Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

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 …

Eine folgenreiche Reise – Martin Luther King in Deutschland

January 17th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

On Monday 16.01.2017 the Americans celebrated once again Martin Luther King Day as a national holida. With this blog entry I join with my belated congratulations the ones who respect his legacy by sharing my experiences as a radio-listener in Germany. On Sunday morning – the day before – I happened to listen to the radio program “Am Sonntag morgen” (on Sunday morning) – this time provided by the German Lutheran church. And it was a special program about the travels of Marin Luther King Sr and Jr in Germany. Inspired by the program I started a blog entry but had to stop just after the introduction and only share the link to the audio recording. But I made a commitment that I will continue writing the blog and give more information, why the travel of Martin Luther King Jr to Germany and Berlin in 1964 was a travel with consequences.  Here the link:

Eine folgenreiche Reise. Martin Luther King in Deutschland

Now, after several busy days at work (I will report) I have found time to keep my promise. So, let me give some clues why the travel(s) of Martin Luther King(s) can be characterised as trips with consequences.

Let us start with the father – Martin Luther King Sr. He was originally called Michael – and so was his son. But in the year 1935 he and some other baptist preachers attended an international baptist conference in Berlin. The Nazis were already in power and tried to make an image as tolerant rulers allowing such events to happen. But this was not the point of this story. King Sr (still called Michael) took the opportunity to visit the home places of the reformer Martin Luther (Wittenberg and Eisenach). There he got very much impressed of the spirit of Martin Luther – civil courage and self-determination – and he wanted to convey this spirit to the American civil rights movement where he was already involved. So, after returning home he renamed himself and his son as Martin Luther King – Senior and Junior.

The son – Martin Luther King Jr – follows in the footsteps of the father and continues his work as a preacher, intellectual and activist in the civil rights movement. By the year 1963 he had become world famous as the leader of the non-violent civil rights movement of black Americans – the man who gave the speech “I have a dream …” in the largest demonstration for civil rights. One year after – in 1964 (nearly 30 years after his father) he travels to Europe to participate in the international conference of baptists (this time in Amsterdam). And just like his father, he has his own extension program to explore Germany – but his target is the divided Berlin.

Little is known of this part of the travel of Martin Luther King – and mostly we thank for our knowledge a Berlin school pupils’ documentation project “King Code”. What this project has found out by interviewing witnesses and tracing documents makes us clear, why the details of this visit were kept secret.

On 13.09.1964 a well-known person from the German Democratic Republic (DDR) tries to escape to West-Berlin and is shot at just before he reaches the other side. An American sergeant risks a lot by dragging the wounded person to the Western side and takes him to the hospital. Martin Luther King gets to know of the incident, visits the place of shooting and visits the victim at the hospital. In his famous speech at the Waldbühne he predicts that the wall- the symbol of inhumanity for him – will fall down. But he wants to do more – he insists to visit East Berlin as well. The American authorities wanted to prevent this and confiscate his passport but he manages to get through the border control with his credit card as a travel document.

Thanks to the above mentioned school project we can listen to witnesses and an audio recording of the speech of Martin Luther King in the crowded Marienkirche (and memories of another speech in the nearby Sophienkirche). King presents his audience greetings from America and from all over the world. He then emphasises that people on both sides of the Berlin Wall ar e children of God and thus alike as human beings – and therefore, no regime can take that quality away from them. He speaks of justice, equality and civil rights – determined that that the path leads to freedom. Three months later he receives the Nobel Price for Peace and continues his work in the civil right movement.  Sadly, King was murdered some years later but his life work became know everywhere. And so, for the civil rights movement in DDR his message was present when they demonstrated for freedom and justice with the message for non-violence: “Keine Gewalt!” And in November 1989 the Berlin Wall and the borders of DDR were opened – another dream to come true.

