European Identity - A teaching project

German translation, French translation, Spanish translation, Italian translation

By Edmund Ohlendorf of IWB Radolfzell e.V., GERMANY, 1997

(English translation of the German original by Michael Gitzinger, Joachim Herzbach and Axel Knoche (teachers at different schools in the Oberschulamt Freiburg district), GERMANY)

Contribution to the EDUVINET "European Identity" subject

I. What is the aim?

In 1984, the European Parliament had already demanded to set up a framework which helps European citizens to be aware of a common European identity. And article 126 of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty laid down - among others -

"The Development of The European Dimension in Educational Standards....."

as a common task.

The following ideas try to contribute to creating a European identity by an open approach to teaching and learning.

Does this make sense?

I hold this aim - as already discussed in my essay on didactic and methodic preconsiderations concerning European identity - to be reasonable and I´d like to mention the most important reasons once again:

  1. If Europe is supposed to survive as a community of various nations or as a union acting in harmony, her inhabitants must identify themselves with certain values ( Smallest common approach ).
  2. Teaching social studies contributed a lot to the feeling of identity and solidarity within the individual European nations but was not able to prevent two world wars within half a century. The formerly predominant national orientation of education in history and politics should increasingly give way to a view concentrating much more on Europe and the world (Transnational/global view).
  3. The attempt of presenting history in teaching and learning only from the chronological point of view takes a lot of time and does not necessarily provide an insight into the complexity of history. In this context, it is reasonable to partly centre education in history and politics around the topic of "European identity" ( Project studies ).

II. What is identity brought about by?

Primarily there are three elements that are of mutual influence:

  1. Birth - it determines the bonds of family, of a clan or of a nation to a specific geographic area, too.
  2. Culture - it coins individuals and groups through its intellectual and emotional experiences.
  3. The acceptance of mutual values creates a community of values.

Historical and political education first and foremost ideals with the two latter elements, i.e. with the questions:

- which cultural achievements are common to Europeans ?

- which ethic values and political values do unite us ?

III. Who are the target group and which problems are involved?

The target group for the teaching project introduced here are juveniles from an age of about 16 and adults.

The main problem is that the significance of the topic "European Identity" is not of immediate evidence for most juveniles and also for many adults as this identity is not experienced as existentially necessary. Consequently, essential conditions of our present social and political situation first have to be explained to the juveniles and adults to enable them to evaluate possible future developments much better. In this process, historic experience of their own can only provide a very limited frame of orientation.

IV. How has this teaching programme been conceived?

Its concept is:

  1. Internet/Web- supported teaching
  2. Receptive teaching and learning
  3. Learning in projects

1. It obtains its information mainly via Internet, first of all from materials and contributions to the discussions compiled in the EDUVINET project and in addition also from other sources available on the Internet.

2. Receptive teaching means that all didactic and methodic considerations of the authors as well as a large proportion of subject matters and teaching materials are generally available via Internet. Further colleagues, parents and adults who are willing to improve their further education are enabled to a certain extent, to take part in these classes if they transmit their questions or comments to a suitable public forum or via private E-Mail. This interchange of ideas is possible across all borders without any problems provided that there is sufficient knowledge of foreign languages.

3. Teaching in projects only partly follows the guidelines provided for individual subjects in the curricula. Instead it concentrates the time available in the timetable for different subjects on central topics. In this case for computing history politics and foreign languages. (Inter/cross-subject teaching).

V. What was done to motivate the pupils?

It is very difficult to increase the awareness of the pupils and adults for present and future challenges through historic learning without any concrete reference to their daily lives.

That was why I tried to explain that the world had not become any more peaceful and safer after the disappearance of the Iron curtain in Europe and that the former West-East conflict might turn into a North-South divide.

The 1990 Gulf War was considered a renewal of the crusades by parts of the Muslim population in the Southern margin of Europe.

In 1992, 32 percent of the Serbian orthodox Christians refused to live together in one state with 44 percent Bosnian Muslims and 17 percent Croatian Catholics. A three year Civil War started causing thousands of casualties, 2.5m displaced persons and refugees, of which some 700,000 took refuge in other European countries, almost half of them in Germany.

