Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Historical Anniversaries 2018 – Part One: Remembering the Victims of Holocaust

January 28th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I am writing on this blog about my work as researcher in vocational education and training (VET) and on learning experiences while working with practitioners in VET. However, as we all know, researchers and educators are not working in a societal vacuum. Therefore, issues of social awareness and social responsibility are always there to be considered and discussed. And historical anniversaries trigger such discussions in the media and in public debate. Yesterday, two historical anniversaries were ‘celebrated’ with such discussions – one at the international level and another one in my home country Finland. I will start with the Day for Remembering the Victims of Holocaust and the Nazi Regimes.

What does the the Day for Remembering (Gedenktag) stand for?

As an expatriate Finn living in Germany I have got used to the German culture of remembering the atrocities of the Nazi regime and showing solidarity to the victims. Many TV-channels show documentary films that give insights into the dark history and into the role of different societal actors who were involved. One of the peak points has been the 27th of January – the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – the very place where the industrialisation of genocide and mass murders was brought to perfection.

Indeed, years and decades have passed from those dark days. Therefore, some people may think that one could leave that sad past behind. Some people may think that one could take a different view on the German military past – as if it were something separate from the genocide and mass murders of civilians of that time. And furthermore, migrants are coming to Germany from such areas in which the remembering of holocaust is not present.

This all has now been brought into discussion – once again – by the news updates and commentaries on the Day of Remembering. Below I have selected some examples that emphasise, how and why we need to keep the culture of remembering alive and ready to respond to whatever challenges.

The Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau as an advocate for the cause of the victims (also in the Internet)

My first example is the report of the leading German TV-channel ARD on the different activities of the Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. Whilst the museum emphasises the importance making your own impressions there, on site, they also keep an eye on the discussions in the media and Internet. And, when they see something inappropriate (from the perspective of the victims), the intervene. Read more from the report:

Auschwitz-Museum in sozialen MedienAnwalt der Opfer im Netz

Insights into historical facts as means to challenge the present-date antisemitism

The reason why I emphasise the active engagement of the museum in Auschwitz is the worrying tendency in Germany and elsewhere towards antisemitic violence and hatred vis-à-vis Jewish people. To some extent this is connected to the right-wing populist movement in Germany but to some extent also to migration from the Middle East or from Eastern Europe. Here it is not my intention to make false generalisations. Instead, I want to emphasise the importance of a culture of remembering and solidarity for the victims. To me the following contributions of the radio channel Deutschlandfunk bring this to the point:

Letzte Briefe von NS-Opfern vor dem Tod (Last letters from the victims of Nazis)

This report informs of an exhibition of the last letters of holocaust-victims to their relatives. It makes transparent the human beings and human lives that suddenly became victims of a brutal terror regime.

“Hass bekämpft man durch Bildung” (We have to fight against hatred with means of education)

This is an interview with the leading Jewish rabbi in Paris. He reflects on newer tendencies towards antisemitism, xenophobia and racism in Europe. But he also emphasises the achievements of intercultural education in promoting solidarity and understanding between people with different cultural backgrounds.

I think this is enough of this historical anniversary. To me it is important that the message of remembering and understanding is passed forward. As the Prime Minister of the German Federal State Thüringen, Bodo Ramelow has formulated it: “Never again means never again!” The lessons from the history have to be learned.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Chamber Music Festival Kuhmo 2017 and follow-up – Part Three: My follow-up of videos with Sergey Malov

December 21st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have reported on my/our cultural highlight of this year – the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, July 2017. This was a shared experience between my partner Johanna (who has been a regular visitor since the early days of the festival) and myself (a latterly joined ‘avec’ who has learned to appreciate the festival). In my first post I told of the background of the festival and provided insights into the highlights of the Kuhmo 2017 program. In my second post I told of the meeting point ‘Salakamari’ (Secret chamber) and of the early morning lectures by artists in this pop-up restaurant and conference room. Indeed, my Kuhmo experience this year changed me from a passive sympathiser to an enthusiastic follower. I needed to learn more of this great music played by this great artists – who pointed out to be very nice fellows in the Kuhmo neighbourhood. For various reasons my follow-up ‘project’ has mainly focused on the music and video performances of Sergey Malov – Meister Sergey, as I prefer to call him. Below I will present some main points what I have found of him in the internet and what I have learned of him.

Playing violin, viola and violoncello da spalla at the same time

As has been indicated in the previous posts, Meister Sergey plays three instruments – violin, viola and the baroc instrument violoncello da spalla at the same time. For many traditional representatives of classical music this is unusual, if not suspect. For Meister Sergey this is a challenge and enrichment, something similar to learning several languages. And thanks to modern film techniques, he has been able to make his point. Together with the film crew of the Louisiana Modern Art Museum in Humlebaek, Denmark, he has produced films in which he appears to be playing the three instruments parallel to two or more Sergeys – and the music is fully synchronised. Here we have a sample of such multiple presence while playing:

Crossing the boundaries between different cultures and genres – making the performance transparent

Another film production with the same Danish film crew from the Louisiana Modern Art Museum gave Meister Sergey and his French counterparts, the composer Guillaume Connesson and the pianist Jerome Ducrot, a chance to demonstrate, how cultural boundaries can be crossed. In the video interview Meister Sergey gives insights into the development of Connesson, his capability to combine French traditions and American influences. Sergey analyses the exemplary piece of music – The Songs of Atlantis by Connesson – to be played by him and Ducrot together. At the same time the film crew equips the musicians and their instruments with numerous cameras to detect their movements – their Handwerk – while playing. In this way, the theory of music, the aesthetic performance and the technical mastery have all been made transparent.

