In School in Germany: The Guessing Quiz

 

 

 

Have you ever tried introducing an exotic topic to your group and wondered how they can learn something new without making them bored by your topic? There are many ways of getting your students involved in a topic that you are an expert in but they have next to no clue about. The most important point is to ensure that they learn something from the topic you are talking about.

One of the methods to teach them is through individual work, where they learn something about the topic through their own research.  In some cases, some guesswork is needed before the teacher can explain the answer in detail so that the student can better understand the topic. For the latter part, that is when the Guessing Quiz comes in.

The Guessing Quiz was developed during my early days of teaching English in 2001 for the sole purpose of providing the students with some insight on American culture and history, as well as some terms in the English language that may be useful in the long run. The goal of this guessing quiz is to encourage students to guess at and learn from some of the facts that they had not known about in the previous lessons. As a general rule, there is no right or wrong answer, as long as they learn something new in the end. This sort of mentality of learning something new on a regular basis was what led the late Peter Jennings to become the news anchor of World News Tonight for over two decades in the US and a reporter for the CBC in Canada. Jennings’ career as a journalist lasted over four decades until his death in 2005.

 

Some tips on how to make the Guessing Quiz simple and enjoyable are the following:

 

  1. Keep the questions short and simple. It will be difficult enough to introduce them to a new topic they may have little or no knowledge about, which includes new words, etc. Yet questions and information have to be given in bite-sizes in order for them to get into the topic.

 

  1. Be prepared to explain every question in detail and explain to them why the answer is what it is.  To challenge them with a question is one obstacle, yet as a teacher, you have to be an expert in your topic and fit enough to explain your argument supporting your answer.

 

  1. Format your questions in a way that it is user-friendly.  Best variant is the multiple choice questions, as you have a chance to explain the right answers in comparison with the wrong ones. This is useful when teaching classes involving history, politics and culture, as many new terms and themes are introduced and require some explanations.  Second best are open questions, allowing for discussion, thus fostering the possibility of students to state their opinions. This option is especially useful for foreign language teaching, as students learning a second or third language are expected to communicate orally.  Not preferred are the fill-in gaps unless you provide hints next to them, as it will discourage students from guessing if they keep on guessing the wrong answers to the first question after 20 minutes.

 

 4. Make the Guessing Quiz an enjoyable experience. Add some fun into your questions or discussion. Yet if your discussions in class may take too long, give them some additional handouts and/or links  that will allow them to read more about it in their spare time. And remember to tell them at the beginning that the quiz is not a matter of life or death. It is a learning process where you learn about the answers through the teacher and discussion with your fellow students.

 

The Guessing Quiz can be used in any class and on any level. The most useful is in a foreign language class that deals with cultural themes, but one can also use it in history, social studies, political science, ethics, religion and other classes that deal with humanities. More difficult is when used in a science class unless you are introducing a scientist and his theory of XYZ. The same applies to music, unless teaching theory and history. Next to impossible is in mathematics, for you as a teacher are introducing numbers and figures, and there are really no possibilities to introduce the Guessing Quiz here, unless you as the reader, care to differ.

Here is a sample of what a Guessing Quiz looks like, by using one that was produced in connection with History and the Topic of World War I. This part deals with the worsening relations between the US and Germany. Try the Quiz out and share your answers with others. The answers will appear in the article in the next week.

 

World War I and the US’s war on Germany

 

  1. What was the deciding factor that led to the US’s entry into the war in 1917?
    1. The sinking of the Lusitania
    2. The interception of the Zimmermann Telegraph
    3. Mexico’s declaration of war on the US
    4. The inner-political strife among the immigrants

Fact-finder: Which states in the US were once part of Mexico but were taken away by the Americans?  When did this happen?

 

  1. German immigrants in America were treated especially badly by the Americans during the war. How were they discriminated? Choose the following examples that you think did apply.

 

Eliminating German from the school curriculum

Rounding them up and placing them onto reservations with the Native Americans

Renaming the Hamburger Liberty Steak

Renaming German villages (for example, Frankfort to Kentucky City, Fulda to North Worthington, New Ulm to Ramsey, and Weimar to Crockettown)

Renaming Sauerkraut Liberty Cabbage

Banning German literature

Banning German-speaking newspapers

 

Over 200 towns in the US still carry a German name today. Apart from the ones mentioned (Weimar (Texas), Frankfurt (Kentucky and Illinois), New Ulm and Fulda (both in Minnesota) List at least 3 German cities whose names can be found in the American communities today.

