Celebrating Martin Luther King – Revisiting a German radio program of January 2017

January 19th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday, on Monday 19.01.2021 our American friends celebrated  Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. This reminded me of a blog that I wrote four years ago on the important travels of Martin Luther King Sr and Jr (father and son) to Germany. Both visits had consequences and it is worthwhile revisiting the memories of these trips – once again.

Four years ago I happened to listen to the German radio program “Am Sonntag morgen” (on Sunday morning) – provided by the German Lutheran church. And came to follow a special program about the travels of Marin Luther King Sr and Jr in Germany. Inspired by the program I wrote a blog entry in which I wanted translate the content of  that program into English. So, the following section of this blog article is a compressed English version of the text provided by the German priest Andrea Schneider for Deutschlandfunk. The original text is available here:

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

Eine folgenreiche Reise. Martin Luther King in Deutschland (A travel with consequences. Martin Luther King in Germany)

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 managed 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.

– – –

So, this was in a nutshell the message of the radio program that I listened to four years ago. I think it is really worthwhile to revisit the legacy of Martin Luther King in general and to consider the impact that his example had on the peaceful revolution in East Germany (DDR) in the year 1989. And now, thinking of what all is going on in our world, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the message that was promoted by the Ameican civil rights movement of the 1960s, here presented by Joan Baez:

I guess that this is enough of this theme. I am looking forward to seeing that this ‘some day’ is getting nearer.

More blogs to come …

 

Thoughts on retirement and retreat – Part One: What consequences for blogging?

December 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog posts I have been closing my activities as a project-based researcher. In addition, I have made a brief review on different phases of my career with European research & development projects in the field of vocational education and training (VET). This has been part of my stepping out of active engagement in working life and transition to retirement. At the end of those posts I have indicated that I will continue writing blogs, but from a different perspective. However, as long as I have had something to report and review (in particular in the light of occasional anniversaries), I have not given much thoughts on what implications this new situation – landing to retirement – might have for my future blogging. Now it is time to share some thoughts on it – and to make it transparent, what kind of fundamental changes I am going through. Below I will mention some aspects of these changes.

Semi-retirement, full retirement and retreat from the ‘battle grounds’

For many active researchers the end of the career at their university job has not meant a complete departure from their former activities. Many of my old acquaintances have continued in some form of consultancy and private research activities. That is often called as semi-retirement (and the Germans top it up with their joking expression ‘(Un)Ruhestand’). I have had my taste of this during this year when I had a short part-time contract alongside my pension to finish my activities in my last project. But for me it was clear that when the project is over, there will be no such continuation.

For me the strong point was the need to move back to my home country Finland. For many years I had lived as an expatriate in Germany and visiting my home country and my beloved ones as often as I could (but not as often I would have wished). So, now it was the time to put an end to this shuttling and to get settled. During the year 2020 there was a longer period of working from the Finnish home office and that was a kind of ‘semi-retreat’ but it didn’t feel like the complete retreat. Now, once I have finished the project work and moved completely back to Finland. I start to understand, what difference it makes to leave the ‘battle grounds’.

Research & development work in action vs. observation from afar

During my active years my blogging on projects has been inspired by the fact that I have been in the middle of action – working closely with development-related challenges and action contexts and with European partners. This has given me food for thought and I have been digesting my experiences and our ideas with blogs posts. Also, these project contexts have given me the awareness of actual and potential audiences with whom I am in a dialogue. Now, in the process of retirement and retreat this feeling is fading away.

In this context I have to mention the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA) and its activities in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). Ever since the founding phase I have been active in different roles and become recognised as the historian of the network. My blogs  on the annual ECER conferences have given me the basis for writing a report on the evolution of the VETNET network by the year 2016 (when I had to stay away from the conference that celebrated the 20th anniversary due to illness). I then returned to the three following conferences and wrote further blogs but indicated that I will not continue participating in the future conferences. (I left open the option to complete the history report up to ECER 2019.)