Playing Bach with violoncello da spalla in a very special ‘concert hall’ – Gashouder Amsterdam

One of the most fascinating video recordings with Meister Sergey was made by the project “All of Bach” of the Netherlands Bach Society. In this production Sergey has been invited to play the Cello Suite no. 6 in D major of Johann Sebastian Bach – but with violoncello da spalla. And the venue is quite special – an old gas depot that had been preserved and could be reused for a concert without audience. The production resulted in three videos. The first one is the complete performance of the Suite no. 6. In the second video Sergey analyses the piece of music and puts into discussion the hypothesis that it was in fact written for an instrument with five strings. He demonstrates in a lively way, how this makes more sense regarding the technique of playing it. Finally, in the third video he discusses his instrument, violoncello da spalla and its potentials. In these videos Sergey speaks his native Russian but the videos have either English or Dutch subtitles. Please follow the link to access this treasury: http://allofbach.com/en/bwv/bwv-1012/

The rediscovery of violoncello da spalla – and what you can do with it

The final video in this sample is the recording of an informal conversation between Meister Sergey and Dmitry Badiarov, the violin constructor who had built the violoncello da spalla for Sergey. At first they start jokingly discussing, what it means for a musician to be ‘tagged’ as a specialist of a rare instrument. But then, when getting to the subject matter, they bring into picture evidence that some baroc compositions were explicitly written either for ‘viola da gamba’ or ‘da spalla’. If these two instruments were considered as equal options at that time, the present date musicians should explore the treasury written for viola da gamba also with violoncello da spalla. And having agreed on this, the friends of old then give a demonstration by playing together. And clearly the motto was ‘happy together’. Follow the link below and enjoy it as well:

https://www.facebook.com/violoncellodaspalla/videos/1360640140711419/

– – –

I think this is enough of the learning journey that I have had after the  Kuhmo event. I notice that I have not mentioned the records of Meister Sergey or the video recordings of his concerts. More information is available on his website http://sergeymalov.com/ or on his professional facebook page. As far as I am concerned, I have learned a lot with this follow-up of the magnificent Kuhmo experience.

And with this blog post I wish you all a happy Christmas time and a good slide to the new year 2018!

More blogs to come (next year) …

Chamber Music Festival Kuhmo 2017 and follow-up – Part Two: The fascination of the “Salakamari”

December 21st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog I started a series of posts looking back at the highlights of the year 2017 – and this time with a focus on the cultural highlights starting from the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival 2017. In my previous post I told of the background of this festival and how it became – against odds – a success story. I also told, how this particular festival in the year 2017 became a special event for us and what kind of highlights were performed on the stage. But, I also hinted that the concerts were not all that mattered in the Kuhmo experience. This brings us to the phenomenon ‘Salakamari’.

The meeting point Salakamari (Secret chamber) and its attraction

Indeed, a major ingredient in the Kuhmo atmosphere was the meeting point “Salakamari” – a pop-up restaurant built into an old barnhouse. In the evenings it served as the restaurant and it had an outdoor bar area with a open campfire. In the mornings Salakamari served as a pop-up conference facility. For each day there was a short opening lecture on the theme of the day by one of the artists. And this was accompanied by a short performance of music – eventually with guest artists. Below we have some pictures of these Salakamari sessions.

Kuhmo Salakamari 1  Kuhmo Salakamari 2

The Salakamari lecture 1: Information and impressions delivered by Sergey Malov

These early morning lectures at Salakamari turned out to be exciting sessions and the artists made their best as presenters and performers. My first experience was the lecture of Sergey Malov, who had already shown that he is a virtuoso as violinist (see my previous post). But in Salakamari he demonstrated that he is an accomplished music teacher who can reveal the secrets of music to beginners just as well as to students who want to become professionals. Sergey told about his own background and of his education in Russia, Austria and Germany – and how he refused to make an exclusive choice between violin and viola, then to add the baroc instrument violoncello da spalla to his instruments. He told us of the composers, whose music he is currently playing – and put them into group picture of predecesors, contemporaries and successors. In this way we got a feeling for continuity and development in a musical genre – not just insights into particular pieces of music. (This is also what he has delivered in his records – putting Paganini into context or even more: putting Ysaÿe into context.) Concerning the Kuhmo festival, he praised the opportunity for artists to come together, play together and try something different together. Also he emphasised the opportunity for younger artists to take more challenging roles. And indeed, he gave us an analysis on the next concert and a recommended us to join him and go to listen to it. As I said it, the great artist also proved to be a great educator and analyst – chapeau, Meister Sergey!

The video below was not exactly the music that Meister Sergey  played there, but it has probably been filmed in Kuhmo:

The Salakamari lecture 2: Daniel Rowland with guests and stories from the Netherlands and Argentina

My other great experience in Salakamari was with the English-Dutch violinist Daniel Rowland as the host. Indeed, he told something of himself and his background, growing up in a bilingual family in the Netherlands. And he had also a story, how he got attracted to Kuhmo and became fascinated. But he had also brought guests with him and with his guests he had special memories of playing together. The first guest was the Italian guitar player Alberto Mesirca and they played together Paganini. The story behind was that they had been playing in the Netherlands and a film crew insisted that they should play in the middle of a tulip field. And the artists obeyed, as we can see from the video below:

But then Alberto had to leave for the airport and gave way for the other guest, the Argentinian bandonion-player Marcelo Nisinman. And with Marcelo there had been a similar outdoor-performing session, again with a Dutch film crew but now in Kuhmo. The film crew wanted to have the musicians playing just before midnight, yet in daylight, at the lakeside. And again, the artists obeyed although they were surrounded by armies of Nordic mosquitoes. There were quite few also in Salakamari, when they played again, but not as many as you can see on the video below.

