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A Column by Jan Fleischhauer on Focus: What’s Much Less Intelligent than German Children? Click Here for the Answer

A recent editorial in “Spiegel” dealt with ways to address the education crisis. “Spiegel” readers, like “FOCUS” readers, are above average in education, according to market research. A particularly high proportion of them have completed high school or university studies, which is why educational topics usually generate great interest here.

So what did “Spiegel” recommend? More money for schools, better pedagogical concepts, or different curricula? No, they said the grammar school system must go!

Grammar school must be abolished? Hallelujah.

The grammar school is described as an educational oasis created by a privileged elite to perpetuate itself and socially segregate from the lower classes. According to the editorial, this principle is outdated pedagogically and early selection is socially unjust. “The grammar school must be abolished for the good of all children, as a matter of societal responsibility, despite all resistance.”

Even eccentric ideas have a place in journalism. However, this call was not an obscure minority opinion. Editorials reflect an opinion that the editorial board and a large part of the general editorial staff can rally behind. That’s why they are called editorials.

Also in the New Issue:
Eat Yourself Slim – Five Strategies for Losing Weight Without Hunger
Budget Check, Mr. Lindner: A Conversation about Debt Disputes, Traffic Light Coalition Chaos, and FDP Frustration
Peace 3: Making It Work with Family Under the Christmas Tree

This is the response in a leading press organ of the country to the German education crisis: We stop making distinctions between the gifted and the less gifted because it is antisocial and discriminates against the less gifted. Another response is: We lower the standards. Why torment young people with requirements that we know they will not meet anyway? So away with the tests and the grades as well.

It seems suddenly irrelevant if generation after generation is getting dumber

We long ago gave up hope that Germany, the country of which it is always said that its most important resource is between the ears, would make progress in education tests. We still have no significant resources other than education, but somehow we have convinced ourselves that it doesn’t matter if generation after generation becomes less intelligent.

We have just been reminded in black and white of how unintelligent German students are. More than a quarter of 15-year-olds still have great difficulty writing a coherent sentence after nine years of schooling. One in three fails at simple arithmetic problems. Well, on the positive side, everyone knows how to upload a video on TikTok and present themselves favorably on Instagram. But whether that’s enough to sustain a developed economy like ours? Even the most optimistic economists have their doubts.

Hard to believe that the German education system was once considered the best in the world

It’s hard to believe, but the German education system was once considered the best in the world. It was copied everywhere, with kindergarten as the starting point and grammar school as the core. The great American universities, which many look at with admiration today, were based on the ideal of the universal genius Wilhelm von Humboldt, who introduced the continuous school year, timetable, and the high school diploma in the war-torn Berlin of 1809 in quick succession.

170 years the system functioned well. Then, the education reformers from the red-green party started to implement their vision of justice. Since then, the situation has been deteriorating.

Tipping point of the education system coincided with green hiatus

Even in Baden-Württemberg, which resisted the trend for decades and formed something like the gold standard of school excellence, things have turned for the worse. It can even be said fairly precisely when things started going downhill. The tipping point coincides with Winfried Kretschmann taking over as minister president. Much as I admire the grumpy old man from the Green Party, he could not do anything against the ideologues in his party.

For some things, the school is not to blame. When 400,000 children enter school for the first time without ever having seen a book before, even the most dedicated teachers are overwhelmed.

As an economist, one would refer to it as an exogenous shock. It may not be explicitly stated, but the failure of education is also a failure of migration. Children from immigrant families have, on average, a one-year lag. Since almost 40 percent of all 15-year-olds come from immigrant families, this makes a big difference.

Nine-year-old kids who shower their teacher with obscenities

The Muslim culture does not stand out for its appreciation of books. Therefore, Muslim schools, unlike Catholic, Jewish, or Protestant ones, are not really competitive. I understand that. However, it puzzles me why nine-year-old kids shower their primary school teacher with obscenities – why this seems to be tolerated at home is an even bigger mystery to me.

Now, the claim is that the system must be made fairer. Nowhere does educational success depend as much on the parental background as in Germany. The finding itself is true.