 

 

 

 

  1. True or False:
    1. Germany was the last country to surrender to the Entente (the US, England and France) on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1919.
    2. Armistice Day marked the end of World War I.
    3. Veteran’s Day originated from the above-mentioned day and has been celebrated in the US ever since.
    4. America was involved in the treaty to punish the Austro-Hungarians and Germans (losers of the war) through annexation of certain regions to the Entente.

 

  1. Woodrow Wilson was heavily involved in the negotiations regarding the Versailles Treaty. How did he do that? Choose two of them.
    1. He worked on a reparation plan for Germany
    2. He proposed the League of Nations
    3. He created the 14-Point Plan
    4. He agreed to the proposals laid out by France and England to force Germany to cede (give up) portions of its territory.

 

 

The Best Leaders Learn From Example

 

Statue of Harry Truman outside the Jackson County Courthouse in Independence. Photo taken in August 2011

Here is a thought-provoking question that you should consider: What constitutes a great leader? What do you expect from a great leader? What factors influence you to decide for one over the other when the elections take place. And lastly, are you satisfied with the leader of your own country, and why?

When I write this entry, we have two major elections on the horizon: The US Presidential elections this upcoming November and the German Federal Elections in 2013. A lot is at stake, and the fate of the incumbents- Barack Obama and Angela Merkel- will be determined by not only how they ruled their countries, but also on the satisfaction of the voters. If I was asked if I was satisfied with the way the two governments are being run, the answer for both would be a clear-cut “no!”  Both governments have been targets of public scrutiny but for two different reasons. In the case of Merkel, she hired the wrong people to lead Berlin’s ministries because of the scandals they faced- in particular, with Christian Wulff (now replaced with Joachim Gauck as German President) and Karl Theodore zu Guttenberg (now replaced with Guido Westerwelle as Defense Minister). And it is unclear whether her party (CDU)’s partner, the Free Liberals (FDP) will survive the beatings it had already sustained or if it will sink.

In the case of the US government, it is a rather peculiar situation for Obama, as his envision for a better America has become a target of criticism and cynicism by his opponents, including his challenger for the presidential elections this fall, Mitt Romney. Everything that he tried to put through office has either been reversed or voted down by Congress. The lone exception to the rule is the health care reform which was upheld in the Supreme Court, yet if Romney takes office, he vows to dismantle it within 24 hours of swearing into office. Obama however has tried to reach out to the opposition in hopes to work together on solving numerous issues that has plagued America since 2008: high unemployment, a sagging economy, health-related issues affecting Americans, etc. This has proven to be in vain as his attempts have been touted as too soft and the Republicans were not ready to work with a Democrat.

If Obama was to learn from example, it may help him in the long term. During my trip through Missouri this past August, I made an overnight stop at Independence, which was the birthplace of another US President. He was the one who was famous for his “My Way or the Highway” policy and his coined terms “The Buck Stops Here” and “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” He was a man of true grit and did not allow any room for compromise as he pushed his policies through. That gentleman’s name is Harry Truman.

A replica of his office when he was president located at the Truman Presidential Library. Photo taken in August 2011

