The German Education System by Shana Osterloh

On July 17th, over 500 citizens showed up to share their concerns about Common Core with legislators. Hundreds were unable to share their stories. This is one of them. Shana Osterloh shared this with us and we wanted to make sure people understood exactly what President Obama is talking about when he praises the German school-to-work education system. When the purpose of education becomes managing the needs of the economic workforce instead of educating all children to best meet their needs, interests, and capabilities, we destroy initiative and high achievement on a mass scale. Here is Shana’s talk.

Thank you for the opportunity to voice our concerns on Common Core. I have come across many people who do not know what Common Core is, and others who have felt alone in their fight against it. President Obama has been quoted praising the German education system in his discussion about education reform. I suppose that’s why I felt it was important for parents to hear from someone who has been through a Common Core system in Germany.

What follows is a letter from my husband regarding his experience in Germany. Some parts would need some cultural translation or further discussion, but I believe the overall message is very powerful.

COMMON CORE
As a German growing up in Germany, I always had my battles with common core standards. I was not one of the top students during my school years. I also was not part of the bottom, so I was placed into the path which freely translated we call “middle maturity”. On this path I was set up to pursue a vocational training career unless I could get my grades high enough to study at a Gymnasium (the path required for academics). I managed to skim by with my grades, making it barely into the Gymnasium. However, because my middle path of schooling was not dominantly designed to move up in educational paths I quickly fell behind, lost interest and ended up in a career that did not require academic education, just as predicted when assessed by common standards at grade 6 at the time. (The assessment is done at grade 4 nowadays.)

I pursued the career of a fitness trainer. I was the best student of the year, even the best student that institution has had until that date. I liked my job, but I always had a nudge in the back of my head how I could sustain a family making barely the average income that was usual for fitness trainers in Germany. I tried to calm myself by telling others that I would probably do this job only until about my fifties, and then move up somewhere into an office and work more on the administrative side. But I knew I was lying to myself. I probably would not have had the courage for a career change in my upper fifties.

Once I told my then girlfriend about my career “ambitions”. She was from Arizona and grew up with the American spirit that you can become anything you want. She declared me crazy for settling for so little. She told me that if I really was that smart to outperform my whole training institution till that date, I could also study at a college and secure a better lifestyle.

I told her that in Germany, once you leave Gymnasium, there is no easy return. The Gymnasium I attended previously already had told me that there is no return for me once I left. There is such a thing as night classes, but those are mostly seen as a “second dive for failure”, or “not good/ smart enough for the normal path” by many Germans. So there is no telling once I would have completed such night classes that a university in Germany would have ever accepted me thereafter.

Luckily my then girlfriend did not get off my back hearing these excuses. She encouraged me to go to America and study whatever I want. She believed that I could do it.

A year later I met my wife, who is originally from California. She also told me the same thing; that I could become and do anything I wanted. I still was hesitant and with my German common core depressed upbringing I wondered if I was even good enough for a community college.

As of Fall 2012 I am enrolled in a Utah college and am on my way to change my future working on an associate’s degree in business and accounting with ambitions to rise up to a doctorate level.

I am grateful for the American spirit these two women introduced into my life, freeing me from the shackles of educational depression that was put on me by a common standard. Each person is unique. Who is the government to tell children at age 10 what they can or cannot become in life? What interest does the federal government have in common core standard testing that destroys our children’s vision and imagination for their future? The federal government should not be interested in such as it is to serve its people.

One can argue that Germany makes good products, brings forth good engineers and many other good things. Sadly Germans are also one of the most unpatriotic and job-insecure people you will ever meet. How does that fit together? People feel they always have to compete against the rest of the world while being told “you are not good enough.” Common education standards equalize – not raise – education standards at the expense of people losing their identity.

My brother, by the way is a baker, having been tested by government computers at age 14 that this is what he could become. He still thinks he is not good enough for anything else, or even to start up his own bakery.

I have seen the effects of common core in my own life and had a hard time to break out of this rut. In Germany common core has already broken the hope, vision, and imagination of many people. I am not willing to see another country make the same mistakes. Do not hand over more control to the government. Parents, let us be responsible!

15 thoughts on “The German Education System by Shana Osterloh”

  1. Utahns against common core. I am completely against common core, as a matter of fact so is my husband who is from Spain. Individuals progress at different rate and we don’t need to be fit into a box and told hat we can and cannot do. What are you trying to do? Stop people from dreaming! Yes, the less that we know the more controllable we become. Common Core does not work. I have seen it in Europe. So many talented individuals have their dreams taken from them because of how the educational system works. It is horrible. Don’t let this happen in our nation. Let us unite together and be a force for good. Keep the government out of the educational system. They are only diving into something tht they don’t understand in order to create more funds for the government,

    1. Thank you for sharing. I agree with Shelly. My husband and I both made a career change when in college. I am sure we all know others who have done this. They’ll name it something else if we don’t continue to network and see this ALL the way through. Encourage others to understand it and write legislators. It falls to them. USOE are appointed. Then stay with a vision of what you want to see. Attend your school board meetings and don’t let them lie to you. Take notes, remind them that you know your history and then run for school board or support someone who represents your views of what you know educational services should be.