Children with parents who have many books perform better than those with few

In academic performance studies, students are repeatedly asked how many books are at their home. There are five categories to choose from, ranging from “less than a shelf” to “a whole bookshelf.” The influence of the parents’ educational background has surprised researchers. Growing up in a household with a bookshelf puts a child light-years ahead in performance tests compared to a child from a bookless world.

The question that is almost never asked, however, is: What prevents parents from reading to their children at night? Even the immigrant from Lebanon should know that it is better not to just park the kids in front of the screen. At the end of a long day, I also yearn for peace. But if my daughter asks me to read Ronja the Robber’s Daughter to her, I also don’t say, “Dad is too tired. Let’s see what RTL has to offer.”

It is the system’s fault if Mandy, Jeremy, and Ahmed fail at school

The biggest mistake of education policy is to pretend that the system is to blame for everything. That’s the message of left-wing reformers: It’s the system’s fault if Mandy, Jeremy, and Ahmed fail. That’s why there’s constantly tinkering with the system instead of considering how to impart knowledge so that children without a bookshelf can keep up.

The recommendation from the left has been the same for 50 years: comprehensive schools. If only everyone would sit together in one class, everything would turn out for the better, because that’s how Mandy will learn from Johann how to do the calculation properly. There is research on this, by the way. In fact, the opposite happens: The clearer it becomes to Mandy that Johann will always be ahead of her, the quieter she will become. Experts call this the fishpond effect. When students feel that the

Während andere ihnen deutlich voraus sind, geben sie nicht die Bemühung, sie einzuholen, sondern geben auf.

Noch mehr Schulen des gemeinsamen Lernens bei dem peinlichen PISA-Ranking?

Dies betrifft auch Hochbegabte. Der gleichzeitige Unterricht mit Kindern, die deutlich langsamer sind, dämpft ihre Begeisterung. Sie fühlen sich gelangweilt, verlieren das Interesse und machen Schabernack. Dennoch hält sich bis heute der Glaube, dass das Anbringen des Schilds “Gemeinschaftsschule” an der Schule ausreicht, damit Deutschland wieder PISA-Sieger wird.

Wie die Zukunft aussieht, wenn die Politik die Dinge weiterhin vernachlässigt? Es wird sich ein neues dreigliedriges Schulsystem entwickeln, jedoch ganz anders als viele es sich vorstellen. Wer es sich leisten kann, schickt sein Kind auf eine Privatschule. Wo die Sozialstruktur es zulässt, sein Kind auf die zugehörige Schule zu schicken, gedeiht auch diese Schule. Der Rest, der sich weder eine Privatschule noch eine Gegend leisten kann, in der auch der Migrant drei Sprachen spricht, findet sich auf der Gemeinschaftsschule wieder.

Nichts gegen die Gemeinschaftsschule, immerhin sind die Kinder von der Straße. Man darf nur nicht erwarten, dass sie mit Erreichen der sogenannten Hochschulreife Grammatik und Interpunktion beherrschen.

Hier können Sie alle Kolumnen von Jan Fleischhauer lesen.

Die Leser verehren oder verabscheuen ihn, Gleichgültigkeit erregt Jan Fleischhauer bei den wenigsten. Man braucht sich nur die Kommentare zu seinen Kolumnen anzusehen, um eine Vorstellung davon zu bekommen, wie sehr das, was er schreibt, Menschen bewegt. 30 Jahre war er beim SPIEGEL, Anfang August 2019 wechselte er als Kolumnist zum FOCUS.

Fleischhauer selbst sieht seine Aufgabe darin, einer Perspektive Ausdruck zu verleihen, von der er meint, dass sie in den deutschen Medien unterrepräsentiert ist. Also im Zweifel gegen Herdentrieb, Gemeinplätze und Denkschablonen. Vergnüglich sind seine Texte allemal – vielleicht ist es dieser Umstand, der seine Gegner am meisten provoziert.

Sie können unserem Autor schreiben: Per Mail an [email protected] oder auf Twitter @janfleischhauer.

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