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|Why Famous: Unified most of the German states into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership and became the first chancellor of a united Germany.|
We haven’t heard what the Common Core curriculum has planned for foreign language instruction, if anything. But we offer this German lesson as an introduction and a warning to all those who want central control over what is taught and what it thought in this country: “Wir sind nicht preußischen" We are not Prussians!
Millions of Germans flocked to this country in the nineteenth century. They came here from all regions of that rising European power. They came from disparate backgrounds in Germany. Some were Catholics, fleeing Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s Kulturkampf. There were also Baptists, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Jews.
All of these Germans wanted greater freedom of religion. They came from various regions of the new unified Germany, too. From Saxony, Bavaria, the Rhineland, and, yes, Prussia, too.
They were a diverse company, especially politically, representing very conservative views and very radical ones. We even had a fair share of Marxists among these immigrants. But whatever their differences, most of these Germans had an aversion to the Blood and Iron (Blut und Eisen) policies of Bismarck, the man they called the “Iron Chancellor.”
Bismarck used his power to crush all domestic opposition. He ruled with an iron rod.
And he used the schools to impose his own brand of discipline on the German people.
He cowed the parents by conscripting their children into government schools taught by government-appointed teachers, following a Berlin curriculum. He legislated all this with his schulaufsichtsgesetz. That’s German for “School Administration Law.” And that’s bureaucratese for Common Core.
Oh, and Bismarck was big on STEM. Science, technology, engineering and math. His new German Reich astonished the world with its technical achievements. Drive your diesel-engine auto to get an X-ray and you’ll be benefiting from the amazing advances in science that Germany provided the world.
Bismarck was not so hot on literature, philosophy, history, and ethics. He said: “This is not a matter of right or wrong, but of force. And we have it.” So much for ethics.
If Americans loved the story of young George Washington and the cherry tree (no matter how much sophisticates snickered at it), Germans were taught to laugh at the cynicism and lies of the Iron Chancellor. He forged a cable from the theatrically absurd Napoleon III. Bismarck got what he wanted, an aggressive war with France. He used the Franco-Prussian War to forcibly unite the squabbling German states under his stern Prussian leadership.
Now what has all this to do with Common Core in America? It’s simple. Much of our criticism of Common Core has to do with the fact that it “dumbs down” the curriculum, that it will impose mediocrity on our students, that it will hamstring their striving for excellence. All this is true.
But what if the centrally-directed curriculum really was a first-rate academic curriculum?
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
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