though) and he pursued a moderate and defensive foreign policy at a time when there was a great and growing surge of enthusiasm for national and imperialistic ideas."
English students' views on Bismarck's achievements in the economic field and on the question of continuity from Bismarck to Hitler: Questions3.html.
Some excerpts from German students on Bismarck: "Bismarck wanted to achieve stability to secure the existence of the newly founded 'Kaiserreich' He called the new Germany 'saturated'. His policy was a policy of carefulness, moderation, and limited aims unlike that of his successors. Bismarck's methods and aims show that he must have had at least some insight into the domestic situation of Germany at that time. We agree with you that Bismarck really stunted change in Germany's political and social life. He was a representative of the old feudal society, a patriarchal landowner himself, and therefore tried to prevail an out-dated political and social system. His picture is very ambivalent for us.
Fundamental questions like the one if the nationalism of the old kind has been overcome in Europe and perhaps a post-national age has begun were included. An article like the one by the English historian David Starkey was looked upon as being interesting but did not find much response with our English partners. Such views were looked upon as being interesting but eccentric. So we discussed the article among ourselves.
Contemporary events such as the Kosovo crisis were subject of our exchange of views, as well. Differences in the perception between the two groups could be observed not only with regard to the topic of nationalism and the degree of importance of the national state today, but also with regard to the role of Europe today. Europe seems to take a low priority in the eyes of our English partners.
According to their teacher: "English students have a very insular view of the world, and the European ideal is certainly not part of it."
Concerning the Kosovo conflict there has been nothing but a common acceptance of the need to see the conflict through to the end. There were no dissenting views although our English partners adapted a much more firm and decisive stand in all questions. The example taken refers to the deployment of ground troops. German students: Questions4.html. English students: Answers4.html.
What went wrong: Unfortunately, the first attempt to link individual students in England and Germany failed as the responsible teacher in England bowed out just before the plan was about to be started. The approach, though, was interesting: Instead of putting forward questions of discussion by one group and responding by email by the other the idea consisted of giving the students opening topic questions. These questions should provide the starting point for students to take the discussion where they wanted, but they were asked to keep a record for their general dialogue that should follow. The conclusions from those individual discussions should then be debated by the two groups and the findings be published on a www page.
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