Social Education 57(4), 1993
1993 National Council for the Social Studies

Europe's New Center

Manfred Stassen and Dagmar Kraemer
Ever since the peaceful revolutions of 1989, which brought the end of the cold war and the breakdown of both the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, it has become apparent that the 1990s will be the decade of Europe. And despite all the difficulties Europe is experiencing in the aftermath of the momentous changes on its political landscape, 1993 has become the year of the European Community. The formation of the EC is the latest attempt at reconstructing Europe on a basis of democracy and equality, built upon a solid economic base of the largest common market in the world of free-market economies, and firmly grounded in the transatlantic alliance.
One of the cornerstones of the unification of Europe, particularly as it strives to expand beyond the confines of its current membership, is the new, united Germany. The division of Europe after World War II ran through the center of Germany and its capital, Berlin. Under the geopolitical realities of the cold war, one Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany, was the east of the West, and the other, the German Democratic Republic, the west of the East. Since 1990, Germany is again the "land of the middle," the political mediator and the cultural bridge between eastern and western Europe. Economically, this most populous European country is widely regarded as the engine of a united Europe. Germany will, to a large extent, determine the pace of European unification, as well as the structure and political direction of a united Europe.

These developments are unfolding at a time when an urgent sense of renewal prevails in the United States. As the United States copes with considerable domestic problems, it is beginning to rethink its role in the "new world order." Three major zones of influence and competitive markets-the United States, Japan, and the European Community-are emerging. They may determine world politics for the foreseeable future. Instead of a hierarchical system of command dominated by the United States, as in the old structures of NATO, partnership in leadership will be the order of the day. Such a relationship will ultimately thrive only on knowledge, informed dialogue, and trust among the partners. This basis can no longer be taken for granted.

By all indications, the next generation of U.S. citizens, voters and leaders, is ill-prepared to grasp the significance of these changes. A recent textbook analysis, undertaken for the German Marshall Fund of the United States by two independent researchers, has shown that coverage of Europe after 1945 is virtually nonexistent (Kraemer and Stassen 1992). In particular, the rise of Germany-its move from the position of an undemocratic or totalitarian enemy in two world wars to the most loyal ally and foremost democratic country in Europe, with a forceful economy, stability at home, and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors-is left entirely unnoticed or unexplained. Yet, the charge of Eurocentrism and the push for inclusion of increasingly diverse multicultural material into social studies textbooks threatens to erode further knowledge and comprehension in the nation's schools of Europe as a newly emerging U.S. competitor.

Two consecutive special sections respond to the need for more up-to-date information and informed opinions on questions surrounding the unification of Europe and of Germany. They will undertake to lend a U.S. perspective to the necessity of addressing these questions within the framework of the social studies curricula of U.S. schools. The underlying assumption is that Europe-and Germany within Europe-matters to the United States, now even more than before. In a society that values information, students should not be shortchanged and denied access to knowledge that will help them understand the historical and cultural backgrounds informing the identities and actions of their country's allies and competitors, as well as the political and economic exigencies and priorities in the new world order. Information on alternative organization of societies with which the United States cooperates or competes might be of particular significance not only to the so-called Anglo-American majority, but also for the various minorities and groups of recent immigrants to the United States. Exclusive preoccupation with the heritage of their country of origin and that of their country of choice is ultimately not in their best interest.

According to a 1992 U.S. Census report, Germany is no stranger to the citizens and students of the United States. Approximately 58 million people in the United States (more than 25 percent of the population) claim at least partial German ancestry. Over the past fifty years, an average of three hundred thousand U.S. soldiers have been stationed in Germany without interruption. Millions of U.S. tourists visit the country every year and, recently, news directly from Germany has become more widely accessible in U.S. classrooms and has supplemented the images created by the television series and Hollywood movies of yesteryear. Nevertheless, surveys indicate that the Germany with which most U.S. citizens seem to be familiar is a Germany out of either a romantic museum or a horror show, or a former Germany whose history has been frozen in 1945 and artificially preserved until the present.

At this time of renewal, the United States is in search of social models to emulate. In many ways, it has already achieved what the European Community is still striving to complete-federal organization of a large portion of a continent and a common currency. Europe, Germany, and the United States have many problems in common including building a truly multicultural society and assuring equality of opportunity for all citizens. In many other ways, however, the European project in general, and the German model in particular, include useful suggestions for the United States to consider as it weighs its options for the future. These are primarily to be found in social equity issues, fashioning a tight social welfare net, free vocational and higher education ensuring a highly skilled work force and low youth unemployment, a far-sighted, long-range industrial planning and nonadversarial labor relations based on codetermination, a strong commitment to the protection of the environment, and a flexible, voter-responsive political party system.

The portrayal and systematic study of modern Europe and Germany as its foremost exponent in U.S. social studies classrooms is not Eurocentric, but a necessary exercise in keeping pace with global developments where they will affect the United States most directly in the foreseeable future. The drama unfolding in Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union does not have an automatic happy ending. To avoid a relapse into a pre-Wall, cold war confrontation that would drain the resources of the Western world and destroy the peace dividend so urgently needed for domestic projects in most countries, our common interest must make the experiments of European and German unification a success. Before we can expect a commitment in this direction from the next generation of U.S. citizens, we must make a beginning by educating them adequately about the new and emerging forces of the new world order.

In these two consecutive special issues on the unification of Europe and Germany, "Europe's New Center" and "The Case of Germany," we have attempted to strike a balance between useful and up-to-date information on the momentous changes that have occurred in that region, and their effect on the United States, on the one hand, and considerations for the implementation of some of that knowledge in classroom instruction on the other.

Articles by well-known scholars in the fields of European and German studies on the development and prospects of the European Community, the fate of Eastern and Central Europe, and the pivotal role of recently united Germany and its trials and tribulations are interspersed with some general and didactic considerations from the desk of a curriculum coordinator for social studies with extensive experience in that region.

Special issues of particular importance and interest to U.S. teachers and students covered by topic-driven essays, complete with statistical information about the EC and Germany in comparison, where appropriate, to the United States and Japan, round off the overviews.

In the special section focusing on Europe and the European Community, we have concentrated on economic issues-the very center of the European project to date. The second special section emphasizes Germany as Europe's likely locomotive, the German political party system, the alternative citizens' movements, and the all-important systems of vocational education and health insurance currently investigated by U.S. politicians for possible emulation. These are, of course, only exemplary topics in a rich field of possibilities. They are intended to stimulate further study.

In a time of great social and political upheavals, personal testimonies take on a particular significance. Interspersed within the analytical and didactical material, we present an interview with an (East) German teacher on the transformation of the curriculum and the entire school organization in the former GDR following unification, personal impressions from a U.S. educator who participated in a new exchange program for North American high school students (September issue), and a photo essay by a U.S. teacher who visited East and West Germany shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall (April/May issue).

Both special sections include useful bibliographical references and a list of addresses that provide additional information on educational materials and exchange programs for North American students. Although the pace of current political developments makes it difficult to keep up with the emergence of new countries and boundaries, we have included the most recent maps of the united Germany and the EC.

Reference
Kraemer, Dagmar, and Manfred Stassen. Europe in U.S. Social Studies Textbooks and Teaching Materials. Washington, D.C., 1992. Microfiche and hard copy (paper) reproductions are available through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service, 7420 Fullerton Rd., Suite 110, Springfield, VA 22153-2852.Manfred Stassen is a senior fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington, D.C., an affiliate of The Johns Hopkins University. Dagmar Kraemer is a consultant for German Studies in Washington, D.C.

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