A son of a farmer and a homemaker, Mr. Truman was born on 8 May, 1884 on a farm outside of Independence. His rise to stardom began when he became a county judge in 1922 and 1930 respectively, which was followed by his 10 years  as Senator (1934-44). He was the running mate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he won his unprecedented fourth term of office in 1944, but was just starting to settle in when the President died on 14 April, 1945 of a hemorrhage of the brain. It was then when he took over and governed the country, going by what was right for the country. He used atomic bombs to submit the Japanese to defeat but refused to do that for the Korean War and fired a feisty Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur for his defiance and insistence on using it. He contained Communism with the Berlin Airlift and supporting the countries that were becoming a target of the domino effect in Europe and Indochina, but picked a fight at Potsdam by looking straight into the eyes of the Russian diplomats in demanding that there is a neutral Germany after the Fall of the Nazis. He recognized Israel by agitating the Arabs who refused to have a Jewish state, but stayed out of conflict when the Israelis drove out every invading neighbor vowing not to recognize the Jewish state. On the home front, he jumpstarted the railway system by threatening to hire strike workers when all train workers went on strike. He alleviated the high unemployment through his fair deal agreements and encouraging former war veterans to go to college. He was the type of person who led the country with an iron fist, despite having a Missourian dialect and not having a degree at a university or college.  While his popularity declined at the end of his eight years in office, most Americans still embraced him as an outstanding but common citizen when he retired to his home with his wife Bess and daughter Margaret in Independence. Even when he was travelling on the road with Bess, he was still treated like a king as he stopped along the way.
What made Truman very popular was simple. He was one of a few people who walked a single independent line, not following the Democrats or the Republicans, not compromising with anybody, and initiating his policies that were to him the right thing to do. He was a person who took on responsibility and made the right decisions on his own terms, hence the term “The Buck Stops Here.” He was also one who never caved into the pressure from the media and other people alike but instead, showed his teeth in every way, shape or form. This is a problem that most politicians today are grappling with for they pass the buck onto others and whitewash themselves at the expense of other people who had nothing to do with the mess that they had caused. Truman kept his promises, whereas many Americans and Germans alike do not remember when was the last time the politicians made and kept a promise, let alone pass measures to the benefit of the public and not that of their own.
The problems facing society in general is huge. The economy is in shambles. Unemployment is high. The socio-economic gaps as well as the racial gaps are wider than ever before. And the number of people responsible for the mess is huge.  But the need of a leader to clean up the mess and take those responsible for the trouble caused to the cleaners is the biggest on the minds of many. Yet politicians gearing up for the Presidential race in the US this year and the German federal elections next year are using media and tactics to make themselves look good at the expense of their opponents, instead of outlining policies that make sense to the public. Already Mitt Romney is slinging mud at Obama even though he championed some of the policies Obama is initiating, especially health care and economic stimulus packages. As for Obama, his soft sides and his lack of experience have ended up with more people with only change in their pockets instead of him keeping his promises of change for America like he did in 2008. In Germany and other European countries, political measures to reduce the debt and help the countries in dire straits are not welcomed and many politicians have been crying foul instead of taking the initiatives to help their own countries first and then the others. And Obama trying to dictate Europe was met with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäubler’s counterattack: “Take care of your mess! It is much bigger than ours!”
It is no wonder that many people are fed up with the leaders of our country and are willing to take action to ensure that the next generation has a tomorrow. Yet extremism is no answer. What is needed is a leader that will set an example for others to follow, through honesty and hard work, strife and sacrifice, dedication to the people and direction, and one that is open but also one who will make the decision and make sure others will follow. Lack of educational background has little importance if a leader has an idea of how to make a country work and become more competitive.
This was something that is admirable for a character like Truman. He did not need an education or special training to become President. All he needed was a plan and a lot of testosterone to lead the country, and the rest listened. Perhaps the candidates should look to Truman as a role model and craft their campaign and planning around his. It does not take money to win the hearts of the public nor deference of responsibly to the other person. It takes a person with guts to look at others in the eye and say “My Way or the Highway,” and take the issues by the horns in defiance with the opposition. This will indeed be the deciding factor in taking us out of the predicament we are in right now.
I would like to finish with a quote about a good leader. Each country is a flame that burns noticeably, rain or shine. It needs no fuel and matches unless one puts it out. It needs not to be bigger as it will create disaster of climatic proportions. It needs to shine for the public to see. The flame is the leader of the country sets an example for the people to follow. In each country there is a person willing to be like Harry Truman. Perhaps our current leaders have yet to show their true colors after a few years of hard time and disappointment. However, there are some who are willing to carry the country out of ruin and into the limelight. It is just a question of who….

 

The flame still keeps going even after the great ones leave. Photo taken at the Truman Presidential Library in August 2011

Green Invasion at the Expense of the Liberals

"Huh? What's that I hear?" Photo taken in December 2010

Politics is like going through a natural cycle: You have two main parties where one party takes over the podium because of a concept that makes sense, only to find that it does not make sense to the public. In the end that party is replaced with the other one- its opposition- because it has a better idea. However it does not please the public, so it is removed in favor of the party they had unseated previously. This badminton match which includes all the grunts, ranting and raving, and political trash talking, continues until another party comes to bring down the political forum with a digger and bulldozer. When this happens, everybody knows about it and runs for cover- even the deer are affected as they are the most sensitive to change and noise and run when they feel change is inevitable.