  2. All parents will be attending “Back to School Nights” at their children’s schools and we must not miss this opportunity to hand out literature informing everyone about the evils of Common Core. I plan on making copies of the stuff I received during Glenn Beck’s seminar at the Grand America and handing them out. Visit utahnsagainstcommoncore.com and see if there is anything that can printed and distributed!

    1. We are willing to believe and distribute materials from a for-profit-entertainer who holds ticketed “seminars” at the Grand America hotel but are unwilling to trust state education officials and elected governors ?!!!

      1. From what I understand, GBs events and the proceeds there from all go to his Charity arm, MercuryOne. There are waaaaay too many reasons not to fully trust the government…read history, even recent history. We were told by our founders not to blindly trust anyone with power. That’s why we have the Constitution.

        1. Yes you are right about not blindly trusting anyone with power. The founders had the king in mind when they said that. I think it is okay to trust democratically elected governors and state officials that are indirectly accountable. Or at least to give them a chance to try something different than the tired old system that is not working well for most students. If we don’t trust the government, the school board or professionally trained teachers that WE as a society put in place to provide education services among other things, then who do we trust ? The private sector that by definition has to look to making a profit over and above anything else ?

          1. The private sector lives and dies by providing a service people want. Government is under no such restriction. They tax us regardless of whether their *service* is a quality product. I’m in favor of governmental entities shrinking as much as possible and letting the market provide what people actually want to spend their money on. In education, where we have free public schools, if a school wants to experiment and pilot a new technique or program, I’m in favor of that. However, if you want to switch all schools to an untested, unproven program, which is actually the brain child of private sector companies looking to make big bucks, I’m totally against that. It just enriches the special interests and puts children at tremendous risk. That’s Common Core.

  3. I spent nine years in Germany, with some friends whose children were in German schools. It is rough and depressing if you don’t pass the tests well in 4th grade. Your whole future is determined. How sad. My son couldn’t read fast enough in 4th grade to finish his in class assignments on time. He’s applying for graduate school this fall. Children often change after age 9! Age 9! What an age to limit their dreams. I hope this is not where Common Core is headed.

  4. Everything my husband said I have witnessed in other children. I was an au pair in Germany for many years and saw the depression in these children as their future was determined for them. I have also witnessed teachers making fun and putting down in front of and behind the backs of their students who were not placed on the college track; children just like my husband. I agree with Oak. The private sector has to provide a product the people actually want in order to survive. The government, however, can give us mediocrity, and we are obliged to accept it. My husband has given you the facts from his own experiences of where common core (not just the curriculum, but also the cultural implications behind it) will lead. Do with it what you will. Believe it or toss it aside; it is the truth. Now what are we as individuals and a society going to do with the information we have? What are we going to do about it?

  5. I am a math aide at a Title I school. I can whole heartedly echo the fact that not all children learn the same. To put them all in the same box is a disservice to the whole school. I have students in 6th grade reading on a high school level and I also have students not reading at all. I have always been worried that my children would “fall through the cracks”. My children are smart. However, so much time and attention is spent on the children who are struggling. Fortunately, because of the diversity (in many different areas) at our school, my children have been able to thrive because of small group instruction. My children have been challenged, the students who struggle have been helped, and the “middle road” kids have also had their needs met. One size fits all does NOT work in education.

  6. “Sadly Germans are also one of the most unpatriotic and job-insecure people you will ever meet.”

    Well, I’m German, too and still live in Germany. And I hate such superficial comments, which lack a deeper understanding of an issue. Understandably, patriotism was seen as somewhat unfitting after the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler. Anyone who is familiar with world history, would therefore be able to draw the conclusion. It is not “sad” that Germans are not patriotic. It is and was a neccessary development after such heinous crimes (Concentration Camps) were comitted in the name of patriotism. And actually we ARE patriotic, but not in the sense, that we have to sway flags and sing the national anthym every day in school. We do not aprove of everything our government does but question issues and standarts. But sure I am proud of achievements and things which have been done right. On the other hand I separate myself from the state, I have my own oppinions and I will act on it. Edward Snowdon did the same. But in USA he is a traitor, because sadly people don’t distinguish between the right thing to do and blindly following the course of the mighty powerful people who lead the country.