Now, due to the corona crisis, the ECER 2020 was cancelled with rather short notice and the ECER 2021 will be organised as an online event. In this respect the VETNET network has been working with new solutions for proceedings publications to harvest the participants’ contributions for the ECER 2020 and to prepare the grounds for online participation. From this perspective, the VETNET is entering a new era with new challenges. I can at best wish good luck.

Staying as an expatriate in Germany – and being engaged with other Europeans

Alongside my project-related blogging I have sometimes taken up somewhat different themes. Mainly I have taken the role of a European expatriate living in Germany and interpreting some interesting themes from the German point to other Europeans. Many of these have been related to historical anniversaries – in particular to the processes of peaceful revolution in East Germany 1989 and to the German reunification in 1990. But I have also reported on the pro-European movement Pulse of Europe and its activities to promote positive engagement to promote European solidarity and commitment to work together for a better future. I was pleased to be able to join in the activities and give some inputs in the ‘open microphone’ sessions of the regular Sunday meetings.

Also, I have written some blogs with focus on the 100th anniversary of the Finnish independence. I felt the need to explain the particular history of our nation-building during the centuries of Swedish rule and the century of Russian rule (but with a considerable degree of autonomy). Then, I felt the need to explain the difficult process of gaining the independence (after the World War I), defending it (during the World War II) and consolidating the Finnish welfare state and the particular international position as western democracy and bridge-builder between East and West.

Looking back, I am pleased that I have been active on these fronts. BUT I am no longer there, among the Germans and working with other Europeans. So, I think that I have already completed the mission when it comes to blogging on these themes.

So, having shared these thoughts I am somewhat uncertain, how to continue my blogging from a different perspective. Obviously, I need to find a new role for myself and that takes time. Part of this process is to reconsider, what I want to discuss via blogging and what as a user of (other) social media. That is the topic for my next blog post.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

 

 

 

Remembering Hans-Dieter Höpfner

November 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today we heard the sad news that our former colleague (and long-time Visiting fellow of our institute ITB) Hans-Dieter Höpfner has passed away. To me this is striking, since I have just blogged about the historical events of 1989 (when the political system of former DDR collapsed) and of 1990 (when the two German states were unified). To me, my first encounter with Hans-Dieter was very much linked to these events. I first time met Hand-Dieter at the conference Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung in October 1990 in Magdeburg and got immediately acquainted with him. Then, with several irregular intervals our paths crossed time and again – and we were always happy to meet again and to catch up since the last time. Now, it is my turn to summarise my memories and to pay my respects to the nice colleague whom we have lost.

Meeting during the turbulent times of the year 1990

My first encounter with Hans-Dieter was a chance meeting. We were both participating in the Cedefop-led workshop at the conference in Magdeburg 1990 (Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung). I ended up being a last-minute addition to the program – as a speaker coming from the Nordic Countries, recommended by my earlier acquaintances from the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BiBB) of West Germany. Hans-Dieter attended as one of the comparative and international researchers of the East-German Central Institute for Vocational Training (ZIB).

I was taking my first steps towards a career as a European and international researcher (coming from the remote Finland that was not yet an EU Member State at that time). Hans-Dieter was experiencing a rupture period – knowing that the institute for which he had worked would be closed and that he would not be one of those to get transferred to BiBB. So, there we were – two people with such different life situations – sitting next to each other during the workshop and then getting acquainted with each other. Already at that time I knew that Hans-Dieter would overcome the hard period and get along with the transition. What he told me about his background – being a specialist in psychology of work and work-related learning (and coming from the well-known Dresden-based school led by Winfried Hacker), I knew that he has the kind of expertise that is needed during the societal transformation of East Germany. This all turned out to be very true.