It is unclear what to make of the recent state elections in Germany, where the Dream Coalition- the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Liberals (FDP)- are losing support as rapidly as one loses sand through his own fingers. After being routed in Hamburg on 20th February, failing to overtake the Social Democrats in Rheinland Palatinate, being forced to form the Grand Coalition with its rival party the SPD after losing the majority in Saxony-Anhalt, and being unseated as the majority party of Baden Württemberg after 60 years in power (the last three elections being on 27 March), change is becoming more and more inevitable as a long 2 years is ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel for two reasons:

1. She lost her right hand politician and potential successor to the throne, Guido Westerwelle on Monday, as he announced that he was stepping down as the head of the FDP after 10 years in power and was not going to step in for Angela Merkel effective immediately. While he will continue on as foreign minister until the next elections in 2013, the opposition and members of his own party are pushing that he resigns from that post as well and leave politics after the poorest showing in the state elections in its history, where the party did not even make the 5% mark in Saxony-Anhalt and Rheinland Palatinate and barely made it over the mark in Baden Württenberg, making him as the scapegoat. While health minister Philipp Rösner, who is of Vietnamese origin and one of the youngest ministers in the German Bundestag, is poised to take over Westerwelle’s duties, a power struggle is inevitable as the Liberals are struggling to find an identity which would be appealing to the voters. This is sensible given the fact that almost two years ago, the party had 11% of the votes in the federal elections, which was enough for the Dream Coalition with the CDU. Before that it was averaging 8-10% of the votes in the state elections.

2. There is a new party that is taking the spotlight away from the two majority parties, the SPD and the CDU, in the form of the Greens. When Winfried Kretschmann takes over as Prime Minister of Baden Württemberg, he will become the first Green Party member to be elected to this post, let alone the first Green to hold a major post since Joschka Fischer was Foreign Minister and Gerhardt Schröder’s vice Chancellor during the years of the Red Green Coalition in Berlin (1998-2005). How Kretschmann, who originates from Sigmarigen near Lake Constance and the co-founder of the Greens in his homestate claimed his post is simple: In the state elections, even though the CDU was able to obtain the majority of the votes with 39%, the Greens got 24.1% of the votes and the SPD got 23.2%. The FDP only got 5.3%. As a result, the SPD and Greens created the Red Green Coalition, making it the majority ruling party. As a general rule, the party with the majority votes in the coalition also nominates the candidate to run the state, which was the Green candidate Kretschmann. While he may not be the next Jesse Ventura ( the professional wrestler who won the governatorial elections inMinnesota as an Independent Party candidate in 1998 and held that post for 4 years), he is the symbol of what could be the Green Revolution, as the party has become clear winners in the state elections thusfar, winning an average of 8% of the parliamentary seats in the four states, a gain of 7%. This includes a 15% gain in Baden Württemberg, 10.8% in Rheinland Palatinate, 3.6% in Saxony Anhalt, and 1.6% in Hamburg. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the parties where they have been losing seats and votes in the last decade, with the FDP taking the brunt of the losses. The reasons for the trend is two fold. First and foremost, in light of the triple disaster in Japan- consisting of the Earthquake, Tsunami which completely obliterated everything in its path in the northeast part of the country, and the Nuclear Disaster at Fukushima which is on the level with Chernobyl in 1986- the party is pushing for the complete phasing out of nuclear power and 100% reliance of renewable energy by 2040. This includes phasing out all nuclear power plants one by one, something that the CDU and FDP have been opposed to even after the disaster in Japan, which has angered many people in Germany and elsewhere. Secondly it wants to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emmissions by 40% to 1990 levels by 2020, by introducing strict policies to encourage more electric and fuel-efficient cars and introducing other incentives to conserve energy. These are the main reasons to go along with other policies they have involving agriculture and family policies, something that many people are dissatisfied with the current trend by the Dream Coalition.

