Monday, August 20, 2007

Bad Day at Black Rock

My kids go back to school today.

I hate school. And I hate to disappoint everyone who says to me, "You must be glad the kids are back in school!" I'm not glad. I hate school. I hate homework, I hate grades, I hate tests, and more than anything I hate the German school system.

Have a nice day.


Rachel Mallino said...


In all seriousness, I would love to hear why you hate the German school system.

Dave said...

Poor kids! I don't know what I'd do if I were a parent - I guess not live somewhere where children can be compelled to attend.

Andrew Shields said...

Time to home-school M and L?

SarahJane said...

The worst thing about the German school system is that by the time your child is 10 years old, it’s pretty much decided whether he can attend college or not. That’s because, as of 5th grade, students are tracked into separate types of schools, the college prep one being the Gymnasium. If your child hasn’t done well enough, or to be honest, hasn’t got the personality, he isn’t headed there. I find it outrageous. Of course the school soothes you by saying “theoretically” the child could switch out of one of the geared-down schools into Gymnasium if he performs very well, but the chances of that are really low. Once you’re tracked, sweetie, you’re toast.

Second, the Gymnasium is much more difficult than American high school. There’s tons of homework. And over the past couple years, they’ve moved to shorten the amount of time kids have to spend in secondary school since if you go to university here, you could be in your late twenties by the time you get your first job (and they wonder why they have a social security crisis). But they’ve tried to shorten secondary school not by cutting things out, but by stuffing 9 years worth of school work into 8 years. (Some of it is pretty useless knowledge. Last year I spent a week learning the name of every bone in the head so my 10-year old could pass her biology test. Of course she and all the other students forgot all those names directly after the test.)

Although the school claims the parents shouldn’t have to help much with homework, I don’t know one family where this isn’t the case. In fact, since Germany’s is still a rather traditional mom-at-home society, in general someone is actively and closely managing the child. I do what I can, but considering the amount of stuff they have to do, plus extra-curricular activities, plus my working full-time, it’s really a struggle. To make things worse (in this situation, though in general I’m glad), I’m not German! Their methodologies are foreign to me. I don’t know every rule of the comma. They solve math problems in a straight line as if writing a sentence, for example, rather than stacking as we do in America. And they changed their own spelling rules a couple years leading to general pandemonium!

Andrew Shields said...

There's also the German arrogance that an American BA is the equivalent of a German high-school diploma. Have you come across that?

I only came across the idea at universities, but it was presented as if it was so obviously true that all I could do was gawk.

SarahJane said...

I try to take arrogance like that as plain old ignorance. It is terribly annoying though. sigh. As are many things.

It took me some time to get used to the German way of presenting their opinions as accepted facts. I remember when I moved here one of my colleagues told me he was going to the states on vacation to "see" the "Indian Summer." I told him it was kind of a gamble that there would be one and wondered about the use of "see." I mean, it has to do with the temperature. Well, was he startled by my ignorance! The Indian Summer can apparently be seen every fall in New England. Though I tried explaining to him what Indian summer is, it turns out that all of Germany use "Indian Summer" as a synonym for New England's changing foliage season. I told him to learn English and look it up in Webster's.

Andrew Shields said...

Well, isn't that ("Indian Summer") just another case of an English expression being given a new sense in German? "Wir haben ein gutes Feeling gehabt" is one of my favorites, where "feeling" does not mean "Gef├╝hl" but some sort of special thing that athletes have when things are going well.

I'm not defending the German desire to use as much English as possible, but it did help me understand what was going on when I tried to think about it like a linguist would: the English expressions cover a meaning that the German speakers feel is missing in their language, even when it means that the English expression gets "distorted."

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