Meetings during the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe

Our next encounters were no longer such chance meetings but rather something to be expected. I had made further steps on my career path and had been sent in 1994 as a national seconded expert to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) – at that time located in Berlin. In the meantime I had had cooperation with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) and I had learned of their involvement in an experimental innovation project (Modellversuch – MV) with dually qualifying apprentice training at the brown coal site Schwarze Pumpe. With this background knowledge I was eager to participate in the annual Workshop of the MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995. And there I met once again Hans-Dieter, who was part of the accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team together with Gerald Heidegger and Rainer Bremer who were old acquaintances from ITB. This event was inspiring since the apprentices from two trades were invited to present their joint working and learning project – constructing a fully working miniature model of the bricket-producing machine. This was a clear demonstration of participative, collaborative and shaping-oriented learning of the apprentices.

At a later phase Cedefop had been relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece and I had got a temporary contract as an EU-employed project manager. In this capacity I had taken the task to monitor (or accompany) parallel EU-funded R&D projects with similar educational ideas and working concepts. From this perspective I was happy to include the projects Post-16 strategies and Intequal (both dealing with dually oriented qualifications) into my list of projects to be accompanied. And indeed, ITB was a partner in both projects with the MV Schwarze Pumpe as a national case (to be examined from different perspectives. So, I had the chance to visit the site Schwarze Pumpe time and again. Once I visited an interim conference that assembled several German innovation projects with focus on dually oriented qualifications. And the then with the concluding conference I had brought a European delegation to attend the conference and to have an international workshop on the theme of the innovation project. Every time I was pleased to catch up with Hans-Dieter.

Meetings as researchers affiliated with the  ITB

Later on, our paths went to somewhat different directions. During my last years in Cedefop I had less field visits and in 2002 I returned to Finland. Then, after some time, in 2005, I got a new chance to engage myself in European and international projects – now as a contracted researcher of ITB. In the meantime Hans-Dieter had found his way to international development aid projects as an expert on vocational education and training (VET). He had a remarkable experience with the societal transformation in East Germany and in adjusting the VET provisions to market economy.  With this know-how he was considered as a prominent expert by the development aid agencies of German-speaking countries that had projects in former Soviet republics.  And strangely enough, we had both been acknowledged with the status of Visiting fellow of ITB. (For me, this was only an interim phase, since I got employed by ITB, whilst for Hans-Dieter this was a matter of maintaining the working relation with ITB.)

So, once again we had our chances to catch up with Hans-Dieter, mainly during the annual meetings of the advisory board (Beirat) of the ITB. On such occasions we had the chance to refresh our memories of earlier times and inform each other of our newer activities. Hans-Dieter had experienced all kinds of things in the faraway countries in which he had worked and we were keen to learn more of his experiences. Also, he was interested to find out what we were doing and how we were doing – in Germany, in our EU projects and in our international projects.

And most of all, Hans-Dieter was popular as a story-teller – whatever the subject matter. For me, as a Finn, it was interesting that one of his favourite authors was the Finnish humourist Arto Paasilinna. It was such a pleasure to share impressions of Paasilinna’s writings – be it the Year of the Rabbit or the Nine Buildings or whatever.

Now we have lost the fine colleague, but his memory lives with us.

More blogs to come (with newer topics, I hope) …

 

 

 

 

Meine persönliche Erfahrungen mit der Wende – Part Two: Memories of Germany October 1990

November 3rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I shared some memories of my study visit to Germany in October/November 1989. However, I didn’t write the post primarily as a report of the study visit (with an account of my conversations at different stations). Instead, I wanted to give a picture, how I experienced the signs of change in East Germany (then DDR) when travelling in West Germany (BRD) and West-Berlin. As I mentioned in the post, I didn’t pay that much attention to the first signs of change but by the end of the journey it was clear that something bigger is happening. And a few days after I had returned, the Berlin wall and the borders elsewhere were opened. Now, it so happened that my next conference trip to Germany coincided with the German unification. To me, this is so closely linked to my memories of the October/November trip of 1989 that I prefer to write my memories of the latter trip now – rather than waiting for the 30th anniversary next year.