40,000 Russian invaded Chechnya in 1994 preventing the independence of a country in a bloody war whose inhabitants are mostly Muslims.

Many conflicts whose origins lying in civil, social, economic and religious problems of some European countries or in the margins of Europe are partly carried out in the neighbouring countries.

The so-called Mykonos trial in Berlin in 1997 has revealed Iranian state terrorism in Germany which confronted the other Member States with embarrassing yes-no questions. Attacks of Kurd nationalists and German right-wing radicals on Turkish facilities and homes in Germany form a lightly explosive mixture. In France, too, domestic policies are influenced by the events in Algeria.

How do we respond to the Turkish government's view that it's neither the Kurd problem nor the Cyprus question which prevent their country from full membership in the EU but in realty it is the "Club of Christians" that do not want a country of the importance of Turkey within their bounds.

The Northern Ireland conflict affects daily life in Britain. Basque and Corsican terrorism show unsolved regional problems in Spain and France. Italy and Greece are especially affected by the events in Albania and Portugal takes pains to cope with her African heritage.

How are we to face all these challenges which do no longer remain within the boundaries of one country ? Should we speak in one common European voice ? But which are the criteria that make us act ? What will we reject ? What cultural achievements and what ethical values in politics are we determined to defend - within and outside Europe ?

VI. Which were the key questions and the hypotheses for learning?

Following my considerations (laid down in I to V), I decided on a deductive approach of the structure of teaching contents, i.e. general features or rules are either confirmed or rejected by more detailed information.

The following six features are basically hypotheses which I personally hold to be true but my colleagues, pupils and adults who will take part in this project are free, of course, to agree to or reject them.

What are the typical features of Europeans ?

1. They separate religion from political power. (state)
Why has this happened ?

2. They practise tolerance among the members of different churches.
How has this developed ?

3. They fight for individual human rights and social rights . (rule of law)
How have these rights come into being ?

4. They are open to pluralist education, science and culture.
How has this come into existence ?
Has it always been like this ?

5. They are divided into federalists and nationalists/centralists.
How have these principles of government originated ?

6. They favour pluralist and parliamentary democracies.
Why is it so ?

VII. How was teaching organised?

In correspondence with these 6 features which are (possibly) typical of the Europeans, I formed six project groups consisting of four pupils each. For the first ten weeks forty periods are available altogether, i.e. two computing lessons (use of Internet) and two history lessons weekly. In addition, there will probably be a few lessons of foreign languages. At the moment, the total amount of time required cannot be foreseen as there hasn't been sufficient experience yet.

The exchange of experience among colleagues in other EU Member States is still at its very beginning and it is equally uncertain in how far they will also be able - technically and with regard to their organisation structures to incorporate their pupils into the project through the application of the Internet.

VIII. Which media are used for teaching?

CXX. First of all information (texts, pictures and diagrammes) are taken from the Internet. If they aren't available (yet) or can't be found in a reasonable time, the pupils will be provided with additional text copies or historical maps, the latters being already available as CD-ROMS on the market. In co-operation with the Südwestfunk (radio station/the possibilities of an exchange of teaching materials are to be tested (video tapes and information from the Internet)

IX. How are the results of teaching presented and checked ?

Each team of pupils has to sum up their results on two foils and explain them to the others. Contents and way of presentation can be taken into consideration for marking.

In an individual test referring to the whole topic European Identity, the pupils have to give proof of the insight they gained during the project. Such a test can check the knowledge of facts but should also check the ability of the students to apply to their knowledge to the analysis of current affairs and to possible consequences of acting politically.

To make the results of the project group available on the Internet and thus to start a European-wide discussion wouldn't pose a major technical problem. There is still a lot of work to be done - let's start with EDUVINET for a better future.

• • Copyright © IWB e.V. 1996-2000 Webmaster: • •
• • 800 x 600 recommended
• •

|Introduction & Sitemap| |EDUVINET Didactically & Methodically|  
|Full Text Teaching Materials| |EDUTALK Discussion Forum| |Link Collection|
|EDUVINET Authors| |Add your URL & Materials| |EDUVINET Logos|
|Mailinglist| |Guestbook| |Search & Search Engines| |Homepage|