I have been watching German politics closely over this one, and it really seems as if they are about to engage in a flipback to feudalism with what they call ‘the largest reform of federalism’. Isn’t it ironic that feudalism and federalism are so similar? Alas, if nothing unpredictable happens, the linguistic affinity will become political reality before the end of the year.
In short the story is this: Because of a growing frustration of political actors, media and people with the complicated decision-making system in Germany, the two major political parties (SPD – Social Democrats and CDU – Christian Democrats) set out to plan a master reform of federalism.
Wikipedia explains here that federalism is an organisational principle which gives a certain amount of sovereignty stays to states or provinces, but at the same time binds them together with a governing representative head. The encyclopedia points out that in recent years federalism has come to mean something closer to confederacy.
(Why does this word sound so much like conspiracy?)
The German Master Reform seems to give up the original logic of federalism. Annoyed by the constant incompetence and inability to arrive at any decision through the current system, politicians have figured it must be better, then, to separate responsibilities in order to avoid conflicts and compromises alike.
In a power game unrivaled in recent German history, politicians are fighting — with no other interest than increasing or at least retaining own power — about something they have called ‘disentanglement of responsibilities’. Education is one of the areas most fought for: Since the disastrous slapping of the German formal education system by PISA, IGLU, PIRLS and TIMSS (to mention just a few) public attention has skyrocketed and with educational reforms elections can be easily won – or lost.
Since the foundation of West Germany in 1949 the main competence in all cultural and educational issues has rested with the federal state level, and the federal level was restricted to negotiating multi-state framework agreements on issues relating to quality, comparability of degress, access and mobility. After PISA has concluded that the socio-economic background of families has an extremely and unacceptedly high relation to access to and chances within education AND that the differences between the federal states are enormous in many aspects except this most fundamental one — so after these conclusions have been drawn: what are German politicians coming up with?
Exactly: Let’s give the small portion of influence that the federal level has at the moment away as well. In other words: The states have failed so far despite their far-reaching educational autonomy, but they surely will do better in the future.
Well I don’t believe in that promise. I think formal education in Germany (and elsewhere) is in desparate need of fundamental reforms anyway, a situation in which constitutionalising separatism and manifesting injustice and inequality is certainly not going to help.
Welcome back to the times of lords, vassals and fiefs.
At least I am apparently not the only critic, and voices are increasing these days to re-negotiate the ‘package reform’ as it has been conveniently called.
Consequently, wherever you look you’ll find politicians pleading, begging, conjuring and threatening to not open up the package again.
Yet I hope the pressure will be high enough so that exactly that happens.
I’m glad to do my share in unsealing Pandorra’s box.