In 2013 the activists of the school project “King Code” had the pleasure to witness the visit of the first black president of the USA to Berlin and to listen to his speech. Barack Obama spoke for open-mindedness between different religions as well as between residents and migrants. And in the spirit of Martin Luther King he emphasised that injustice at one place on earth is a threat to other places as well. In this respect he passed the message further to the young generation.

– – –

I think this is enough of this radio program. Please note that the content was provided by Andrea Schneider for Deutschlandfunk as a contribution of the Evangelic Lutheran church, whilst the translations above were my private efforts to convey the message in English. I hope that I did justice to the program and to the legacy of Martin Luther King. Please find more information on the program here:

http://rundfunk.evangelisch.de/kirche-im-radio/am-sonntagmorgen/eine-folgenreiche-reise-8611

I was pleased to do my bit to give some insights into it and to the message tha has even more actuality now. But from now on I will get beck to my ‘working and learning’ themes.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

 

Time to tap the breaks?

January 15th, 2017 by Graham Attwell


Graham Brown Martin talks about Personalised Learning. Does #EdTech personalise, individualise or standardise, he asks? “In the age of big data and learning analytics, are we seeing Taylor’s ideas – masquerading as progressive “personalized learning” – forced upon unwitting education systems where all that matters is the what rather than the why?” And he says that despite the fact he is not anti technology it may be time to “tap the breaks”.

The end of the Obama era – the great Obama moments

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I wrote from a personal point of view on the coming of a new era. But, of course from a global point of view I have a stronger reason to use the expression ‘change of era’ when referring to the end of the Obama presidency in the USA. It is not my habit to comment the politics of other countries on my blog. Therefore, I will not make comments on Obama’s successor and what to expect of his presidency. What I want to do at this point is to celebrate the outgoing statesman and the special Obama moments during his years of service as the president. Much of this has been written and will be written elsewhere. So I limit my remarks to personal experiences and to observations on recent events.

Barack Obama gets elected and re-elected

Strangely enough, I find it difficult to retrieve my memories from the time when Obama was elected for the first time in 2008. Somehow there were too many things going on that I didn’t quite pick the momentum. Of course, Obama had impressed me with the “Yes we can” but yet I was waiting for him and his popular movement to show where this enthusiasm brings him and his administration. Yet, I do remember the politically correct gesture of the good loser, senator McCain when he announced that he had had the honour to congratulate Obama as the next president. (And already at that time the republicans showed that they are poor losers by greeting McCain with angry boo-shouts.)

Far more strongly I experienced the re-election of Obama in 2012. I was on other duties in Berlin and then continuing from there to Barcelona to attend the Learning Layers kick-off meeting. The elections in the USA took place on the very night that I spent in a hotel in Berlin before my morning flight to Barcelona. At this time there was much at stake and the result of the elections was not clear before the critical day. So, I just couldn’t get sleep and turned the TV on to follow the program of the German TV-channel ZDF. So the night passed, there were moments that I was nodding away and then getting wake. The race was tight and at the end there were the famous ‘swing states’ of which one was never so sure which side takes the votes.

And then – in between – came the announcement of the moderator Christian Sievers: “And the next president of the USA is – Barack Obama!” Indeed, Obama had won in Ohio and that already ensured the result. Then, with similar results from the remaining states the victory of Obama was clear. And I felt so relieved. At the airport I met some older American tourists who were heading to Barcelona. They were very disappointed and made it clear. I didn’t feel a temptation to enter a debate with them – after all, it was up to the US citizens to elect their president.

The farewell speech of Barack Obama – spelling out his legacy

Then time passed – and I had my attention mainly on the project work with the Learning Layers – and before long there was the time for the next US elections. And now it was about the successor of Barack Obama. Well, the results was what it was – the citizens had spoken (popular vote) and the election system had spoken (the result in terms of electors). One may speculate just as much one can – but the result remains. The Obama presidency will come to an end with a hand-over to a completely different presidency.