My participation in the “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990” in Magdeburg 1.10. – 3.10.1990

In the beginning of the year 1990 I had joined a research group “Curricular strategies for lifelong learning” that had some funding for participation in international conferences. As a follow-up to my study visit of the year 1989 I wanted to continue and deepen my exchanges with German researchers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). A special opportunity was provided by the nation-wide conference “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung” (originally initiated by ITB in Bremen). The conference of the year 1990 had originally been given to another location but then relocated to Magdeburg. Here, it is interesting that a West-German conference was organised in East Germany. The decision was made with the idea that this helps to promote dialogue with East-German colleagues by approaching each other in the spirit of mutual learning. However, the wheels of history were spinning rapidly and the dates of the conference came to be the dates of the German unification.

The theme of the conference was “Schlüsselqualifikationen” (Key qualifications). I had come across the theme via literature – by reading Dieter Mertens’ future-oriented theses of the year 1972/1974. To me this gave rise to prepare a special paper on educational reforms in the Nordic countries and to reflect in what ways they may take up the theme ‘key qualifications’. To be sure, this last minute’s  contribution hadn’t been included into the program. Nevertheless, I had prepared something for eventual exchanges.

At the conference venue it became apparent that the theme ‘key qualifications’ was overshadowed by a major theme – the unification. And instead of discussing in terms of gradually approaching each other the participants from East and West had a common concern – the rapid implementation of West-German educational legislation in the East. This included the setting up of new federal states in the area of former DDR. This included also setting up the dual system of apprenticeship while privatising the state-owned companies and decoupling the vocational schools from the company structures. To be sure, the thematic sessions that had been planned, were carried out. But the challenges of the unification took major attention.

The conference started before the date of the unification and it was opened by the last minister of education of the last (transitional) government of DDR. He and his secretary of state were received as guests of honour, but it was clear to all that they will no longer have a major role in the future educational policies. Then, shortly after, the minister of education of the Federal Republic of Germany gave a speech. In his speech there was no sign of mutual adjustment. Instead, it sounded like the agenda of the colonial power in the newly colonised region. On top of it, he broke his promise (to stay for the discussion) and announced that he has to leave immediately. As a courtesy to him, the outgoing political representatives of the last DDR government left with him – and the participants were left to discuss with each other.

The Cedefop workshop on “Key qualifications and social competences in East and West”

During the first day of the conference I was introduced by an acquaintance from BiBB to the Cedefop project manager Norbert Wollschläger, who was in charge of a Cedefop-initiated workshop that sought to discuss the theme ‘key qualifications and social competences’ from the perspective of comparing East- and West-European views. He found my paper (that brought the Nordic perspective into discussion) interesting and worth including into the program of his workshop. When entering the workshop, I realised that it was more like a round table discussion among high-rankin speakers from Cedefop (the director and his predecessor) and from affiliated institutes, including a special guest from Soviet Union (an Estonian academician with whom Cedefop was preparing cooperation). Here again, the bigger picture of ongoing transformations in East Europe started to take over. Nevertheless, my input from the Nordic perspective was well received.

As a follow-up, I got an invitation to a Soviet-European seminar (organised by the Soviet Academy of Educational Sciences and Cedefop) later in the year. That was a more high-ranking event that took place at the advent of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the seminar was overshadowed by various expectations and interests in developing business relations linked to export of educational know-how. To me it was clear that I was not part of that game and neither was Finland looking for such cooperation with its Eastern neighbour.

I guess this is enough of my memories of the year 1990. On an anecdotal level I can add that the trip back from Magdeburg was characterised by traffic jams in Berlin and delayed flights. The seminar in Moscow was characterised by chilly cold weather and my trip was a round trip via Copenhagen (where I attended a Nordic event). This all belonged to my working into the Nordic and European cooperation – which then characterised my later career as a VET researcher.

