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Textbook Reds: Schoolbooks, Ideology, and Eastern German Identity

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Overview

If one wants to know what children in communist East Europe were told to think about their nation and their leaders, their class enemy, and their so-called Soviet friends, no better source exists than textbooks. In textbooks the dogmas of communism were communicated in their most simplified form and manufactured in the millions for mass consumption. In Textbook Reds, John Rodden shows how the now-defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR) shaped generations of East German youth and how the imprint of Marxist-Leninist ideology remains today on the hearts and minds of millions of eastern Germans, more than fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Drawing on a rich and varied collection of materials—a total of more than two hundred textbooks, teaching guides, school songbooks, educators’ professional journals, and school examinations—Rodden spotlights the “textbook mentality” that permeated East German society. In the GDR’s campaign to win the minds of men, any critiques of the Party were equated with disloyalty and the bourgeois sins of individualism, negativism, and cosmopolitanism. Citizens who broke free of such indoctrination still bore marks of its influence, even long after leaving school—and long after the GDR’s dissolution in 1990.

The second part of the book offers a glimpse of post-communism today. Through interviews with dozens of teachers and students from contemporary eastern Germany, we see that East German faculty and students constitute perhaps the largest, most articulate, most traumatized segment of the population affected by events since 1989. Not just a study in comparative education, Textbook Reds is also a work in the sociology of education, literary sociology, and literary history. Rodden shows that the deepest roots of GDR society were indeed located in the institution that molded the youth of its citizens, and that the most searching questions about East German identity and the repression of its political past are in fact to be found there.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271025216
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Series: Post-Communist Cultural Studies
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

John Rodden is Adjunct Professor in Speech Communication at the University of Texas. His books include Repainting the Little Red Schoolhouse: A History of Eastern German Education, 1945–1995 (2002) and Performing the Literary Interview: How Writers Craft Their Public Selves (2001).

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword by Wolfgang Strauss

Acknowledgments

List of Abbreviations

Glossary

Prologue: Creating Young Comrades

Introduction: Ideology as Core Curriculum

Part I Of Politics and Letters—and Numbers

1. German for the East Germans: Language and Literature

2. Terra Verde, Terra Rosso: Geography

3. My Country, Left or Wrong? Civics

4. Progressive Lessons of the Past: History

5. Socialist Science: Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics

Part II The Voices Behind the Page: Conversations about Post-Communist Education and Eastern German Life with Faculty and Students

6. Arts and Humanities

7. Physical and Social Sciences

8. Education for Tolerance: Of Ideology, Identity, and Intolerance, or Among (German and Jewish) Schoolchildren

Epilogue: Curriculum Without a Core

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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