At this moment I prefer to focus on the farewell speech of President Barack Obama and how he has explained his legacy to his voters and supporters . To my great pleasure I found that the report of the leading German TV channel ARD on this event provides a link to Obama’s speech in full length (and not dubbed into German). So, let us give our full attention to Barack Obama making clear what has been achieved during his presidency and how to face the challenges of the American democracy in the coming times:

Other kinds of Obama moments to be remembered

But when speaking of Obama moments to be remembered, it is not only about Barack Obama as the president that we are thinking. Clearly, Michelle Obama has made something special of here role as the First Lady – by staying with the ordinary people and keeping her feet on the ground. And that has been appreciated – she has given the people their own Obama moments. When a popular TV show invited people to express their thanks to the outgoing First Lady, there were many volunteers with deep thoughts and deep feelings. And the TV-program and Michelle Obama had their special way to return the compliments to them. Let us enjoy these Obama moments as well:

Michelle Obama Surprises People Recording Goodbye Messages to Her.

I think this is enough of the Obama moments to be kept in memory. I will not continue with comments on American politics on my blog. But I am pleased to express my thankfulness and respect to the Obama couple now that they take the most important office in a democracy – that of a citizen.

More blogs to come … 

Peace on Earth – Give peace a chance! – My Season’s Greetings

December 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

I am not used to writing blogs on current politics. At best I may have picked special events or anniversaries to make some sideline commentaries. But that has been most of it. Likewise, I have not been active in sending ‘Season’s greetings’ in public domain – at best on my Facebook account but that has been it.

This time things are different. For quite some time I have been following the war in Syria and the bombardment of Aleppo – and the difficult efforts of diplomats to get a ceasefire that could bring real help to people who were stuck between the warring parties. Indeed, Aleppo has become to us and pour contemporaries the symbol of similar sufferings as Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and Sarajevo in the Wars arising from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. This time it has been hard to witness and understand the weakness of the World Community, the UN Security Council and the public opinion. During the most recent days there have been relieving news on ceasefire and the start of evacuations, topped up by the unanimous vote of the UN Security council to send Peace Monitoring teams to support evacuations and international aid. Let us hope that they can provide help for the ones needed and give peace a chance.

However, parallel to these news we get schocking news of terrorist attacks in different places. For me the most striking is the news from Berlin – given that I have lived in over a year in Berlin (1994 – 1995) and I know the places in West Berlin very well. Here, the most striking thing was that the terrorist attacked the Christmas market area at Breitscheidplatz, next to the Gedächtniskirche – the ruin church that has been kept as a memory of the destruction caused by World War II. But equally, what has happened in Zürich (shootings in Islamic Centre) and in Ankara (the murder of the Russian Ambassador), in Yemen and in Somalia (the latter ones hardly attracting the attention of the Western worls) – all this is too much.

What is also striking is, how differently people react. My German Facebook-friends have promptly reacted with messages that express their condolences to the relatives of the victims and injured and condemn terrorist actions, whatever their motivation may have been. At the same time they have expressed their anger about the right-wing demagogues who have tried to pass the blame to all refugees and migrants en bloc. I have been pleased to share their messages and to translate their points in English. They speak the language of peace and understanding (instead of suspicion and xenophobia), they speak for dialogue with well-thought facts and for building bridges (instead of isolating oneselves and building walls around comfort zones).

In this spirit I also want my blog to pass messages of peace and understanding as my Season’s Greetings for the Christmas time and for the New Year 2017:

Let There Be Peace on Earth

Give Peace A Chance

 

Political Economy of the 21st Century – Food for thought over the holidays and for the new year

December 19th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

I have already completed my duties with in my daily work, left Bremen behind for a holiday period and landed happily to my domestic Finland. Normally, when I am entering the holiday mood, I give my blog a rest and take some time off as a blogger. Likewise, I have tended to leave behind the habit to send Christmas cards (and switched to e-cards). Now, I am doing something different: I am sending via my blog season’s greetings – food for thought worth keeping over the holiday period and catching up with in the beginning of the year 2017.