More blogs to come …

 

Meine persönliche Erfahrungen mit der Wende – Part One: Memories of Germany October/November 1989

November 3rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the whole October and the beginning of November I have been hearing German broadcasts and watching German TV documents that revisit the historical events thirty years ago. Altogether these revisit the turning points – die Wende – in the history of the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik – DDR) and in the whole German history. To my mind these documents bring very personal memories – during those weeks I was on a study visit in Germany. Yes, to be precise, I was on a study visit in the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland – BRD). So, I was not directly witnessing the dramatic events in the East but receiving the fresh news in the West. Also, during my one month’s study visit (my first visit to Germany) I tried to concentrate on my meetings at the research institutes.

I was travelling through West Germany visiting institutes with focus on the field of vocational education and training (VET) and on innovations in working life. But by the time I got to my final station, the insular West-Berlin, the processes of change had gone that far that I was equally interested in what is happening in the East and what is coming out of all this. Strangely enough, I travelled back to Finland on the 6th and 7th of November, just before the Berlin wall was opened. This summer I found the hand-written diary in which I had written my notes on the meetings. There is very little about the the stunning historical events, but I do have my memories. So, with this blog post I want to share some of the memories.

Travelling in West-Germany – Signs of change are coming up

I arrived in Germany on the 4th of October and then started my Interrail 26+ tour in West-Germany, covering Bremen, Hamburg, Kassel, Göttingen, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt am Main in three weeks. Looking back, it was a fully packed program, but I didn’t regret. I had the chance to get acquainted with researchers of whom I knew by literature and got to know several others. Bremen was my first station and became the most important contact point in my future career, no question. I learned a lot of the role of ITB in specific field projects, in the Bremer Landesprogramm Arbeit und Technik (innovation programme for Work & Technology) and in particular of the guiding principle “Gestaltung” (social shaping of work and technology). This idea was prominently present in the scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” and in the ITB contribution to the Bundestag Enquete-Kommission “Bildung 2000”. And during most of that time I had the chance to enjoy the golden October weather.

The dramatic events started to reach me little by little. The celebrations of the 40th anniversary of DDR didn’t leave strong memories, I was too exited about my trip. Also, I have only vague memories of the mass demonstrations in East German cities that marked a turning point. But then,  the rush of refugees to the Wets-German embassies in Prague and Warsaw and the agreement to let the refugees to travel to West-Germany – that was big news. And shortly after that the first signs of the collapse of the old regime made headlines – the party leader and president Erich Honecker was pushed to step down. At that point the ruling party tried to keep the change in its control, but the clock had struck.

The week in München (Munich) – More signs of change

The next last week I spent in München (Munich, if you insist) at Institut für Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung (ISF), of which also knew quite a lot via literature. Now I had a chance to inform myself of their different projects and of their participation in different expert commissions both concerning the innovation programmes in working life and in strengthening research in the field of VET. Also, thanks to the support from Burkart Lutz (the director of ISF and a key player in European VET research), I got appointments to visit Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) which at that time was located in Berlin.

During that week more news came fro East that indicated that something was changing – some representatives of the old guard were stepping down, but no radical change was (yet) to be seen. This atmosphere of uncertainties and anxieties was reflected in ISF by the fact that they had a visiting scholar from East-Berlin . With her the ISF colleagues had started a comparative project in the field of industrial sociology. Given the situation in the East, she had decided, not to return to DDR. During the week when I was there, she gave a public lecture on sociological research in DDR at the Volkshochschule (civic academy). The discussion on her lecture took a dramatic turn when she announced her decision publicly. (Later on she continued to work as a prominent sociologist in München and as a professor in Giessen as well as in many prominent expert commissions.)

