Textbook Reds: Schoolbooks, Ideology, and Eastern German Identity

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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: 9780271058566
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 1/30/2013
  • Series: Post-Communist Cultural Studies
  • Pages: 482
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (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

Foreword   Wolfgang Strauss     xi
Acknowledgments     xiii
List of Abbreviations     xvii
Glossary     xxi
Prologue: Creating Young Comrades     xxv
Introduction: Ideology as Core Curriculum     1
1945: Textbooks and German Re-Education     1
From Brown to Red?     3
The (East) German Ideology     7
Of Politics and Letters-and Numbers
German for the East Germans: Language and Literature     13
Reared in the DDR     15
Mother-Tongue Education     21
Socialist Fatherland Education     27
Excursus: Thalmann uber alles? Vicissitudes of a Socialist State Icon     33
Living Heroes, or the DDR Cult of Personality     41
Canon Fodder for Young Revolutionaries     47
Excursus: A Bruderland Comparison: Soviet and Post-Soviet Textbooks     56
The Advanced High School Curriculum     65
Books Are Weapons     68
Terra Verde, Terra Rosso: Geography     69
The Expanding Red Earth     69
Excursus: &lsOur Socialist Fatherland&rs: How Fifth-Graders Learned to Love the Heimat     72
Excursus: "Elementary" Political Geography     74
Excursus: Amerika ThroughEastern Eyes     81
The Upper Grades     84
Of Class and Soil     87
My Country, Left or Wrong? Civics     89
Marxed Menschen     89
Excursus: Socialist Morality for Tenth Graders     94
In Lenin's Corner: The Model Socialist Citizen     95
Education for Hatred     97
"Trust Is Good, but Control Is Better"     109
Progressive Lessons of the Past: History     111
The Past is KA     111
History Class / Class History     112
Modern Times     121
Excursus: Marx and Engels as Role Models     124
"Socialism Is Winning!"     126
"Made in East Germany," or the Historical (Re)Invention of the DDR     129
Overtaken by History? 1989 and the Perestroika of DDR Historiography     136
Excursus: The Black Book as Anti-Textbook: History Turns a Corner?     138
Bearing the Double Burden of History     145
Socialist Science: Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics     147
Science, Western versus Eastern     147
Biology     148
Biopolitics?     149
Excursus: Social, a.k.a. Socialist, Hygiene     152
Chemistry     155
Chemical Reactions, Progressive Results     155
Excursus: "Organic" Chemistry, or the Law of M-L     156
Of Applied Science and Agitprop     158
Mathematics     161
The Simple Arithmetic of Progressivism     161
Excursus: Army Algebra for Ninth-Graders     165
Party Figures, or the Higher Calculus of M-L     167
The Voices Behind the Page: Conversations about Post-Communist Education and Eastern German Life with Faculty and Students
Arts and Humanities     195
"History Lessons" for Would-Be Revolutionaries     195
Pedagogy of the Distressed: A German Teacher's Self-Criticism     198
"My Post-Communist Brecht": A Weimar Student's Weltanschauung     207
West Side (Hi)Story I: A Wossi's Postcommunist Critique of Humboldt Historians and Jammerossis     220
The Strains of Silence: A Music Teacher's Brave (New) Career     232
"My Teachers Ignored the Ideological Crap"     243
"French Leave": A Gifted Language Student Goes AWOL     247
West Side (Hi)Story II: A Wossi in Wittenberg     265
Running On, or Training for the (Russian) Olympics     271
Varieties of Academic Experience: A German View     279
"Proud to Be German"     288
Physical and Social Sciences     299
Of Biophysics and Metaphysics: Post-Communism Meets McUniversity     299
Post-Communist Social Studies? A Teacher-Student Conflict of Generations     313
"I Was a True Believer": A Convinced Communist Student Looks Back     321
"My Father Was in the Party": A Daughterly Diptych     329
Education for Tolerance: Of Ideology, Identity, and Intolerance, or Among (German and Jewish) Schoolchildren     345
Border-Crossing after Checkpoint Charlie     348
Forward and Never Forget-Tolerance? A Berlin Teacher's Post-Communist "Class" Struggles     362
Return of the Pink Rabbit?     367
Breaching Walls, Breaching Faith     375
The Strains of Silence II: Hospitality or Hitlerism in Weimar?     379
"Re-Education for Tolerance": A Civic Leader Speaks Out     383
Epilogue: Curriculum Without a Core     391
Notes     393
Bibliography     421
Index     433
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