All my years as an expatriate in Germany I have learned to appreciat the German radio channel Deutschlandfunk and its Sunday morning program “Essays und Diskurs”.  And during the last few weeks they have had a very special series of these with the heading ‘Political economy of the 21st century – on the actuality of Marx and “Das Kapital”‘. I know that such a heading can provoke different reactions and assumptions, what these programs might be about. To me it was inspiring to listen to some of them – contemporary researches discussing present date problems and issues of social theory – working these issues through with reflective reading on Karl Marx. They were looking at ways to set our current problems into interpretative frameworks and exploring the heritage of Marx with focused reading of “Das Kapital”.

I guess this is enough of introduction, I will give links to the six programs of this series below. And yes, the authors had written their contributions in German and presented them in German. But since my links are to the written contributions, they might be accessible to others than German-speakers as well.  For those, who want to listen to the audios, the pages give links to them as well. So, here we have these special contributions with brief introductions (in German):

RE: Das Kapital (1/6) Aktuelle Brisanz der Marxschen Kategorie

“Vor 150 Jahren erschien eines der Hauptwerke von dem deutschen Philosophen, Ökonom und Gesellschaftstheoretiker Karl Marx – “Das Kapital”. Im ersten Teil einer Deutschlandfunk-Sendereihe erläutert der Publizist Mathias Greffrath wie die Marxsche Kategorie des Mehrwerts heute noch politische Brisanz entfalten kann.” Von Mathias Greffrath

RE: Das Kapital (2/6) Das Verhältnis von Kapitalismus und Gewalt

“Im zweiten Teil der Deutschlandfunk-Sendereihe über die aktuelle Brauchbarkeit von “Das Kapital”: ein Essay des Soziologen Wolfgang Streeck über die “ursprüngliche Akkumulation” und die Gewalt im Kapitalismus.”  Von Wolfgang Streeck

Michael Quante, Professor für Philosophie, beschäftigt sich für den dritten Teil der Sendereihe “Das Kapital” mit dem ökonomischen Hauptwerk von Karl Marx. Er geht dabei auf die Suche nach den Spuren der Entfremdung im Kapitalismus, welche auch heute spürbar sind.  Von Michael Quante

RE: Das Kapital (4/6) Der Niedergang des Kapitalismus

Marx hielt den Sieg des Proletariats für unvermeidlich. Doch wie lange wird es dem Kapitalismus noch gelingen, seinen Niedergang zu verhindern? Mit dieser Frage befasst sich der Wirtschaftsjournalist Paul Mason im vierten Teil der Sendereihe “Das Kapital”. Von Paul Mason

RE: Das Kapital (5/6) Sahra Wagenknecht über das Ende des Kapitalismus

Linken-Politikerin Sahra Wagenknecht beleuchtet die historische Tendenz des Kapitalismus. Für die bekennende Marxistin ist spätestens heute die Zeit gekommen, sich vom Kapitalismus abzuwenden. Für den fünften Teil der Sendereihe hat sie sich erneut über das Monumentalwerk “Das Kapital” gebeugt.  Von Sahra Wagenknecht

RE: Das Kapital (6/6) Kooperation als Quelle des Reichtums

Der Journalist und politische Schriftsteller Robert Misik erklärte das Finanzsystem in seinem letzten Buch zum “Kaputtalismus”. Er plädiert für eine “Miteinander-Ökonomie”. Im letzten Teil der Sendereihe “RE: Das Kapital” beschäftigt er sich ausgehend von Marx mit der Kooperation als Erfolgskonzept.  Von Robert Misik

 – – –

I think this is enough for the moment. I haven’t had a chance to listen to them all  – so, I will also take my ‘lunch bags’ as food for thought over the holiday period and to the new year 2017.