The week in Berlin – just before the peak point of the change

The last week in Berlin was exiting both in terms of my study visit and being a nearby witness of changes on the other side of the border. From the perspective of VET research the most inspiring discussions I had in several departments of the  Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BiBB) and in Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung (in particular during my breakfast meetings with Wolfgang Lempert). From the perspective of European cooperation I was privileged to have talks in Cedefop with Deputy Director Enrique Retuerto and with Peter Grootings. (Little could I anticipate that some years later Retuerto would be my immediate boss in Cedefop and that I would be quasi the successor of Grootings when he chose to leave Cedefop.) From the perspective of innovations in working life the highlight was the meeting in Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin with professor Frieder Naschold.

During that week it became clear that a major change will take place in East Germany – the economy was collapsing, the ancien regime had lost the control and the new leaders were not in the position to regain the trust of people. The question was not, whether there will be a change, but what kind of change. The opinion leaders of the new opposition in the East expressed their hopes to bring their country to an alternative path – to develop their ideas of democracy and open society without introducing the aggressive competitive economy of western capitalism. The West-Berlin taxi-driver had another view: “After 40 years of economic mismanagement and no free elections the people in the East will vote for unification with the West.” I had just left Germany when the wave of change reached its peak point and the wall was opened. Later on I came to see numerous documentary films of those days – it seems to me as if I had also been there.

I guess this is enough of my memories of zhe year 1989. In my next post I will have a look at October 1990. At that time I was again in Germany when the process of change – die Wende – was completed by the German unification.

More blogs to come …

Working for Europe – Celebrating Europe – Part Three: The Europa-Fete in Bremen

May 12th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

I started a series of blog posts by mentioning that we celebrated the Europe-Day on Thursday, the 9th of May, here in Bremen. Then, In my first post I explained the background of the Europe-Day and then reflected on two periods of my career as a European researcher in vocational education and training (VET). In my second post I reflected on my encounters with expatriate communities and/or European initiatives in Thessaloniki (1995-2002) and Bremen (from 2005 on). Now it is time to get back to the celebration of the Europe-Day. Below I have selected some photos of the Europa-Fete at the central sqare (Marktplaz) of Bremen, surrounded by the old City Hall (Rathaus), the new City hall (Bürgerschaft), the churches and old buildungs.

Europa-Fete Bremen-1

Here the stage for performers (in front of the new City hall, to the left the St. Pete’s Cathedral)

Europa-Fete Bremen-4

Here cheerful and active expatriate Finns and Finland-friends with a Finnish flag …

Europa-Fete Bremen-7

… but representing the Bremen Lapland-initiative that focuses mainly on the Sami people on Russian territory.

Europa-Fete Bremen-9

And last but not least: The stand of the “Pulse of Europe” movement that has been active during the last few years. It has kept our European spirits up whatever has happened in the European politics.

I guess this is enough of this reporting. The next Pulse of Europe event will start in two hours. I need to get there in good time. But I will keep the European themes up while working and learning for Europe.

More blogs to come ...

Working for Europe – Celebrating Europe – Part Two: Joining the expatriates’ communities

May 11th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started from the fact that we had just celebrated the Europe-Day on Thursday the 9th of May. That led me to think about the origins of present-day European Union and about the community-building initiatives that brought it into being. This led me to think about my own career as a European researcher working for Europe (during my years in Cedefop) and in European cooperation projects (during my years in the University of Bremen). Now it is time to look at the other side of the coin – my participation in expatriate communities in Thessaloniki and in Bremen (beyond the working communities).

When Cedefop moved to Thessaloniki, most of us knew very little, what to expect. Luckily enough, our Greek colleagues went as a pioneering troop to find out of the housing opportunities and to give us then a helping hand. This worked very well and soon we all found our new home bases. In the beginning we remained as a relative close trans-national group of  ‘castaways’ but gradually we started to find local friends in our new neighbourhoods.

For me, the village of Thermi was a very nice environment and it was also the meeting point of the Thessaloniki Caledonian society. And a handful of us – Cedefop colleagues and my neighbours got engaged in the Scottish community. Some of us were of Scottish or Irish origins, some had studied in Scotland and some were adopted Scots. So, there we were celebrating the Scottish anniversaries with appropriate music, singing and dancing.

