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A Plea by Second-Generation Immigrants for Mutual Acceptance (May 13, 1982)

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The ability to adapt – to learn a new language, to acquire a new culture – is largely dependent on one’s level of education. That is why I see the issue of integration as primarily an issue of education. Without education no integration can take place. But if the German majority is not prepared to take in the foreign minority, to assist them and even assume a leading role in this education process (socialization process), then no integration can take place either.

For the first generation of foreigners, “integration” can only mean: Learn the rules of the game for as long as you live in the Federal Republic. I am convinced that a significant portion of first-generation foreigners will return to their home countries when they retire, at the latest.

But for the second generation of foreigners, those who were born here or arrived at a young age as the children of foreign workers, the goal must be genuine integration in this sense of the word: The development of a feeling of belonging and of being part of a community of people with a common destiny; because true integration must take place on an emotional level. And that can only be achieved if the young generation of foreigners feels that it is being given fair and equal treatment – especially in the area of education – through legislation and by society.

One Year of German Instruction before Vocational Training and School

The more German citizens of Turkish, Greek, etc. descent who live here and enjoy the same legal and political rights and responsibilities [as Germans], master the German language, and break through to a higher social status and more respected professions, the faster the “image” of the foreign minority in German society will change.

Without wanting to go into too much detail, I would like to mention one basic principle: We must avoid stopgap and special measures that actually promote, rather than eliminate, a system whereby foreign youths are put at a disadvantage and marginalized because they do not earn recognized degrees or career qualifications, e.g., the Measures for Job Preparation and Social Integration of Young Foreigners (MBSE).

In my opinion, the only realistic solution to the language problem is to offer foreign youths a one-year intensive German class overseen by the Ministry of Culture prior to the start of their pre-vocational training year (and prior to their entering Hauptschule*). The goal should be for foreign youths to learn the German language and then be systematically transferred to the regular school system. This could follow the same track used for German youths who do not complete the Hauptschule: first a year of pre-vocational training, then a year of basic vocational training, the successful completion of which enables students to obtain a Hauptschule diploma. I believe the appreciable sums spent on such special measures would better serve society if they were used for apprenticeship positions at numerous companies for mixed groups of Germans and foreigners.

I regard the well-intentioned recommendation that foreigners should preserve and foster their cultural identity as unrealistic. Examples of minorities who have kept their cultural identity intact for generations within a majority society do not exist. I do not think that a consciously directed continuation of national, cultural identity is sensible in the long run.

* A lower-level secondary school – trans.

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