More blogs to come …

Productivity and vocational education and training

October 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

apprenticesInterest in Vocational Education and Training (VET) seems to go in cycles. Its always around but some times it is much more to the forefront than others as a debate over policy and practice. Given the pervasively high levels of youth unemployment, at least in south Europe, and the growing fears over future jobs, it is perhaps not surprising that the debate around VET is once more in the ascendancy. And the debates over how VET is structured, the relation of VET to higher education, the development of new curricula, the uses of technology for learning, the fostering of informal learning, relations between companies and VET schools, the provision of high quality careers counselling and guidance, training the trainers – I could go on – are always welcome.

Whilst in some countries like the UK deregulation seems to have created many jobs, most of these are low paid and insecure.

Higher productivity requires innovation and innovation is in turn dependent on the skills and knowledge of the workforce. But in a time of deregulation there is little incentive for employers to invest in workforce training.

There are signs that some companies are beginning to realise they have a problem. There has been a notable interest from a number of large companies in supporting new apprenticeship programmes and not just in the German speaking countries. In Spain the recently launched Alliance for FP Dual is making slow but steady progress in persuading companies to support the FP Dual alternance or apprenticeship programme. There remain many obstacles, not least the continuing austerity programme, political instability and the perilous financial position of many small and medium enterprises. I will talk more about some of these issues in forthcoming articles on this web site, coming out of the findings of a  small research project in Valencia sponsored by the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeship (INAP).

But to be successful initiatives like the Spanish FP Dual and the wider EU backed Alliance for Apprenticeships have to be linked to wider programmes to promote innovation. Without some degree of labour market regulation this is going to be hard to achieve.

The woes of Brexit

August 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

erasmusI have greatly enjoyed reading Pekka Kamareinen’s series of posts on this website on the history of VETNET – the Vocational Education and Training network allied to the European educational Research Association. Vocational education and Training is not a mainstream research area – indeed one of the long running discussions is whether it should be viewed as a discipline in itself or an area for trans disciplinary or inter disciplinary research.

Yet although Vocational Education and Training receives far less attention than research in schools and in higher education it is important. Arguably the rapid changes in the nature and organisation of the workforce and the introduction of new technologies make workforce skills and competence more important for the future. With very different systems and cultures of VET in different European countries, one key has been the ability to learn from how things are done differently elsewhere. Brexit threatens the ability of UK based researchers to be able to participate in this research in the future. True, anyone can participate in VETNET and attend the annual European Conference on Educational Research regardless of living in an EU country or not. But the stark reality is that many researchers depend on European project funding to be able to attend.

Although the English government has announced continuing support for organisations participating in the FP 7 Research programme, there has been no corresponding announcement of the Erasmus Plus programme, which is perhaps more important for VET.

Of course Brexit proponents had argued that withdrawal from the EU will release more national funding for research in the UK.But I fear that given all the challenges that the UK faces in organising withdrawal, educational research will be low on priority lists, and VET research probably even lower.  This bodes ill for the ability of researchers to particpate in the much needed debate on how the UK’s somewhat chaotic and underfunded VET systems can be transformed to meet the twin challenges of the changing nature of work and new technologies.

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Four: The continuing story of refugees and migrants (2011 and now)

August 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I have worked with a series of posts that revisit the European project “Learning about politics” in which I was the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what has happened since then. In the third post I discussed some themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project. In this final post I will have a look at a story that our group developed in the Politics Spring School 2011 – and which I followed up afterwards as a contribution to the Politics project. It so happens that the theme – integration of migrants and refugees – was a hot topic in 2011 and even more in 2016.

Making the initial story at Politics Spring School April 2011

As I have told in my first blog of this series, the Greek partners of the Politics project organised a joint Comenius and Grundtvig course with the name “Politics Spring school” to support the project work and as a free event for other interested participants. One part of the program for the project-oriented participants (mainly teachers on Comenius course) was to work in trans-national groups and to create a joint story based on each one’s individual inputs. In our group we had the Italian participant Valentina, the Norwegian Lisa (expatriate living in Brussels) and myself (Finnish expatriate in Germany).

