Hey Kids! Brush up on your German!

Brain Dropping #89

Alles Ist Frei In Deutschland!  It’s all free in Germany. Wow!  There’s a great traditional German song: “Die Gedanken Sind Frei! – My thoughts are free / Should tyrants take me / and throw me in prison / my thoughts will break free / like blossoms in season. / No scholar can map them / no hunter can trap them. / Es bleibt dabei / Die Gedanken sind frei!”  As an aside: It seems to me that song should be sung on every street corner in the U.S.A.  But I’m not talking about the stifling of American protest – I’m talking about freeing and growing your thoughts with a tuition-free university education in Germany for everybody – and, get this, for foreigners too.
Last week Lower Saxony made itself the final State in Germany to do away with tuition in public universities like the fabled Universities of Heidelberg and Munchen.  So, pack your bags American students – you who can’t afford the outrageous tuition at our Colleges (Going up as much as 28% in California.)  Or those of you who don’t want to be working at McDonalds upon graduation, entangled in life-long debt.  As the ‘American Dream’ sinks slowly in the West – as we waste yet another generation of talented, intelligent potential students, enervating the very core of our society for short term profit, Germany recognizes that the life’s blood of the future is its young people.
But, there’s always a BUT!  Don’t expect the kind of Country Club, Summer Camp atmosphere you find on many U.S. campuses.  In German universities there are few amenities like huge field houses with Olympic swimming pools, or luxurious Student Union buildings (like the architecturally horrendous Davis Center at the University of Vermont.)  You, as a foreign student, will not find multi-million dollar sports stadia with body building facilities, or tens of millions spent on narcissistic football coaches and corrupt jocks.  There aren’t many dorms available, and those are spartan.  Most students share living space in town.  Apparently the German system doesn’t provide the degree of “in loco parentis” guidance services that have proliferated on American campuses – it is expected that a student on the university level is mature and motivated enough to know his own mind.  In the European model many classes are lectures with the expectation that the student will take the initiative to study on his own.  A major hurdle to all this largess from Deutschland is the need to learn German more than superficially, so as to avoid the embarrassment suffered by JFK when he declaimed before a huge crowd at the Berlin Wall: “Ich bin ein Berliner!” – meaning,”I am a donut !”


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