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Fulbrighters Reflect on their Exchange Year

In this video produced by the German Fulbright Alumni Association in 2014 former German and US grantees talk about the relevance of their exchange experience and their reasons to get involved with the Alumni Association. 

The video captures the importance of the Fulbright program quite well. Authentic, personal, no exaggerations. After watching it, you will probably want to get in touch with the German Fulbright Alumni Association or learn how to get a Fulbright grant: For Germans going to US, for Americans going to Germany, for all other nationalities and destinations. 

The last link takes you to the State Department and promotes the Fulbright Program as "the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. (...) Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide." Most programs with rich countries are financed jointly. The German-American Fulbright program has received 2.6 Mio EUR from the State Department and US Host Institutions, but the much larger amount of 5.6 Mio EUR from Germany's federal and regional governments in 2013/2014. 332 Americans and 408 Germans received grants in that academic year.

The American Fulbright Alumni Association has just released this promotional video:

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Remembering World War I

1. Today is Armistice Day. Americans celebrate it as Veterans Day, for the Polish it is Independence Day and quite a few Germans, who want to forget war, celebrate today instead as the beginning of the carnival season. What hedonistic, ignorant society we are.

2. Armistice Day is an appropriate term, as November 11, 1918 did not really bring an end to the "Great War," at least not lasting peace. Neither did the Treaty of Versailles. The world war was only really over on May 8, 1945. Thirty-one damn years.

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Today is World Teachers' Day

Why do public school teachers have such a bad reputation in the US and get little pay?

That's one of the things I don't get. It's quite different over here. The job is well paid and respected by most folks. As a country with little natural resources, Germany depends on innovation and a smart work force. Education is good for democracy, happiness etc. The children are our future, yade, yade.

The US has more natural resources and is better than Germany (Europe) in attracting the smartest brains from all over the world, but still it needs a well educated general population to compete in the 21st century.

To improve the level of education in the US requires many reforms (as it does in Germany), but it seems quite elementary that more pay and more appreciation is necessary to encourage smart, talented, creative and committed young people to choose the profession of a teacher and then to stay motivated in this tough job to provide excellent education.

Since today is World Teacher Day, here is a shout out to teachers world wide!

Watch the trailer of the new documentary American Teacher below:

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Social Mobility

Social Mobility is an issue that comes up time and again in the comments section of Atlantic Review and other blogs. Why? Because fairness and equal opportunities are so important to the US and European self-image. Or in the words of the researcher of the London School of Economics: "The level of intergenerational mobility in society is seen by many as a measure of the extent of equality of economic and social opportunity."

In 2005 they published these "disturbing findings" (HT: Influx):

A careful comparison reveals that the USA and Britain are at the bottom with the lowest social mobility. Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK. Comparing surveys of children born in the 1950s and the 1970s, the researchers went on to examine the reason for Britain's low, and declining, mobility. They found that it is in part due to the strong and increasing relationship between family income and educational attainment.

My guess is social mobility declined in many countries in the five years since the publication of the survey. Fortunately, the situation is still better than in North Africa. The lack of social mobility was the key factor in the protests/revolution.

State of the Union: "We Revitalized NATO" and "We Do Big Things"

"With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense.  We've reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, built new partnerships with nations like India." declared President Obama in yesterday's State of the Union Address (Enhanced video).

The focus of his speech was of course domestic rather than foreign -- "and perhaps properly so, given Americans' continuing preoccupation with the economy. Even in that context, though, President Obama's portrait of U.S. engagement in the world was thin -- and weak. By Obama's account, the most important American foreign initiatives in 2011 will be retreats," comments Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post.

Still, I very much like his speech. I felt inspired afterwards, and I assume the speech moved many Americans as well. An optimistic yet realistic message during tough times.

My favorite quotes:

This is our generation's Sputnik moment.  Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race.  And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.  We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -- (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people. (...)

That's what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. (...)

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Europe or the US? Educational Questions We Need to Ask

Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Online University Rankings, wrote this guest post:

Are European and US college programs equivalent?

The transatlantic divide is being further torn apart by the educational argument. The fierce debate rages on – are the three year degrees offered by institutions in the UK and across most of Europe equivalent to the four year programs on offer at US colleges? If not, which of them is the more superior? Are graduates of the shorter program less smart than their American counterparts? Or is it vice versa?

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Americans and Europeans Raised in Prejudice and Ignorance

A new round in transatlantic bashing: Denis, a French expat in the US, writes in SuperFrenchie:

They may call each others moonbats and wingnuts, but whether they're sporting long hair or military haircuts, Americans by and large all agree on this: America is the greatest country in the world, the American way of doing things is the only possible one, and everybody supports the troops. They learn that in schools from the earliest age, along with the fact that everything else (and everywhere else) is, by definition, flawed. And that's if they're taught anything about other places at all. History of the world in high school, for example, is a 2-semester optional course! Geography manuals do not exist. Innocent until proven guilty, to them, is a uniquely American concept.

So when I read in Foreign Policy magazine that "millions of children are being raised on prejudice and disinformation," I felt some optimism. Finally, I thought, someone is going to tackle the problem of bias and lack of openness to the world in American schools. Oops! They were talking about France and Germany.

Denis' "bashing back" is mild compared to Foreign Policy magazine's article "Europe's Philosophy of Failure." The introduction reads: Continue reading "Americans and Europeans Raised in Prejudice and Ignorance"

Does Europe Have Education Envy?

This is a guest blog post by our long-time reader and commentator Pat Patterson, who has studied Classics and Ancient History at the University of Southern California has been and currently is a teacher in the Orange and Los Angeles counties for the last 16 years:

Judging by the recent article in Businessweek by Jennifer Fishbein titled, Europe Falls Short In Higher Education, one could assume that Europe's leaders are desperately casting about for ways to emulate the international recognition for superstar status accorded to US and UK universities.  The basis for this view rests primarily on the recently released results of the Shanghai Jiaotong University Academic Ranking of World Universities.  Of the top twenty universities in the world only Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Tokyo University in Japan were represented and all the rest were in the US.  This should hardly be surprising as the independence, competitiveness and deep pockets far eclipses most other universities.  But it should be noted that the methodology used is heavily weighted by counting up the citations, written in English, in three areas, Science, Social Science and Arts & Humanities. The reliance on English citations would certainly predispose that universities that were part of the Anglosphere would have a big advantage.

Alas my beloved USC staggered in at 50th but as of Sunday night we are still 1st in football.

However this ranking is a very slender branch to sit on to claim that,  "...Lack of financing is a key weakness."  And to continue that the EU spends 1/5 as much per pupil as the US does and also to call for an increase of 1% as a way to close the claimed gap between what the US spends and what the EU spends.  The article mentions the figure of 1.3% for the EU and 3.3% for the US but these figures completely contradicts the Digest of Education Statistics (pdf) which show that the gap between the major European nations ranges from the low of 4.4% in Germany to 5.4% in the UK and France with 5.8% (which is the same percentage as the US).

So obviously the percentage can't be the problem but the size of the respective economies is where the US has a huge advantage.  The US can spend almost 16% to 20% more per pupil even when taking into account the relative size of the populations. The article goes on to claim that the European nations recognize this problem and are now beginning to try different solutions.  Increases in funding tied to performance and autonomy are argued as the best solutions. 

But the kind of autonomy that US universities have, either private or public ones financed by the individual states not the national government, would seem to be non-starters in Europe owing to the very nature of the central governments.  To let a president, rector, chancellor or provost of some university in Europe determine where to spend the funds from the state and any funds that his university might raise would mean that a group of trained bureaucrats would have to give up that power.