Together we came up with a story of three observers visiting different places and looking, how the local people receive newcomers or how people from different origins get along with each other and their new environment. Our first station was the isle of Lampedusa, where we saw a video documenting the local people letting the refugees (who came with boats to harbour) that they were not welcome. Our second station was the intercultural environment in Brussels where we saw pupils of the international school communicating with each other in several languages – and small children of bilingual families talking fluently (and in turns) to their parents in their respective languages. Our third station was Berlin where we followed the work of the German-Turkish theatre group ‘Berlin Heroes’ trying to weed violent behaviour out of the relations between boys and girls (and young people with different religion). We also followed the work of the voluntary migrant-based ‘neighbourhood mothers’ (Stadtteilmütter) who visited newly arrived migrants and provided information and support to them in their new environment. So – we documented different kinds of activities and intercultural encounters – from clashes and conflicts to ‘new normality’ and to community initiatives to overcome tensions and provide mutual assistance.

Follow-up with news on refugees heading from Italy to France and Belgium

After the Spring School initiative I felt the need to continue the story with two follow-up threads. Firstly, I felt the need to follow the movements of refugees – in particular those arriving in Italy. At that time the government of Italy felt overwhelmed by the number of refugees – and provided them temporary admission certificates and free access to trains (to move further into the neighbouring countries). As a response, the government of France refused to receive refugees with such documents and introduced border control on the Italian border. At that time I wrote blogs with video documents on the movements of refugees in Italy, their problems at the Italian-French border and on the experiences of those who had made their way up to Brussels (or elsewhere in Belgium). Altogether, these documents showed that the refugees had not had an easy ride at any of the parts of their journeys.

Follow-up with stories on the integration of Turkish migrants in German society

Parallel to this I felt the need to look more closely at the integration of the earlier waves of migrants – such as the Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany and their descendants.  I was very much inspired by the new film “Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland” that gave a humorous picture of three generations of migrant family and their experiences in Turkey and Germany between 1970 and 2010. But I also took note of reports on the experiences of German-born German-Turks ‘returning’ to Turkey to start working in the country of their ancestors (and being perceived as ‘Germaners’ – Almancilar, Deutschländer). Therefore, I had discussions with mixed couples – Germans married to Turks and with experiences in living in both countries. After these sessions I wrote follow-up blogs to the story that was started at the Spring School.

Movements of refugees and reactions in receiving countries – 2011 and 2015/2016

Sadly enough, the results of our work with this story and the follow-up threads are no longer available in public domain. Archiving of old project websites is not an interesting task for former partner organisations. Nevertheless, these experiences served as a preparatory phase for encountering the more recent wave of refugees coming to EU member states in 2015 and 2016. Whilst government policies wavered between a permissive ‘welcoming culture’ and strict ‘fencing the trespassers out’ attitude, the citizens and NGOs tried to provide assistance and support. Yet, rather soon there was a backlash of xenophobic and hostile reactions as well.

For us working with social and educational projects this is not only a matter of observing what is going on. From this perspective I have found it interesting that the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC (application partner in our EU-funded Learning Layers project) has also been supporting the integration of refugees and the placement of refugee children to appropriate education provisions. Moreover, we have been thinking, how the newly developed Learning Toolbox could support the social and educational integration of refugees. These questions go clearly beyond the current project. But we know that there is a lot of potential – and that there is a lot of work to be done with these issues.

More blogs to come …

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Three: Themes raised by the teachers

July 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest blogs I started a series of posts to revisit the prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities in Germany and on the Politics Spring School 2011. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what kind of developments we have seen since then. In this third post I will have a look at the the themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project.