Via my Scottish contacts I then found out that there was also a Finnish community in Thessaloniki. I was surprised to discover that there were that many people of my nationality in the Thessaloniki area. And, moreover, the Finnish mothers and fathers had a “Suomi-koulu” (a voluntary Saturday school for teaching the Finnish language). So, I got also engaged in their activities and visited several times at the Suomi-koulu (and brought my Finnish visitors there when possible). During my time in Thessaloniki we celebrated the 80th Independence Day of Finland on the 6th of December in 1997. It was a remarkable Community event and I have still good memories of that. (It has been nice to rediscover this community and active members via Facebook – we have not lost the contacts.)

When I started in Bremen, I knew already the institute and most of the colleagues on the basis of my European cooperation activities and frequent visits to Bremen. So, both in terms of work and in terms of leisure activities I found very soon my circles. Funnily enough, it took a longer time before I got into contact with the Finnish expatriate community in Bremen. Firstly, I got into contact with the Suomi-koulu (the voluntary Saturday school in Finnish) that they had also in Bremen. But the real inspiration I got during the year of festivities to celebrate the 100th Independence Day in Finland. I attended the opening event in which the chairperson of the Sami Parliament gave a speech of the rights of the Sami people in Finland and in the neighbouring countries. That led me to a more active participation in the events of the Finnish community. And as a highlight we celebrated as a community the 100th Independence Day in a restaurant at the Old Town of Bremen. And during these activities it has been interesting to notice that we have several German people who are very committed friends of Finland, Lapland and the Sami people. So, it is not only us – Finns – that are socialising among ourselves. We are nicely networked and looking ‘out of the box’.

I guess this is enough of these memories. I feel privileged that I have had a chance to experience such things in Thessaloniki and in Bremen. What strikes me now – years after – is the success story of the Suomi-koulu in Thessaloniki. What I hear from the parents of the school children of those years is that the school gave the youngsters a great boost in learning Finnish. And later on, during the years of economic crisis in Greece, most of these young people managed to study in Finland. And now some of them are returning back to Greece as qualified experts. This, to me as a committed European, is something worth celebrating.

And this leads me to the starting point, the celebration of the Europe-day in Bremen. That is s topic for my next post.

More blogs to come …

 

Working for Europe – Celebrating Europe – Part One: Personal reflections

May 10th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday, the 9th of May, we (citizens of Bremen) celebrated Europe. As we know, the European Union has chosen this date as the Europe-Day. The background is that on this very day in 1950 the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman gave speech in which he outlined a plan to create a European community of producers of coal and steel. This plan was eagerly received by the neighbouring countries and soon led to the founding of the European Economic Community (EEC). Due to several waves of enlargement this closed club transformed itself into the European Union as we know it today. At that time it was not self-evident that the European countries – still recovering from the destructive war and still struggling with the neighbourhood relations – would be able to enter such a community-building process. So, there is a good case to celebrate this community-building process – looking back at the Europe before it was started.

Thinking of my personal career, starting from the year 1994 I have been mostly working for Europe and in European cooperation projects. Firstly, I was sent by the Finnish government to work at Cedefop – European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training – as a national seconded expert. This happened during the time when Finland was a Candidate Country and a member of the European Economic Area. The idea of the Finnish educational authorities was to send a national expert to get experience from the agency and to work Finland more closely into the cooperation. However, this period was overshadowed by change of management in Cedefop and by the high level decision to relocate Cedefop from Berlin to Thessaloniki.