    And only if YOU feel too insecure to pursue a second school career, does not mean that others have the same problem. Germany offers anyone the chance to study without exaggerated fees. Each and everyone is able to study, due to a support system which hands out money to families and children with poorer family background. This does NOT count for the USA. So please, please, guys, when you talk about something, try not to paint it in black and white colours: USA –> the greatest, best, bla bla bla // Germany –> the supressing, dream-destroying, child-leave-behind-country. Try to rise your standarts to a impartial discussion….

    I really got annoyed when I read this comment! Right now I am researching for a thesis paper that I have to write and came across this page. When you speak about a country, just speak for YOURSELF. NOT for a whole nation. And give people the whole facts. Not just the ones you like. OF COURSE you get into a university when you receive your A-level. It does NOT matter at all, where you did your A-level. Just your average counts. A lot of my friends did it. And they are happily studying, without any problems. ANY state university will be obliged to take you, when your average is good enough. Of course if you only received bad marks and you are below average you will have to apply to different universities and then you might have to wait one or two semesters.

    So much nonsense! Please, don’t just blindly believe what a guy writes, just because he says he is German. Inform yourself about the matter!!!

    1. Thanks for commenting Miri. I removed my name from your post because you must have missed that I was posting someone else’s letter.

  7. Update: My husband has now earned two associate degrees, a bachelors in exercise science, and is two years away from graduating with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

    In answer to Miri, “Please, don’t just blindly believe what a guy writes, just because he says he is German. Inform yourself about the matter!!!”

    My husband immigrated here from Germany in 2012. He was born and raised in Bremen, with a family history in Bremen dating back at least to the 15th century. His experiences were clearly different than yours.

    “And actually we ARE patriotic, but not in the sense, that we have to sway flags and sing the national anthym every day in school. ”

    Then what would you classify as patriotic? What are you feelings regarding nationalism? Are you proud to call yourself German in Europe and America? Those I met in Bavaria would purposefully call themselves Bavarian and not German (their words, not mine), thus separating themselves from their country. It would be the equivalent of a Texan not admitting they’re American, but referring to themselves as Texan only.

    “Anyone who is familiar with world history, would therefore be able to draw the conclusion. It is not “sad” that Germans are not patriotic. It is and was a neccessary development after such heinous crimes (Concentration Camps) were comitted in the name of patriotism.”

    No. Hitler is no longer living. Most people who experience WWII are no longer living. My au pair children told me themselves that they felt that they had nothing to do with the war, so why were they being told to be ashamed of their country? What exactly are you proud of in Germany if you are patriotic? Are you proud of those men, your fathers and grandfathers, that fought in WWII and WWI? Or any other war they may have fought in? I am proud of my uncle who served in the Vietnam War because he was a soldier, and fought for our country and what he believed was right.

    “We do not aprove of everything our government does but question issues and standarts.”

    We Americans do too. Hence this website of Utahns Against Common Core…

    “Edward Snowdon did the same. But in USA he is a traitor, because sadly people don’t distinguish between the right thing to do and blindly following the course of the mighty powerful people who lead the country.”

    False. Many believe that Edward Snowden did the right thing, following his conscience. Higher level government officials don’t like to be exposed, and treat him as a traitor.

    “And only if YOU feel too insecure to pursue a second school career, does not mean that others have the same problem.”

    “No. Because too many comply.” – My husband

    “Germany offers anyone the chance to study without exaggerated fees. Each and everyone is able to study, due to a support system which hands out money to families and children with poorer family background. This does NOT count for the USA.”

    I’m assuming you are trying to take a stab at our system of paying for college, while Germany has free college. Unfortunately in Germany not everyone gets to go to college, even though their attitude toward learning may change later on in life. Germany = everyone pays for a few people to go, relatively speaking. America = we pay to go, but everyone with a GED or high school diploma can decide to go to college at some point in their lives, even in their 40’s and 50’s. We are free to change our careers at any point in life.

    “When you speak about a country, just speak for YOURSELF. NOT for a whole nation.”

    Is that what you’re doing?

    “And give people the whole facts. Not just the ones you like.”

    My husband is giving his experiences and observations. And please, follow your own advice. Don’t just give the ones you like. Be honest.

    “OF COURSE you get into a university when you receive your A-level. It does NOT matter at all, where you did your A-level. Just your average counts.”

    A-level = Gymnasium only (upper level). Hence, the many pay for the few to go to college.

    “ANY state university will be obliged to take you, when your average is good enough. ”

    Again, Gymnasium only. A system we don’t want here in America. We do not believe in elitism.

    “Of course if you only received bad marks and you are below average you will have to apply to different universities and then you might have to wait one or two semesters.”

    You are still only referring to Gymnasium. What about Realschule? Or even Hauptschule? Do they have a chance later on in life, or are they stuck where they are? If they do go on, how much longer does it take than those in Gymansium? And how likely is it that they will not be discouraged to go on? Or will resign? Again, be honest.

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