Thursday, February 18, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany

Today, one teacher was killed and two more attacked and threatened to death by 23-year old student who was not satisfied with his grades at a Ludwigshafen Berufschule. [Berufschule are vocational training schools or specialized junior colleges.] By the way, latest reports state that this violent ex-student actually left that institution over five years ago.,1518,678807,00.html

Carrying only a starter gun and a knife the 23-year-old killed a 58-year-old faculty member. Students fled the classroom and an alarm went off. Two other faculty members were facing the same fate when police moved onto the 1000-student campus in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The well-armed police were able to interrupt the attacks and the violent student was apprehended, already claiming guilt for his act.

There have been similar events in almost every German state over the past decade. The German President Horst Kohler has immediately today called for a national conference in April to address the growing violence at schools in the country. In the state of Baden-Württemberg a younger high school student had killed 14 people just last March 2009.

Until now, most of the school killings and shooting violence of the past few years in Germany has resulted from bullying and marginalization of certain pupils over time. It is not clear that this was the case in Ludwigshafen murder of today.

The young man, who undertook the killing of a professor for his bad grades from years ago will certainly be tried for murder and attempted murder, but the violence in German schools has not been of national concern only. Across the border in France, there have been a series of violent attacks and daytime robberies in schools. Teachers in Paris have already been on strike demanding more security and staff in the schools. [Teachers all over France were on strike last month due to the vast government cuts in education.],,3988362,00.html

News from France this week is: “The French government came under pressure on yesterday to curb violence in schools after a 17-year-old boy was slashed with a knife and beaten with baseball bats by a gang during a sports class.The attack on Monday at a gymnasium in Thiais, a poor suburb of Paris, was the third such bloody incident in a French school reported this year.”
“In January an 18-year-old pupil was stabbed to death by a classmate at another school nearby and earlier this month, a 14-year-old was attacked with a knife in nearby Vitry-sur-Seine. Teachers at the school in Thiais, south-east of the capital, refused to work yesterday and echoed the demand of staff at other schools for extra security guards.”
The AFP reported teachers claiming, "We are afraid. The pupils are afraid . . . We can't go on as if nothing has happened."
A second national strike is scheduled by teachers on March 12. It is expected that in the public services in Paris this year 16,000 jobs will be stricken.
Meanwhile, remaining French teachers are worried. “’This attack is not a chance incident,’" teachers from the Thais school claimed. "We demand the human resources necessary to re-establish the climate of calm that is indispensible for study."
Students too do not do well generally in violent times. So, many students are siding with teachers.
Education Minister, Luc Chatel, in France is also calling for a national conference on violence to target a decrease in violence in the country’s schools. However, he seems to be missing the point that draconian budget cuts across France in 2010 are going to make the needs of students and staff much larger in coming months.

At first glance the problems in German and French schools seem to be coming from different directions. The shootings and attacks in Germany have taken place often in well-to-do towns and in schools that were financially and socially well-off —while a lot of the violence in France has been seen in urban and suburban ghettos.
However, the common variant in both countries seems to be a lack of people present in schools who are able to listen to and help marginalized human beings. This is to-a-great-part a manpower and financial or training issue—not necessarily a societal issue.
Nonetheless, on the other hand, there are also questionable issues related to how school systems in both France and Germany are functioning and organized. Are students feeling shut-in to a life or career path at too early an age? This has increased the area or perceptions of marginalizing certain peoples, schools and neighborhoods from one another. In short, there are school-rankings in the minds of inhabitants everywhere and many of the places where violent attacks have taken place in German have occurred [as note above] where a student with a great lack of self-confidence, suddenly hits out at his perceived abusers. That is, when students are feeling alienated and they do not know where to turn [when they feel threatened by the society that exists around them], they eventually explode.
It could be that, as the worldwide economy has been threatened [and because Germany is an exporting country dependent on the global economy] students are finding their future options in society limited by the exam pressure in German educational institutions. Moreover, in the last decade many secondary and tertiary schools have been turning-up-the-crack now intensifying their course curriculum while reducing students’ study times. Many students at Berufschule and Fachhochschule [polytechnic schools] in Germany today do not feel they can properly keep up and learn what they really need due to the increased time and exam pressures. For example, in America it is accepted that a student take 4, 5 or more years to finish a B.A., whereas Germans are being asked to do it in 3 years now (due to draconian competition among colleges and increased costs of private education in Germany).
In France, there may be a more racial dimension to the school attacks and violence of late, but in a sense, the social structure of France and the lack of opportunities for minority students has led to the increase in violence there as well.
Laurent Esccure says “Above all, it should be remembered that classrooms are not lawless zones.” He is a teacher in Toulouse-Montmirail and a member of a union of primary school teachers. “On a day-to-day basis, verbal violence is common,” he adds. “The atmosphere is tense and serious incidents occur frequently.”

According to France 24 quoted Escure as warning his colleagues, “You need to know how to guide a classroom, and you must be in good form.”

Escure states “that the psychological wear on teachers at many schools is obvious.
Those high schools considered high-risk need additional resources. . . . you really notice the lack of teachers’ assistants and the 50,000 other positions that the government has eliminated over the past four years.”

France 24 adds, “In places where adults are absent − such as hallways and parts of the courtyard − the situation quickly degenerates into aggression or even just dangerous play.”

“Even when they are not directly involved, people see and live the violence,” Escure indicated. “And this violence is difficult to purge when recreation time is over.”

Finally, Radio 24 noted that Escure called for change. “It is time for the minister of education to make a move. ‘[Chatel] has the power to put an end to the conflict with the teachers in the suburbs, and especially in Vitry-sur-Seine . . . .He must reinstate the positions that they are demanding.’”

Of course, teachers need to also be better trained to meet the violence that students do bring off the streets of violent parts of French marginalized townships, too. Moreover, other societal supports outside of school need to be built up to provide local and regional security to all classes and races in France.



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