Life here in the German countryside seems to move at a different pace. Everything near Aufham/Anger, where we are, is so charming and beautiful it almost hurts. We also spent time in nearby Salzburg, the famous home of Mozart. It is a city built around a hill, with winding cobblestone streets and an assortment of random American brands (Claire’s?? ecko unlimited, and a Red Bull store) sprinkled among its fresh open-air market stalls and German stores.
Europe is such an interesting travel experience after crossing the vast expanses of China and America, both some of the largest countries in the world. In Europe, we crossed from Germany to Austria in the space of time it took to get to Wal-mart back home in Ohio. We reached Italy (Lago di Garda), which boasted an entirely different climate and culture, in the space of four hours. That’s the time it takes to get from suburban Ohio to suburban Chicago, both in the vanilla Midwest.
The most interesting idea I encountered in Germany, however, was their education system. Some of you know that since my brief stint at Kumon Math and Reading Center, I’ve been thinking a lot about education (and the lack thereof) in America. Germany presents an intriguing alternative to the college-for-all notion being drilled into students at most public schools. Of course, college should be an option for everyone, but it does not necessarily have to be pushed as the main track. It seems that Germany holds its students to a more rigorous standard for entrance into any college (let alone Ivy equivalents), but tempers that rigor by emphasizing vocational school. Would some American students be happier if, early on in their lives, they were given the training to do respectable, indispensable work–being an electrician or a plumber, say–instead of being pushed into a low-level college and floundering there for four or more years, only to meander gradually into that line of work anyway? It seems like every student in America is being told that college, and the tuition that comes with it, is the only viable solution to a tough job market and dwindling prospects, but this serves only to devalue degrees in general. Maybe making the route to employment more clear, and letting young people emerge on the other side with solid, practical skills, is something to consider.