With three more state elections on the horizon (Berlin, Bremen, and Mecklenburg-Pommerania), the trend is pointing clearly towards the Greens, as the party looks at creating another Red-Green Coalition in Berlin and Bremen with the possibility of having another Green mayor in Bremen and Berlin, which would make history as the first city-states to do that. While the Greens have the votes to do that in Bremen, Berlin is banking on Renate Kunast, a former Agriculture Minister during the Schröder days who is now the minister of nutrition and diet, to pull off the unthinkable, like in Baden Württemberg. As for the Greens in Mecklenburg-Pommerania, the northeasternmost state in Germany, the party is looking at clearing the 5% barrier for the first time in a decade, while finding ways to squelch the most hated Nationalist Party (NPD) in the process. The party had only 3.6% in the last elections of 2006 in comparison to the 7.1% the NPD had.

As for the FDP, they are being looked upon as guidance to help the Grand Coalition through the most difficult times. While Westerwelle is no loner leading the party and may even leave politics, even with a new party leader, some fundamental changes need to take place in order for it to become a credible party. Should it fail to find a platform to attract the voters, there is a danger that the party may lose more than just its identity. It is possible that the FDP may bring down the CDU, thus marking the elections of 2013 as a watershed for the Coalition, as the campaigns of Merkel and company many fall on deaf ears of voters who demand change in the form of a new government, new policies, and a term that is rarely heard of these days in the world of politics, a new set of ethics; especially in light of what happened in Japan with Fukushima and its implications on the energy and environmental policies, touted as one of the best in the modern world, thanks to contributions by the Greens.

Useful Links:

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14950846,00.html

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14963869,00.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburg_state_election,_2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxony-Anhalt_state_election,_2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhineland-Palatinate_state_election,_2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg_state_election,_2011

Guttenberg Update: Germany’s Most Spectacular Resignations

Willy Brandt ans Fenster- The hotel across from the Erfurt railway station where Chancellor Willy Brandt met Erich Honecker in 1970 and spoke in front of a crowd of thousands. The champion of Ostpolitik resigned in 1974, but left a legacy that still exists today. Photo taken in March 2011

As recently as this past Saturday, there was a very intriguing article that was published by Germany’s tabloid magazine “Bild Magazin” that dealt with Germany’s 100 most spectacular resignations by some of the country’s most renowned celebrities. This was in connection with the most recent resignation of another celebrity, Germany’s most beloved politician and now former defense minister, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, which Thomas de Maiziere, the former Interior Minister has taken over his post while thousands of demonstrators throughout Germany on Saturday rallied behind the embattled CSU politician picked to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel.

While going through the article, I was amazed at who stepped down but also the reasons for them calling it quits. Some were understandable; others were scandalous; the rest were just dumb mistakes costing them dearly or just really dumb reasons- in either case, the Germans were not impressed with that at all. I decided to disect this article and pick out the celebrities that some of you know and categorize them based on the Top 5 of the most spectacular resignations up until Guttenberg’s exit, but not including Edmund Stoiber, who was mentioned too many times already. Then I chose five honorably mentioned candidates and two wild card candidates among the German celebrities. Each of the resignations will include a small comment on the part of yours truly. So without further ado, here we go.

THE TOP FIVE RESIGNATIONS IN GERMANY:

1. Horst Köhler, German President- From the 23rd of March, 2004 until his resignation on 31 May of last year, he held the second highest post next to the German Chancellor, a post in which Johannes Rau his predecessor once held. Despite his success in bringing unity to Germany, involving the troops in foreign countries such as Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and strengthening ties with Israel, he did not get the respect that he had expected from the German population and to a certain degree, the Dream Coalition (CDU and FDP) and therefore, he stepped down in May 2010. It was too bad, as he was really good at providing families with a good fireside speech around Christmas time and on New Year’s Eve. Tough call for someone holding a prestige office, who did a good job, but dissatisfaction in a job like that because of such circumstances does call for a change in scenery, and someone like Christian Wulff, the former minister of Lower Saxony, to take over.

2. Erich Honecker, Chair of the SED Party in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany)- now part of Germany- From 1970 until 18 October, 1989, he led East Germany, and every classroom and workplace had a portrait of the SED Party Chair for people to look at and praise. He was famous for his comments “The Berlin Wall is going to last for another 100 years,” mentioned in January 1989 and “”Neither an ox nor a donkey is able to stop the progress of socialism,” an excerpt from an adage by August Bebel he used during his speech on the occasion of the GDR’s 40th Birthday on 7 October, 1989. However the progress towards democracy was too strong for East Germany to withstand and it only lasted until the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November, 1989. Honecker did not even last before that as he was removed on 18 October. The official reason was his poor health. However, literary sources indicated that he was forced out thanks to influence by Michail Gorbachev, who coined his famous words, “Life punishes those who wait,” also at the 40th anniversary celebrations.  Egon Krenz took over and allowed for life to change course in the interest of both West and East Germany with the opening of the Wall and its eventual Reunification, one of the best events of all time. As for Honecker,  he eventually fled to Chile to avoid arrest and prosecution by the German government, where he died in 1994.

