My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

16 March 2007

Bad Blogger

Sorry I've been such a miserable, lazy blogger lately. In addition to my work on a big project due at the end of the month I had a houseguest and went to the German-American Fulbright Commission's Berlin Meeting. It was a really great conference, but, quite frankly, I can't think of anything better than conferences like this, uniting free food, drink and activities, intelligent conversation with Fulbright scholars and interesting panels. I went to panels on higher education reform, demographics and immigration, and integration of immigrants and minorities in schools.

The conference also taught me a lot about the nature of the problems Germany is having on these fronts. In each of these panels there was at least one example of Germans creating complex institutions and structures and being left utterly unable to change them when they fail. For example:

In the panel on higher education reform, one woman came across as being mostly against the attempts to reform higher education in the EU. At one point, she complained that her department's new Master's degree program has not been able to admit the best candidates. Apparently, their admissions criteria is heavily based on grades and countries like Romania have inflated grades.

Take a moment to let the absurdity of that sink in.

She was upset about the Bologna process because her department's [arbitrary] admission guidelines weren't set up to deal with the differences between the grading systems of EU universities. Apparently it never occurred to her that they should just CHANGE THE DAMN ADMISSIONS GUIDELINES.

Sadly, this was not the only such example, and listening to so many Germans demonstrate this same unwillingness to change their own systems when they don't work was enough to make me want to bang my head against a wall over and over and lament, "When will they ever learn?"

The only factor that prevented my coming home with a concussion was that Fulbright was pretty generous with the booze the whole time. After the second glass of wine it all begins to seem less depressing and more funny.

Speaking of alcohol, you might find it hard to believe, but I drank beer for what I believe is the first time since I came to Germany. Shocking, I know, but I never particularly liked beer and therefore always order wine or cocktails. But, for some reason, not once but twice during the conference I wound up with friends at a brewery. And you can't go to a brewery and not order beer. So in addition to learning lots about prejudice, racism, education and integration, and the German university system, I also learned something about beer at this conference: namely, that it's not as bad as I remembered it, and that actually some kinds are quite good. But, since I don't drink enough to employ the "trial and error" method, I don't know how to find the good beers. Any suggestions?



Anonymous pg said...

Come to Kansas City for some good beer! Boulevard Pale Ale!
I hope your package arrived.

1:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You remind me of your Aunt Pat with the photos of your hat and feet with the socks! I'm glad you went to Berlin, Germany to improve your knitting skills. Love. Mom

5:38 PM


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