Well, we enjoyed the stories and the music. But Daniel topped it up by telling how Marcello got acquainted with the gran maestro Astor Piazzolla and invited Marcelo to tell more. So, the session became quite a learning journey delivering us influences and inspirations from here and there and everywhere. We gladly accepted Daniel’s characterisation of the festival as the “Planet Kuhmo” with its own atmosphere as a special place for encounters. Hartelijk bedankt, Meester Daniel!

– – –

I guess this is already enough of the encounters in Kuhmo and in the Salakamari sessions. It was quite an inspiration and I started my personal follow-up, tracing websites and communicating on Facebook. But that is already another story to be covered by my next post.

More blogs to come …

 

Chamber Music Festival Kuhmo 2017 and follow-up – Part One: Highlights of the Kuhmo program

December 20th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year I managed to start my holiday break early enough and with a firm decision to leave the work-related issues to the year 2018. Yet, little by little, the feeling creeps into your mind that you should say something about the highlights of the year 2017 that is soon coming to an end. And this time, it is clear, I need to report on a special cultural experience – our visit at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival 2017 – and how I turned into a passionate fan of classical music and of certain artists. And suddenly I find myself having a new priority area when writing updates on Facebook. But let’s start with Kuhmo and the festival and what it is all about.

Kuhmo … ? And Chamber Music Festival in Kuhmo …?

Once upon a time – over 40 years ago – a Finnish top musician Seppo Kimanen, who had already become an international celebrity, had a crazy dream. He thought of setting up a chamber music festival in such a remote place that the artists will come for a week or two without having a temptation to rush away after one or two performances. He looked at the map of Finland and found an ideal place – the municipality of Kuhmo in the Central North-East part of the country. Indeed, Kuhmo was remote from the ‘metropols’ of Southern Finland and of the relatively big cities of Northern Finland. It was remote from everything else except the Russian border, the wild woods and the nice lakeside landscapes near the centre of the municipality.

Kimanen managed to get the festival up and running and – after the difficult and ascetic beginning years it became a success story. Several years ago Kimanen handed over the responsibility to his successor, Vladimir Mendelssohn, an international musician, who is active in Finland. And in the course of the years faithful fans and committed artists have returned year by year and seen a marvellous concert hall being built to accommodate the main concerts, whilst part of the concerts are still going on in a school building, in the church and elsewhere in the region. Also, the Kuhmo experience has become a special concept, as the expression ‘the Kuhmo Planet’ indicates.

(This year the Dutch TV Channel produced a special program on Kuhmo in the series “Klasiek viert de zomer” following a Dutch couple and their ‘Kuhmo adventure’ . This program gives a lot of visual and musical insights into the life of festival tourists – and a lot of discussion in Dutch – have a look:

https://www.npo.nl/klassiek-viert-de-zomer/18-08-2017/VPWON_1274541)

For us – my partner Johanna and myself – Kuhmo has become a ‘must’ already long ago. Johanna, who comes originally from that region, has been a faithful fan of the first moments on. I have joined her later as an ‘avec’, who has gradually learned to enjoy the music. However, our participation had so far been based on commuting from the neighbouring Sotkamo and attending some selected concerts during one week. This has given some insights and impressions, but not much more. But this year we decided to take a ‘bigger package’. We took weekly tickets for both festival weeks and accommodation in the centre of Kuhmo. This enabled participation in a wider range of concerts and into other activities. And it provided us the possibility to follow the concerts with a focused approach.

Kuhmo 2017 – Highlights on the stage

For us, already one of the first concerts alerted us to something special that was coming up. The Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen (a renowned Beethoven-specialist) played together with the Russian violinist Sergey Malov (who was a new acquaintance to us) were playing Antonin Dvorak’s Sonatina in G. Op.100.  And it turned out to be an explosive show – two champions inspiring each other and getting the most and even more out of the masterpiece that they had chosen. But the ‘big bang’ was yet to come.

In a late evening concert shortly afterwards Sergey Malov was playing Caprices of Paganini – and how! He managed to stun us be his ‘entrée’ by having the stage darkened and only the front part of it lit with dim red lights that were gradually brightened. And then he appeared as ‘the man from the darkness’ and played the caprices in an unforgettable way.

To me (and to some friends of old who were also there) this brought into memory a scene in the Soviet-Moldavian film ‘Lautarii’ of the year 1972. In that scene a lautar (‘gypsy’) street-musician Toma Alistar has been smuggled to the house of a nobleman who is giving a concert on his premises and is clad like the professional musicians. The musicians start to play – in a routine-like way and the nobleman follows it with gestures of ‘dejà écoutée’. Then, the lights fall off and after a moment of chaos, Toma Alistar steps in from the darkness and plays the same music like a virtuoso. The lights reappear and the professional musicians join their new soloist. So much of the scene in the film. I managed to tell Sergey of this memory and then I found from Youtube the whole film as a Moldavian language version. At the same time Sergey had found it as a Russian language version – and seen the scene to which I referred. So, we had a common topic to discuss when we met every now and then. I got more interested of Sergey and he helped to find his CDs that were at sale and signed them for me. That was the start.