The next phase in my career was when Cedefop moved to Thessaloniki and I got a position as a project manager (temporary EU official) in Cedefop. This happened during the time when Cedefop had lost most of its project managers (who changed to other EU services) and had to start its activities on new grounds. At this point I took a role in promoting European research cooperation in the field of vocational education and training (VET). On the one hand I started monitoring and accompanying European projects that worked with educational innovation agendas. On the other hand I started to organise synergy-promoting seminars in which these projects shared their ideas and results with each other. Thirdly, I initiated cross-project symposia and round tables at the ECER conferences under the umbrella of the VETNET network that was founded in 1996 at the ECER conference in Sevilla. Altogether, these activities and the related publication initiatives supported community-building processes in European VET research.

However, my contract was of limited duration and my activities were not considered as impressive enough or productive enough by all in Cedefop. Whilst the research community appreciated the ‘networking the networks’, I was confronted with questions, where are the results for Cedefop and how this helps to make Cedefop visible for all stakeholders it is supposed to serve. So, in 2002 my temporary contract came to an end and I returned back to Finland.

After a period of looking around and searching for new grounds I was invited to start as a project-based research at Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen. During the earlier phases of my career I had come to  contact with colleagues at ITB and during my Cedefop years I had intensive cooperation with them. From 2005 on I have been working at ITB primarily in European cooperation projects. And once again, these projects have had a community-building character and they have build on the earlier phase of ‘networking the networks’. So, in this spirit I have been working in projects on workplace learning, training the trainers, learning about politics, practice-based learning in VET and higher education. And finally, a major theme has been to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers in VET. All this has been characterised by ‘learning from each other’ and ‘learning for Europe’.

In this spirit the late Jenny Hughes created a Facebook account for the “Learning about Politics” project with the name ‘Learn Politics’. And since this ‘person’ had to announce a birthday, Jenny gave the 9th of May – the Europe-day. I think this was a good choice. When celebrating Europe, we celebrate the community-building processes across Europe.

I guess this is enough of my personal reflections. In my next post I will concentrate on the celebration of the Europan anniversary in Bremen.

More blogs to come …

Happy birthday, Graham Attwell!

February 16th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today the fellow-bloggers on Pontydysgu site can congratulate Graham Attwell on his birthday. I hope there is no home-made rule that would prevent us from celebrating this day via his own website.  Cheers, Graham!

Years and more …

Historical anniversaries 2018 – Part Three: Remembering Mahatma Gandhi

January 30th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two recent posts I focused on historical anniversaries that coincided on the 27th of January – the very day to remember the victims of holocaust (liberated from Auschwitz) and the beginning of the Finnish civil war (1918). Having written these two posts I thought I would retreat to my usual themes on ‘working & learning’ – research and development in the field of vocational education and training. But when I woke up this morning, I understood that we had yet another historical anniversary that merits our attention – 70 years from the death of Mahatma Gandhi.

As I have heard very good contributions from the German radio channel Deutschlandfunk, I do not want to repeat their message but rather share them via my blog. Also, the German TV-Channel ARD has provided a good photo gallery of Gandhi’s life and life work. So, below I share the links and hope that the pictures and the texts speak for themselves.

The life and life work of Mahatma Gandhi as a gallery of photos (Bildergalerie)

This link takes you to a series of 14 photos from different phases of Mahatma Gandhi’s life.

Zum 70. Todestag von Mahatma Gandhi (Remembering Mahatma Gandhi’s death 70 years ago)

Radio commentaries on the life work and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi

This morning two special programs dealt with the life work and intellectual legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. The daily “Kalenderblatt” provided an overview on Gandhi’s life concluding the report with the tragic death.Mahatma Gandhi wird Opfer eines Attentats (Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated)

The religious program “Morgenandacht” early in the morning discussed a lesson that Gandhi gave on valuing the ‘least’ of us in the humankind.

Sei selbst die Veränderung, die du dir für die Welt wünschst (Be yourself an example of the change that you want your world to go through)

I think this is enough for the moment. I hope that the pictures and the texts (in original language or as translations) convey the message. To me these already presented a lot of the wisdom and courage in peaceful mind that was exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi.

More blogs to come …

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