3. Willy Brandt, Chancellor of (West) Germany 1969-1974- Willy Brandt will always be remembered for his Ostpolitik policies, designed to improve relations between East and West Germany. This included a direct visit with Erich Honecker and a speech from the window of his hotel in front of the railway station in Erfurt in 1970, plus winning the Nobel Peace Prize a year later. Unfortunately, like Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Brandt’s popularity as Chancellor dropped to the floor when it was revealed that his personal assistant, Günther Guillaume was arrested for being an East German spy. Brandt resigned from his post on 6 May, 1974, with Helmut Schmidt taking over from there, but he remained as the chair of the SPD until 1987. He died five years later. Still many places in Germany and Europe are named in his memory because of the legacy he left behind. This includes the hotel in Erfurt across from the central railway station, where Brandt spoke to a large crowd in 1970 (Named Willy Brandt ans Fenster- Willy Brandt at the Window). Even the university renamed the institute of political science The Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, a name that has been carried since 2009.

4. Walter Mixa, Bishop of the Augsburg (Bavaria) Cathedral- This was a classic example of a scandal involving the Catholic Church in Bavaria, which costed this gentleman his post as well as his post as the military bishop in Germany- child abuse scandal plus fraud involving taking money from an orphanage. At least a dozen scandals involving priests and bishops popped up in this traditionally Catholic state in the past two years, raising the question about the credibility of the Church in that region, plus the moral values that exist as a whole. Furthermore there are some speculations that Pope Benedict XVI may be involved, even though he has not raised this issue nor has there been enough evidence to indict him as of present. More scandals in Bavaria? To be continued…..

5. Thomas Gottschalk, actor- At 61, the person had a nice well-rounded career as an actor, was a spokesperson for the Haribo gummibears  as well as moderator of his TV show “Wetten, dass….” (I bet you that….). That was until a freak accident involving a stuntman attempting to roller blade over an oncoming car left him paralyzed and Gottschalk’s career in limbo. On 12 February, 2011, he stepped down, taking responsibility for the accident and apologizing to his audience. Perhaps he took a lesson from Clint Eastwood, when he quoted in the second Dirty Harry film: “Man’s gotta know his limitations.”

HONORABLY MENTIONED  RESIGNATIONS:

1. Margot Kässmann, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover and Head of the Evangelical Lutheran Chuch of Germany (EKD)- The 52-year old from Marburg (Hesse) had a promising future until she was caught driving under the influence of alcohol in February 2010. She resigned from both posts after that. Smooth move, wasn’t it?

2. Wolfgang Petry, folk music singer- Celebrities can be sick and tired of being a star to a point where they just want to call it quits. While we’re seeing that with the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer in American football (NFL) who claims he has more than enough money that he can walk away and never play for the team again, he probably took that line from this German folk music singer. Petry suddenly stepped away from the scene in 2006 after many years of singing, claiming he had enough of the show business. What he’s doing now is unknown at present.

3. Rudi Voller, former German national soccer team head coach- Sometimes (but not always) great players make bad coaches. This was a textbook example. While Voller excelled as a soccer player for Bayer Leverkusen and helped the German national team win the World Cup in 1990, he could not convey his success as a coach to his players and resigned after Germany was eliminated in the 1st Round of the European Championship in 2004. A consolation however was the fact that the team did finish second in the World Cup, years earlier, so all was not lost for him. He now is athletic director for his former team, Leverkusen.

4. Jürgen Möllermann, Minister for Agriculture; President for the German-Arabian Society; Chair of the FDP in North Rhein-Westphalia- A problem child for the politicians, Möllemann got himself in trouble for using the ministry’s paper to apply for a job at a company of his relative’s in 1993, which costed him his post as Minister for Agriculture under Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Tax evasion on various counts plus his anti-semite comments during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2002 led to a legal hunt by the police and other authorities. However, before he could be arrested, he died in a tragic parachutte accident on 5 June, 2003; it is unclear whether his death was an act of sabotage, an accident, or suicide attempt. The case has not been solved as of present.