(This video was definitely not filmed in Kuhmo but it gives an impression of Sergey entering the stage and the sound of Paganini is exactly the same:

Another highlight on the great stage was the joint performance of the German-Turkish violinist Önder Baloglu and the Finnish pianist Marko Hilpo, who played a very challenging piece of music in a later concert – Darius Milhaud’s Cinéma-fantasie , Op. 58b “Le boeuf sur le toit” – with great success. A British music teacher next to us said that this was the first time he heard that piece played by only two musicians – and successfully. He characterised that as a high risk effort – if not suicidial. Later on Önder told that that was exactly how they had felt it – and the joy of success was great.

At a later phase, now in the church, there was a concert with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. One of the fascinations of that performance was that there were four female violinists as soloists for one of the seasons. Minna Pensola started with Spring in her explosive way, then Elina Vähälä continued with Summer in a more calm tempo to be followed by the similarly calm Autumn soloist Alissa Margulis and then by the explosive Winter soloist Priya Mitchell (who was filmed by the above mentioned Dutch film crew).

At the final phase we were deeply moved by the concert in which Daniel Rowland and his colleagues Hugo Ticciati, Gareth Lubbe and Julian Arp – the O/Modernt String Quartet – played Schubert’s “Der Tod und das Mädchen”. We had just received a very sad news and this quartet managed to do all in their powers to ease our sorrow.

– – –

To be sure, there were many more great performances. But these were  some of the striking moments that contributed to the very special Kuhmo experience. But it was not all about the concerts and on the performances of the artists on the stage. There is much more in the Kuhmo experience. I will try to illustrate some aspects in my next post.

More blogs to come …

 

Remembering Emma and her life-work

November 2nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week we got the sad news that our former colleague and Bremen-based friend Emma had passed away. She was never a person for great publicity or to make a great show of herself. On the contrary – she wanted to stay at the backstage without making fuss of herself, but always ready to help the others. Therefore, I just call her by her first name – to respect her privacy also now after she is gone. (The ones who knew her, are aware of whom I am writing – others will get a picture of a respectable person, even if they didn’t learn to know her.)

I firstly learned to know Emma when she joined ITB to support the Europrof project in the mid-1990s. The project was an ambitious transnational project that sought to reform the training of VET professionals with emphasis on ‘social shaping’ of work, technology and work environment. In this context the partners sought points of intervention and supporting ideas, how to bring innovations into move. Then, after this project Emma worked for the Forum network to bring together different thematic sub-nets (on changing institutions, changing labour markets, changing organisations, changing vocational identities etc.) to common work processes. Later on, she was also supporting some other ITB projects of which I have less information.

Emma had a degree from her home country but having entered Germany as an expatriate she was very modest about it. So, she preferred to work as an administrative assistant rather than looking for a a more visible role. Yet, her presence as a colleague was sensed when she was involved – and missed when she was not there.

Later on Emma chose to take another perspective for her life and withdraw from the work in our projects. This was a very private matter and therefore I will not go further with this topic. All I need to say is that in the new role that Emma opted for herself she was 100% present and even more.

Every now and then we managed to meet with friends of old from the European projects and it was always a pleasure to me and to others. Sometimes we also had the chance to experience, what kind of great cook she was.

Recently, when great numbers of refugees came to Germany – and also to Bremen – Emma engaged herself in teaching German language to refugees. As an expatriate who had learned the language fluently, she was in a good position to assess what kind of difficulties the newcomers were facing.

Emma was still young and active when she was hit by the disease that took her life. We all feel sorry for the loss of such a person and express our condolences to her beloved ones. I hope that the musical greetings of the grande mama Mercedes Sosa and her fellow artists (see the links below) pass a message to them! (And I hope that the videos are not littered by inappropriate commercials.)

Mercedes Sosa – Razón De Vivir

Mercedes Sosa – O Que Será

Mercedes Sosa – Jamás Te Olvidaré

Remembering David Raffe and his life-work – a special issue of Journal of Education and Work

November 2nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In February 2015 we received the sad news that professor David Raffe, a prominent educational sociologist and key actor in European vocational education and training (VET) research had passed away. At that time I wrote a blog in which I remembered his contribution to European projects and to the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Shortly afterwards David’s closest colleagues contacted my with the idea to prepare a special issue of a journal to highlight David’s work and the legacy he has left.

Now, after some time has passed since that communication, our work has been completed and the results have been published as

 Journal of Education and Work, 2017 VOL . 30, NO . 7

The special issue provides insights into David’s fields of work and into his contributions to the research communities as well as to dialogue between researchers and policy makers. And the very special way in which David engaged himself in these activities is reflected in the headings of the articles, such as the following:

Bridging divides – social science, educational policy and the improvement of education and training systems: an appreciation the contribution of David Raffe (1950–2015) by Cathy Howieson, Ken Spours and Michael Young

To know ourselves? Research, data and policy-making in the Scottish education system by Cathy Howieson and Linda Croxford

English exceptionalism re-visited: divergent skill strategies across England and Scotland by Ewart Keep

What does it mean to conduct research into qualifications frameworks? by Stephanie Allais

This was not a complete table of contents but a sample of articles with headings that remind me of David’s way to tackle issues and problems very deeply – not accepting simple interpretations and seemingly obvious solutions.

My contribution to this special issue had the following title

Learning from Europe and for Europe with David Raffe – insights into early years of European cooperation in vocational education and training research

I hope that this heading speaks for the content and for the memories of David as a fellow colleague and a fellow European in the exercise of learning from each other and contributing to knowledge development at the European level.

I am pleased to see that this piece of work is now available and that we have managed to give insights into David as a person, into his work and into the legacy he has left.

