Craig recommends The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. I’ve read it and can recommend it as well. Der deutsche Titel ist Der Drache in meiner Garage. Oder die Kunst der Wissenschaft, Unsinn zu entlarven.
Garret expresses his view and asks about the curriculum in German schools. I try to explain German schools and curricula here.
John writes about homeschooling on his weblog. I think you can tell the differences between school in the US and in Germany by our opinions, and John knows them as well:
Something does need to be said, though. As someone who has attended school in both Germany and the United States, my German classmates were enthusiastic and eager to learn the subjects put before them. I’m afraid I can’t say the same for most of my American classmates, who were more interested in pop culture and who had the latest sneakers. I think it’s part of the American cultural slide we’ve all been talking about lately. It is possible to have great schools, and if we had one near us we would probably not be considering homeschooling.
I was very lucky – I attended a great school. And it happened to be the nearest Gymnasium to my home, too.
It seems that I wasn’t able to get my opinion about homeschooling through to my readers yesterday. Oliver mentioned the subject on his homepage today and contributed an article in my discussion group. My response to it is here.
Some thoughts on school and homeschooling:
- Teacher’s training in Germany: The training is not bad, but doesn’t deal enough with the problems the teachers are likely to encounter. While we are trained very well in our subjects (I feel like I’m doing half a diploma in mathematics and another half in physics!), there is only very little time that deals with the real problems teachers encounter at school, psychological and sociological things. Teachers are not scientists, they should be able to educate the students.
- School in Germany: Although the aforementioned problem exists and has to be dealt with, German schools are not that bad, in my opinion. Many teachers are able to learn the things required for their job even if they don’t learn them at the university or during their two-year training on the job.
- Homeschooling and its dangers: Teachers in Germany have to study their subjects and pedagogy for at least four to five years, depending on the grades they are going to teach, and write an exam thesis on one of the subjects in the end. Next, there’s 18 to 24 months of Referendariat, training on the job. During that time, they teach classes and are supervised by teachers and meet for seminary sessions and the like in the afternoons. They even have to write a second exam thesis with focus on a pedagogy problem.
Now how should any parent be able to teach his/her children without any special education whatsoever? The only exception I can think of is that the parent is a teacher him/herself, and still, he/she would not be able to teach all subjects. And besides, I’m sure that no parent who is a teacher is willing to teach the children at home instead of sending them to school.
The other problem is that the children who are taught by their parents do not get a chance to learn other opinions than those of their parents. They are not encouraged to think for themselves, to criticize their teachers or other people’s opinions as much as they would be in a “normal” school. This can be very dangerous for children of parents with radical opinions – and those parents are more likely than others to teach their children at home.
I think parents can and should contribute to the education of their children by teaching them some things at home: in day-to-day life, or by encouraging them by showing them means to learn on their own, but they should not try to replace school because they just can’t.
America and Europe
Scott, American and living in Germany for ten years, has some thoughts about the differences and similarities between the US and Europe.