5. Axel Schulz, boxer- Having a successful career as a boxer and picked to be a heavy favorite to beat Vladimir Klitschko in 1999, everyone was expecting him to win the EM Boxing match, right? Not unless you have life insurance! Not only did Klitschko beat him romped him in the boxing ring through a technical knock-out in September 1999, but Schulz resigned right away after the match. Despite a comeback attempt in 2005, he never won any international titles, despite many attempts to win the belt in his 17 year career, counting his six year hiatus between 1999 and 2005.

WILDCARDS:

1. Gregor Gysi, Economics Minister for the City of Berlin- Resigned for using the bonus miles on his company car for private purpose in 2002. And this for a city that has been broke for years…..

2. Marlies Mosiek-Urbahn, Family Minister for the State of Hesse- Resigned from her post because she divorced her husband in 2001, and it affected her credibility as minister. Curious.

While Germany has been and is still famous for its high quality products and service, a strong health care and social welfare system, and for greats like Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, it cannot escape the scandals that have been growing by the numbers in the past two years. Regardless of whether they come from Bavaria, Hesse, or even the northern parts of Germany, they have been leaving questions about the credibility of the politicians in the Bundestag among Germans and those looking in from the outside. Yet the problem is universal, as one can see the scandals going on in the US and other Anglo-Saxon countries and they are even weirder than what I mentioned here. But the question is, should we follow their lead or clean up our reputation and lead by our example. This is the question that will come up in the upcoming elections in 2013, together with another question: Do you elect someone by popularity but marred by scandal or do you go with someone unknown but gets the job done anyway?  Since the identity of the US is in question because of the number of crises that has erroded its credibility as a superpower, countries like Germany are stepping up to set an example for others to follow. But that is accompanied by these scandals that can and will potentially hinder that success. The best solution to this problem is to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly. Only then will one find out whether that decision was the right one to begin with. And that decision will affect those who look up to countries like Germany, as a role model, a teacher, and a mentor of high morals and principles….

Links:

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14895170,00.html

(Update on the Guttenberg Scandal)

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14891914,00.html

(Demonstrations for Guttenberg’s Return to Politics)

http://www.bild.de/BILD/politik/2011/03/05/guttenberg-bis-voeller-die-100-spektakulaerste-ruecktritte/koehler-schulz-milli-vanilli-friedmann.html

http://www.bild.de/BILD/politik/2011/03/07/100-spektakulaere-ruecktritte-teil-zwei/karriere-enden-die-aufsehen-erregten.html

(Der Bild’s 100 most spectacular resignations in detail- and in German!)

Guttenberg Resigns- A consequence for cheating

After two weeks of being bombarded with news headlines involving his plagarism scandal, an increasing chorus of politicians, academics and even people in general demanding that he relinquishes power, and a further erosion of power among the Dream Coalition consisting of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Democrats (FDP) and of course, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s credibility for supporting him from the start, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg on Tuesday announced his resignation from not his post as minister, but from all political functions in Berlin.  He cited that the decision was the most painful in his career, but he claimed that his resignation was not just based on the plagarism scandal that has rocked the German parliament “Bundestag” in the past two weeks, but because he was unable to fulfill his functions any further.

The reaction was well received by those who claimed that Guttenberg was no longer a credible man at his post and that his resignation was long since overdue.  This included not only the oppositional parties of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Socialist Party (Die Linke) and the Greens, but also tens of thousands of academics at German universities, 23,000 of whom presented a petition to Chancellor Merkel demanding that he step down as soon as possible.  Even some members of the Bavarian sister party, the Christian Socialists (CSU), lost respect for the 39-year old who was the front runner to become the next German Chancellor, if and when Merkel decides to step down. What is next for Guttenberg is unknown, but after the University of Bayreuth last week revoked his PhD title for not citing the sources in his thesis properly, it began a chain reaction where many people, including even his own supervisor  of the thesis Prof. Peter Häberle of the University of Bayreuth lost respect for Guttenberg and distanced themselves from him, joining the ranks of those who wanted him to step aside and let someone else take over.