More blogs to come …

Reformationstag (500th anniversary) – Reformation quergedacht (radio program of DLF)

October 31st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today the whole Germany (all Länder – the Federal States) celebrate “Reformationstag” the 500th anniversary of the date when Martin Luther published his 95 theses against selling of indulgences (Ablasshandel). And, as we know, this episode that was supposed to be a starting point for a dialogue within the Roman catholic church, then led to the divide between the catholic and protestant churches. Recently – in particular in Germany – we have seen that the relations between the two churches that were once bitter enemies have become friendly neighbourhood relations. This has become manifest in several events, joint campaigns and at the level of everyday life. This much of the general background.

What strikes me now with this anniversary, is how it has been taken up in the German media. In particular I have been fascinated by the radio channel “Deutschlandfunk (DLF)” and its special program “Reformation quergedacht”. With this program the journalists of DLF have visited their regular programs with special inputs on the Lutheran reformation – in the past and in the present day life. Below I want to share insights into some episodes of this cross-cutting special program.

Episode 1: Interview with Bodo Ramelow – left-wing politician and practicing Christian

The first episode that I picked of this program was the interview with the prime minister of the Federal State of Thüringen, Bodo Ramelow. This electrified me, since Ramelow is the first )and so far the only) head of a regional government from the left-wing party Die Linke. His political biography is also interesting, since he is originally a West-German trade union official who moved to East-Germany after the reunification to help to set up the trade union structures. Politically he represented the breakaway left-wing alliance (WASG) of Oskar Lafontaine, who left the social democratic party (SPD). Later on WASG merged with the East-German party PDS (the successor of the old communist party). In this process Ramelow was one of the facilitators. Later on he became a very popular prime minister in his Federal State Thüringen. In this program he tells how his life and work as politician has been charcterised by the fact that he is an active member of the Lutheran church. Below you find the link to the full text of the recorded interview:

Bodo Ramelow: “Der Glaube ist prägend für mein Leben”

Episode 2: Insights into the past and present of the Evangelic Church in Transylvania (Romania)

A very special story is presented in the episode that reports of the traditional Evangelic-Lutheran church in Transylvania, the area that has been for centuries inhabited (among others) by a German population  – the so-called “Siebenbürger Sachcsen”. As this episode tells, they joined the reformation quite early and it became dominant in their communities. Due to the conquest of that area (at that time part of Hungary) and the long rule by Turkey, these communities could maintain their cultural traditions, their language and their faith. There was no pressure to convert them to islam nor to catholicism. After the 1st World War this area became part of Romania and after the 2nd World War it was under the Communist rule. The program gives insights into these turns of history as well as into the life in post-revolution era in Romania. Below you find the link to this fascinating story – based on field visits and talks with German-speaking key actors of the local parishes:

Der Islam beflügelte die Reformation

Episode 3: And where are the women in the picture of the Lutheran reformation?

Und wo bleiben die Frauen?

Episode 4: The twofold Katharina

Die doppelte Katharina

The two last mentioned episodes are linked together since they focus on a common issue – the marginalisation of women in the traditional history of reformation. In order to give a better insight into the role of women in the reformation movement the Bonner Frauenmuseum (the special museum for highlighting women’s contribution to history) has set up a special exhibition to fill some gaps. Firstly the journalists discuss the general picture with a representative of the museum and with a female theologian (Episode 3) and then they continue with the special section on Katharina von Bora, the wife of Martin Luther (Episode 4). With these two episodes we get a lot of corrective information on the role of active women of that time.

– – –

I guess this is enough of this special day (Reformationstag) and on the very special radio program (Reformation quergedacht). I felt that these inputs were the appropriate way for me to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation. I don’t think that my blog would be the best place to explore the religious disputes around this anniversary. Nor did I want to explore the impact of reformation on my home country Finland and its Scandinavian neighbours. This time I wanted to share the interesting insights provided by the program “Reformation quergedacht”.

More blogs to come …

 

Rainer Bremer in Memoriam

March 6th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of January we received the sad news that our ITB and VETNET colleague Rainer Bremer had passed away after a difficult phase with severe illnesses. Three days ago he would have celebrated his 65th birthday, but now he is gone. It has taken some time to get my thoughts together on this fact. After all, I have known Rainer since 1993 when I was still working as a junior researcher in Finland and building contacts with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung, University of Bremen). Shortly afterwards I changed to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and in that contexts worked together with several EU-funded projects – and Rainer was involved in some of them. Then, from 2005 I have been working in ITB and Rainer has been one of veterans of ITB who continued all these years with national, European and international projects.

Below I try to bring together some memories of Rainer from different phases of our research careers. In particular I would like to focus on our encounters in project work and in the many ECER events (European Conference on Educational Research) in which Rainer was prominently present from the early years on.

Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and other similar pilot projects

I learned to know Rainer shortly after he had started in ITB and in the accompanying research team of the pilot project Schwarze Pumpe (wissenschaftliche Begleitung der Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe). This pilot project focused on promoting dually oriented qualifications – acquisition of regular vocational qualification and university entrance qualification (Fachhochschulreife) – without extension of education and training time. Rainer was responsible for accompanying the school part of the pilot, Hans-Dieter Höpfner for the workplace part, and Gerald Heidegger for the management of the accompanying research altogether.

During my first years at Cedefop I had the pleasure to attend some of the interim events of this pilot. In particular I was impressed by the integrated projects that some teams of vocational school teachers and in-company trainers had planned together – involving apprentices from different trades. And I was pleased with the way that the accompanying researchers brought these pedagogic achievements forward. In particular this was the case with nation-wide conference of similar German pilot projects, coordinated by MV Schwarze Pumpe. It struck me that Rainer (from West-Germany) and Hans-Dieter (from East-Germany) could bring together pilot projects that highlighted best practice from West and East (relatively shortly after the German unification).

