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Students Protest the School and University Reform (June 25, 2009)

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Shortly after the nationwide demonstrations last Wednesday, the numbers game began. The police claimed that around 100,000 people had participated, while the organizers put the figure at 240,000 and stalwartly stuck to this estimate even when it became clear just how thin the crowds were in many places. Anyone taking a closer look at these crowds made a surprising discovery: a large proportion of the demonstrators were under eighteen. In many towns they even made up the majority, and they weren’t just well-behaved school kids bringing up the rear. “Apparently, high school students are making a greater effort to engage politically, to organize, and to articulate their position,” said sociologist Tino Bargel. Many education experts are already speculating that, after a phase in which today’s student generation exhibited extremely pragmatic attitudes, the pendulum is already swinging back to a new politicization. This brings unexpected prospects for future protest waves.

But when it comes to the current student strikes, this new politicization won’t prove sustainable. The high school students are not politicized enough and the university students – long unwilling to stage protests – lack the anger and frustration that come with seeing past protests fail. That could change fast – particularly if politicians simply ignore student demands, as Schavan did when making her statement, Bargel said. “But even with the 68ers, it took five years before they rebelled.”

Source: Jan-Martin Wiarda and Martin Spiewak, “Klüger werden – Baustelle Bildung” [“Wisening Up – The Education Project”], Die Zeit, no. 27, June 25, 2009.

Translation: Adam Blauhut

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