While his resignation was not accepted by many Germans per say, according to recent polls, this was the second Bavarian politician to resign from a top post (regardless of state or national level). As mentioned in the previous column, Bavarian prime minister Edmund Stoiber stepped down in September 2007 amid his own set of scandals and a year later, the CSU lost absolute power in the state elections for the first time in over 20 years.  With Guttenberg stepping down as defense minister in Berlin, could this happen with the Dream Coalition in the coming elections in 2013, where we have the return of the Christmas coalition, consisting of the SPD and Green parties?  This remains a distinct possibility; especially after Angela Merkel had been supporting Guttenberg from the time the scandal broke out two weeks before until he finally decided to call it quits, thus damaging her credibility as the German Chancellor, a trend that is comparable to two infamous scandals in the USA, which plagued two presidencies: the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s under the administration of President Warren G. Harding and the Watergate Scandal of 1973-4 under President Richard Nixon. Harding died of food poisoning in 1923 before he could be indicted on fraud charges, while Nixon became the first president to resign in 1974, right before Congress was going to impeach him. Both scandals did damage the credibility of the Republican party to a point where in the long term, the voters turned to the Democrats as they were more credible; Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and Jimmy Carter in 1976.  In this case, since plagarism is a serious crime which can result in the revocation of the title or even prison time, the “Googleberg” Affair (as many have coined the term) involving the now resigned defense minister could create a chain reaction, which could bring down the Dream Coalition in two years’ time. The only way to reverse the trend is if Merkel finds a way to win back the hearts and minds of the Germans and remove the stain, which has been caked into the fabric of Germany and will take lots of time and efforts to remove.

From my personal point of view, a person who commits a serious crime like plagarism, no matter what the excuses are, deserves to spend some time in solitary confinement, thinking about the actions and considering the situation where “sleeping up the career ladder” can produce some dire consequences for himself, the people who pampered him up the ladder, the institutions he worked for, and the people whom he hurt through cheating along the way. Once a person commits a crime like plagarism, his career is dead in the water, and he may want to think about a new career which would suit him better than the one he had. At the same time, he should learn from this experience the hardest way possible so that it is never committed ever again. The harder the labor in solitary confinement, the easier it will be to have this incident and the lesson learned from it engraved in one’s head forever.

So what will happen with Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg now that he has thrown in the towel after being grilled in the Bundestag, losing his PhD title, giving the University of Bayreuth and all of Germany a bad reputation, and finally losing face to the German people? Who knows? I know the University of Bayreuth will need to clean up its reputation as a result of this mess, although speaking from my experience working there as a teacher, political games have always dominated the quality of education the students really deserve.   Germany will have to rely less on Bavaria as a role model for politics as it has been plagued way too much by scandals in recent years and needs to reexamine and revamp its political, social and education systems, in order to produce not only the best and brightest people but those who are honest, moral and earn their degree through hard work, a set of personal ethics and solidarity to others- helping those in need be just as successful. The country has 15 other states with just as good or even better politicians as those in Bavaria. The social infrastructure is just as good or even better, and there are a lot of other aspects that people like about those states and this goes beyond the stereotype of Germany: Vita Cola, Frankfurt, Thuringian Bratwurst, Flensburger Beer, CEBIT Conference in Hanover, Volkswagon, Audi, Soccer, Deutsche Bahn,  Forests, …. you get the picture.

I did have an opinion by one of my former students at the University of Bayreuth, who claimed that he will eventually become the next chancellor of Germany, despite stepping down as defense minister. I beg to differ on this for I have a question to pose to those who still support him: “Would you elect someone like Guttenberg, whose reputation has been permanently damaged beyond repair because of the plagarism scandal, to be the next German Chancellor, just because of his popularity, or would you elect someone who is unknown but has a clean record and can get the job done for the country?” Think carefully before you answer that question and go to the polls, should that be the case that Guttenberg is in the running for the highest office in Germany. Chances are, ethically speaking, who you vote for reflects on your own character and ethical values, and that will impact others who want to have the same lifestyle as you have at present….

Links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/01/german-defence-minister-resigns-plagiarism

http://www.mdr.de/mdr-info/interaktiv/8287832-3.html

http://www.mdr.de/mdr-info/8287421.html

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6454809,00.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/03/01/germany.politics/index.html?hpt=T2

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/world/europe/02germany.html?_r=1&hp