European projects on parity of esteem and dually oriented qualifications

In the first phase of the EU action programme for vocational education – Leonardo da Vinci – the themes ‘parity of esteem between general and vocational education’ and ‘integrated qualifications’ were high on the priority lists. Therefore, it was no wonder that the MV Schwarze Pumpe was represented in two Leonardo projects:

  • The project “Post-16 strategies” compared different systemic/institutional strategies for promoting attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) and reducing the status gaps between VET and general education. The project came up with a mapping result that identifies four main strategies from institutional unification (intergerated upper secondary education) to enhancement of VET within existing institutional frameworks.
  • The project “Intequal” provided insights into different curricular models or schemes that promoted integration of general/academic and vocational learning. This project sought to give insights into the possibilities to integrate the parallel learning cultures at the level of practical pedagogic solutions.

During their work the two projects developed close cooperation with each other – and ITB (with MV Schwarze Pumpe as its exemplary case) was prominently present in this cooperation. Rainer and Gerald rotated with each in the meetings and were involved in the bilateral study visits of ‘Post-16 strategies’ (that involved practitioners from Germany and Norway to mutual visits on each others’ pilot venues). Also, I remember the discussions in which Rainer explained to other partners the meaning of the concept ‘Beruflichkeit’ (and the kind of vocational professionalism to which it refers in German education, training and working cultures). Somehow, all other colleagues had failed to go that deep into cultural core concepts. At the end of the day the concluding event of the MV Schwarze Pumpe incorporated also a Cedefop-hosted European seminar in which the European partners could familiarise themselves with the results of the German pilot project.

The classical ITB pilot projects (Modellversuche) GoLo, GAB and GaPa

Partly parallel to the above mentioned projects, partly after them ITB experienced a period of outstanding pilot projects (Modellversuche – MV) in the context of or parallel to national innovation programs:

  • The first one in the series was MV GoLo in the Wilhelmshaven region. It tried to turn the declining tendency in providing apprentice training by encouraging the companies and vocational schools to launch workplace learning partnerships. However, alongside the organisational innovations that made such cooperation attractive, the project supported joint domain-specific workshops to promote quality of vocational curricula and mutual adjustment. In this context the workshops highlighted the role of characteristic working and learning tasks (Lern- und Arbeitsaufgaben). Rainer was not personally involved in the GoLo project but he was keenly involved in the further develoment work with the concept ‘working and learning tasks’.
  • The second one in the series was MV GAB that was implemented at different production sites of Volkswagenwerk. It had the task to develop a new integrative framework for occupational core qualifications and competences for the automotive industries. Rainer was in charge of the accompanying research team and took further steps in developing the concept of Expert-Worker-Workshops (Ex-Wo-Wos) and the curricular embedding of working and learning tasks.
  • The third one, the regional MV GaPa in Nordrhein-Westfalen can be seen as a transfer-project that was built upon the regional networking approach of GoLo and on the pedagogic work in the GAB project. Rainer was in charge of the first phase of the project before moving to other tasks.

Here it is worthwhile to note that the wording ‘outstanding’ does not necessarily mean that all these pilots were success stories – or that successful practice in the pilot contexts would have been easily transferable to other contexts. Yet, they represented a phase of intensive concept development work that had an impact on many successor activities. Moreover, I need to add that Rainer had also other research interests at that time. He was developing cooperation between ITB and our friends in Oldenburg on school-to work transition. And I still remember that he had a project on integration of disadvantaged learners in VET in the area of Braunschweig.

European cooperation with projects focusing on trans-national production of Airbus and Volkswagen

After the above mentioned pilot projects Rainer worked with a new generation of pilot projects that focused on the trans-national production process of Airbus and the role of vocational education and training. Firstly there was a conceptual study EVABCOM (a conceptually and methodologically oriented forerunner project cooperation between ITB, the French CEREQ and the University of Stirling). Then two trans-national projects – AEROnet and Aero-VET brought into picture trans-national partnerships that covered the countries in which Airbus had production (Germany, France, Spain, UK). The point of interest was the contradiction between the fact that Airbus had a mutually coordinated production process BUT the VET cultures in the participating countries remained different. As I have understood it, the consortium focused in the first project on analysing the working and learning tasks of apprentices in different countries. In the second project the consortium explored the usability of European credit transfer framework (ECVET) across the countries. (Here I am not going into details of the projects or into the results – I just want to give a picture of different milestones during Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher.)

Parallel to the start of the Airbus-project Rainer had also worked with the VW Group sites in Czech Republic and Slovakia (producing Skoda) – introducing Expert-Worker-Workshops to the new sites of the VW Group. So, Rainer was working on several international fronts. And alongside his project-related cooperation he was keen on developing the bilateral relations between ITB and CEREQ (the French national centre for research on VET and labour market).

Rainer, ECER and the VETNET community

As has been indicated above, Rainer was involved in several transnational projects and consortia. Therefore, it was natural that he was also prominently present in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). In particular I remember his project-related contributions to ECER 2004 in Crete (the VW-Group pilots and the development of Expert-Worker-Workshops) and the subsequent AEROnet and Aero-VET related symposia in the ECER conferences after Crete.

But Rainer was also engaged as a keynote speaker and/or as a keynote panelist in the opening colloquia of the VETNET network at some ECER conferences. In particular in 2004 (in Crete) Rainer was the keynote speaker to start discussion on the question: “Should the field of VET have an international PISA study of its own kind?” There, Rainer defended the ITB position that there should be an alternative to PISA that pays attention to vocational learning and to vocational progression routes. The other panelist, Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu presented a fundamental critique of the methodology used in PISA studies and of the PISA apparatus itself. Unfortunately the two positions couldn’t be matched with each other in the discussion – although they both represented an alternative approach vis-à-vis the official PISA. But the debate – moderated by the VETNET program chair Nikitas Patiniotis – was intensive and inspiring.