WikiLeaks, Netzpolitik and the NSA-affair

One of the vocational school teachers raised the issue ‘WikiLeaks’ as a new phenomenon in the international politices of those years. Although he couldn’t participate very intensively in the continuation of the project, he had drawn our attention to the new role of social media and new kinds of social networks in national and international politics. We firstly paid attention to the WikiLeaks network and its revelations. Then, we took note of the new role of social media and new kinds of protest movements in the revolutionary developments during the Arabic Spring. Finally, parallel to these developments, we took note of the new kinds of Netzpolitik networks that revealed plagiarism in the academic dissertations of some leading German polticians. At that time the abrupt fall of the popular conservative politician Guttenberg (then minister of defence) was the most striking case in which a politician had to resign because of plagiarism in dissertation.

Whilst these themes firstly seemed to refer to relatively separate phenomena, during the subsequent years they appeared to be more closer to each other and to concerns of ordinary citizens. Whilst the revelations on plagiarism had put the credibility of several politicians into question, a further episode around the WikiLeaks network had a major impact on the atmosphere of trust vs. mistrust on government policies. The whistleblower Edward Snowden (former agent of the NSA) had revealed to what extent NSA had got access to major servers and thus to private data. The most striking news was that of listening of the private phone of chancellor Angela Merkel by the NSA. All this raised the public interest in data privacy and concerns about data protection by national governments and major internet and telephone service providers.

Juniorvoting and participation of young people in elections

Another vocational school teacher was interested in the phenomenon ‘juniorvoting’ (Juniorenwahlen)  – an initiative to organise simulated elections in schools among youngsters who didn’t have the right to vote. Such events had been organised successfully before national elections in Germany during the recent years. In 2011 there was an increased interest to organise such preliminary voting arrangements for youngsters also before the regional parliaments. However, before the elections of the regional parliament in Bremen there was less interest to organise such simulated voting, because the voting age had already been brought to 16 years. Thus, the youngsters had become real voters. Therefore, the schools were less willing to arrange juniorvoting events. Nevertheless, the teacher had collected lot of information on the implementation of such events and their role as preliminary elections and presented this as input to Politics Spring School. Also, we could use this material for the German platform of the Politics project. Sadly enough, the lowering of voting age appeared to have little impact on the participation of young voters in the regional elections in Bremen 2011 and 2015.

Climate change as challenge for policy makers and individual citizens

The third vocational school teacher had engaged himself intensively with the theme ‘climate change’ and managed to make use of this theme in his teaching. Therefore, we could use primarily his material as a basis for the respective ‘learning pathway’ of the German platform. This material had awareness-raising exercises (with YouTube videos), basic information on international policy processes to control/prevent climate change (Kyoto protocol and Copenhagen conference) and tasks that brought climate change close to the vocational area of his apprentices and to their individual behaviour as consumers. The grande finale was the competition for the apprentices to calculate the CO2 footprint of their designed holiday trips. Based on this material the teacher also prepared an input for the Politics Spring School and to work with several other participants on this theme.

Looking back, the theme ‘climate change’ gained weight in the German politics and at the international level. In particular the fact that the Copenhagen conference couldn’t reach major results, gave pressure to the next international climate summit – in Paris 2015. This time the conference managed to reach an result – a binding document that replaced the Kyoto protocol. Now the international community had made commitments to keep the climate change in limits. And the ecologically oriented NGOs had points of reference for monitoring, whether the policy-makers keep their promises.

– – –

I think this is enough of the themes that were raised by the teachers and how we worked with them – and what kind of actuality these themes have had afterwards. As we felt it at that time, our German team worked separately from the other national teams with clearly different contents. However, during the Politics Spring School we could all bring some of our themes forward in the group work – young people’s participation, climate change and integration of migrants/intercultural understanding. (I will have a closer look at the last mentioned theme and how it was taken up in the Spring School and in the follow-up.) And it it is worthwhile to mention that the the two German teachers who participated in the Spring School have worked together to develop their teaching in the subject politics.

More blogs to come … 

 

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