In ECER 2006, in Geneva, Rainer was also involved in the VETNET opening colloquium. This time the VETNET program chair Barbara Stalder had invited the grand old man of Swiss VET research, professor Rolf Dubs to present a keynote lecture on recent developments in Swiss VET policies and research. And as discussants, responding to the keynote speech, Barbara had engaged Annie Boudér from CEREQ and Rainer Bremer from ITB. Without going into details of that session it is worthwhile to note that ITB (in general) and Rainer (in particular) were interested in learning more of the Swiss VET culture in which apprentice training was valued much higher than in several other European countries. Also, Rainer was keen to learn more about the French concept ‘Baccalaureate professionelle’ which was considered asa successful model in opening a vocational progression route after the initial VET.

Rainer, the uneasy intellectual and independent thinker

I guess that I have already covered the main milestones of Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher (at least the ones of which I have personal memories). However, the picture would be incomplete if I wouldn’t characterise Rainer as a special personality – more than just a colleague among others. Firstly, Rainer was an academic scholar with a manifold background in philosophy, social theory and educational sciences. Secondly, Rainer had seriously worked himself in into the field of research in VET and working life – and he valued this context greatly. Thirdly, he was a critical thinker through and through – or as the Germans express it: “mit Ecken und Kanten”. So, Rainer was always looking for deep insights – something solid to build upon. And he was never satisfied with halfway thought platitudes that had not gone through critical examination. Also, he was very clear about his priorities – and on what he didn’t include to them. Yet, he had always his intellectual curiosity and his intellectual humour with him – as fellow travellers. And many colleagues remember his manifold cultural interests – literature and poetry, music from classic to pop and jazz, photography – and not to forget: driving fast with his favourite Citroen car.

Finally, I have chosen a piece of music which could be related to his memory: George Dalaras singing the melody of Mikis Theodorakis “Old streets” in the open-air concert on Athens Acropolis to celebrate the 70th birthday of the composer. (Please note that I am not responsible for eventual advertisements popping up with the link.)

We miss Rainer but we will remember, what he stood for.

Farewell Rainer, we will carry on …

 

Hyvää Kalevalan päivää 28.2. – Happy Kalevala Day February 28th

February 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I have not made great noises about my Finnish nationality. And it has never crossed my mind to to start blogging in my own language – after all, I have been working several years as a European researcher (using English as the working language). However, this year – the year 2017 – is something different. Finland is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its independence (I have already blogged on this after the 99th Independence Day 2016).  And today, on the 28th of February we celebrate Kalevala – our national saga. So, this calls for a little explanation on the importance of Kalevala for our nation-building and on the circumstances in which it was created.

Finland in the 19th century – the search for Finnish national identity and Finnish national saga

During the Napoleon wars in the 19th century Sweden lost Finland to Russia. Since the wars were going on elsewhere in Europe, Russia was inclined to integrate the new province in a smooth way. So Finland was granted the status of an autonomous Grand-Duchy and the Russian Czar adopted the title Grand-Duke of Finland as well. Finland could keep the old Swedish legislation and govern itself as before – now showing loyality to the new rulers. This could be settled rather easily.

Yet, for the language, culture and national identity this transition was a challenge. So far the educated classes had spoken Swedish and tried to integrate with the elites of the Swedish motherland, whilst Finnish had remained as a language of uneducated. Now, Russian language came into picture as the language of the new rulers. The educated classes faced the question – how to position themselves in the new situation. A new movement emerged with the motto: “We are no longer Swedes, we don’t want to become Russians – let us be Finns!”

And as a part of this movement several hobby-folklorists started to roam around the rural areas to collect old folklore runes and songs to compile the new nation in making its national saga. The leading person in this movement was Elias Lönnroth who collected a huge amount of folklore and edited the national saga “Kalevala”. This saga tells of the arcaic ‘motherland region’ of Finland – Kalevala and of the ancient heroes of the past. Strangely enough, most of these heroes were tragic or tragicomic characters and this was explicit in the stories. (Perhaps the ancient Finns were kinsmen of Kaurismäki.)

The Kalevala runes

As usual with ancient folklore, the stories were told as runes or sung as songs, With Kalevala, the metrics were similar as Ilias and Odyssey: the Kalevala-trokee. Therefore, the obligatory Kalevala-reading at schools has been a challenge for the younger generations. So, it has been easier to pick the tradition via shortcut-versions of particular versions, modern-styled movies with ancient characters or cartoon-versions with dog-shaped humans portraying the Kalevala characters.

But enough with the explanations – let us give sample of Kalevala poetry! Below I start with an original quote (the first verses of Kalevala). Then I continue with a self-styled Kalevala Day greeting (bringing the main Kalevala characters and their contributions together). And to be sure – this all will be in Finnish. And to pick metric, I have hyphenated the first verses. Enjoy it!

Mie-le-ni mi-nun te-ke-vi, ai-vo-ni ajat-te-levi,
lähte-ä-ni lau-la-ma-han, saa’ani sa-ne-le-mahan,
suku-virttä suolta-ma-han, laji-virttä lau-la-mahan …

Väinämöisen kanteleista, Ilmarisen ahjoista,
joukahaisen jousesta, Lemminkäisen miekasta,
Kullervon kirouksesta, Aino-neidon kohtalosta …

Mutta toki muistanemme, mielessämme kantanemme
Ilmattaren aikojen alusta – Väinämöisen kantajan,
Pohjan Akan mahtavan – Kalevalaisten pelkäämän,
Pohjan Tytin kaunokaisen – Ilmarisen emännän,
Lemminkäisen äidin huolen – poikansa pelastajan,
Sekä meidän Marjatan, jolle poika puolukasta.

Näistä kertoo Kalavala, Suomen kansan tarina,
juhlapäivä tänään on, juhlavuosi verraton!

– – –

This was my contribution to the Kalevala Day celebration on this special jubilation year of Finland. I think I will get back to topics like this later on this year.

More blogs to come …

Celebrating the Finnish children’s favourite TV program “Pikku Kakkonen” – 40 years and more

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

On my blog I have not dealt so much with my home country Finland – given that I have worked since 1994 most of the time elsewhere in Europe. During our EU-funded Learning Layers project I found several occasions to address some developments in Finland as impulses for the project work (e.g. developments in apprentice training and the ‘sustainability commitments’  in education, training and economy). Last December I felt the need to write about the Finnish independence, now that Finland is celebrating its 100th independence day in the coming December. In this respect I will picking more Finnish issues to celebrate during this year.

And just now I have a perfect case – the 40th anniversary of the most popular and sustainable children’s TV program – Pikku Kakkonen (Tiny 2-er). Today I watched the special TV program “Postilokero 347” (P.O. Box 347) in its full length and was amazed what all this program could report on the history, characters, contributors, feedback etc. Here I give the link to the program (made in Finnish for Finnish children) and then try to describe what all I learned.

Postilokero 347 – 40-vuotiaan Pikku Kakkosen tarina

The song “Pikku Kakkosen posti”: The TV-program invited children to send drawings and other post and the postal address was presented as a song that was performed by children. And this special program was started with this very song  – performed by several groups of children at different times. (And they all enjoyed it.)

The initial start of the program: Some of the founders had already been involved in making an earlier children’s program for the Finnish TV 2 but it had been based on a British format and was scripted in the UK. In this context they came to the conclusion that they could develop a program with their own format and with Finnish content and Finnish-initiated characters. Of course, they were also looking for contents and impulses from other countries. But on the whole Pikku Kakkonen was a Finnish design (from TV 2 and Tampere).

Some key characters and program elements: The program was composed of short elements glued together by the moderators. A special feature was to bring hand puppet animals as partners of the moderators. The most popular was Ransu the dog and his two mates Riku and Eno-Elmeri (together known as Karvakuonot – Furry Noses). Sometimes they were also making special outdoor visits (e.g. boat trips on the nearby lake or visiting police stations or fire brigade stations). From Poland the program borrowed Teddy Hangor (Nalle Luppakorva) and his animal friends. From DDR the program got its Sandman to start and to conclude the sleepy time tale (that was told by a famous Finnish actor – male or female). One of the most popular slots was that of the Circus clown Hermanni – announced either as Hermanni’s clown school (Hermannin pellekoulu) or as Hermanni’s hotline (Hermannin hätäapu). And all kinds of children’s concerns could be dealt by the sympathetic, shy and clumsy clown who was speaking directly to (fictive) kids somewhere in Finland and commenting their (fictive) answers.

Special excursions: The very special initiatives were to send a moderator with Ransu the dog to visit Leningrad in the 1980s – just to give insights into everyday life of children in Soviet Union (avoiding all kinds of ideological ornaments). Later on the same moderator and Ransu visited Berlin – and wondered why the people had got into such bad terms with each other that some got the idea to build the wall. Ransu made the point that they should learn to get along with each other so that no such walls would be needed. This was in the autumn 1989 – and by chance: the wall was opened next week (and the moderator and Ransu could add this delightful news as a PS to their travel report. Later on another moderator went with Ransu to interview the presidents of republic about their childhood memories or relations to their pet animals.

Echo from kids and families with kids: This special program presents several episodes in which city kids and rural kids rush to watch Pikku Kakkonen when the program starts – and the parents can count that the kids will focus entirely on the program the next half an hour. And in many cases this had gone from one generation to another. BUT even more striking was that in the 1980s Pikku Kakkonen had been the ‘window to west’ for the Soviet Estonian children and their families. And for Estonian children of that time it was easy to learn Finnish just watching the program.

Echo from other viewers: It was fascinating to hear a special fan – a severely disabled and blind man who had suffered from his disease from his childhood on – to tell that he had been able to follow the program very well in spite of his blindness – the program was sufficiently conversational and had a lot of music. But it appeared that the program is also popular in elderly people’s homes – it brings the children to the inhabitants of these homes (even if they may not have grandchildren of their own). And – what was striking to me – Pikku Kakkonen has become popular among the refugee families in Finland and a key facilitator of the language learning of their children at pre-school or school age. This became apparent in the talks with a Syrian family (in Arabic) and their children (in Finnish).

And finally, at the end of the celebration program “Postilokero 347” I was inspired to hear the current bedtime storyteller of Pikku Kakkonen present the Grimm brothers’ story of Bremen town musicians (Bremer Stadtmusikanten). That made me happy in my present location – in Bremen.

– – –

I guess this is enough to give a picture of Pikku Kakkonen, its history, key characters and impact. If you want to learn more, just click the link and make your own observations! I was overwhelmed by memories of the childhood of my kids (that we shared with Pikku Kakkonen in the 1980s). And I was surprised to learn what all came after those years (when we grew out of Pikku Kakkonen but the program moved on). Congratulations, Pikku Kakkonen – years and more!

More blogs to come (but on other topics)

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