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Annette Schavan {*}

Europe's Wealth


From: Stimmen der Zeit 11/2007, P. 723-729
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


On occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome the heads of state and government of the European Union declared on 25 March 2007 in Berlin: "Europe's wealth is in the knowledge and skills of its people; that is the key to growth, employment and social coherence." To place man and his skills in the centre of attention when it is about the perspectives of progress is a thoroughly European idea. That's why also the Lisbon strategy of the European Union, according to which Europe is to become up to the year 2010 the most dynamic knowledge-based region of the world, is closely linked with greater efforts of financial and conceptual nature for education, science and research. So for instance three per cent of the gross domestic product in the member countries of the European Union is to be invested in research and development.

Knowledge and skills - yes, even more the development of all powers becomes possible in the processes of education. For the Humanist Wilhelm von Humboldt education includes "the whole human being in all its powers and all its expressions" and is the only possibility for the progresses of mankind" {1}. That conviction is a European tradition.


Education - Chance for Development and Participation

To the degree in which today the knowledge of mankind grows and the scientific-technological progress makes accessible hitherto unknown areas, the importance of education grows. The American physicist Michio Kaku in his book "Visions of the Future" goes so far as to say: "From passive observers of nature we become its active choreographers. ... The age of discovery comes to an end, and the era of control begins." {2}

Our knowledge has fundamentally changed our relationship to the world in which we live, to all living creatures and to ourselves: The second half of the last century has opened to us the "exterior view of the earth" and the "interior view of life"; the decoding of the human genes has provoked debates on the human conception of itself; the amount of available knowledge is doubling in ever shorter cycles and is increasingly easily available; after the Gutenberg galaxy, the world of the printed letter, had been existing for 500 years,



we experience today that the capacity of microchips annually doubles. The figures must almost monthly be updated; knowledge and education are more than ever regarded as first-class strategic competition advantages. By the modern information and communication technology the world of knowledge is a global world. Who has access to the Internet, has access to the knowledge of this global world. Who does not have it is excluded from the global knowledge society. Thus he is cut off from development and participation.

Knowledge is part of education in the humanistic understanding that I have outlined following Humboldt. Education communicates cultural, social, economic and political opportunities for participation. It is the key for individual life chances and the engine of social, just also of European development. Education has the task to impart knowledge, to develop competences, to strengthen man's power of judgment, and enable him to become independent. Since man is - because of the scientific and technological progress in knowledge - capable of more than he is allowed, in this context the individual power of judgment wins in importance. Education leads us - in the sense of Humboldt - into the centre of human possibilities.


All-European Educational Canon

The question: "What must we as a European neighbours know about each other?" most likely aims at the conception of knowledge and realisation that is common to all or at least many Europeans and accordingly acts as common good. Was there ever such an embodiment, i.e. a certain selection out of the religious, philosophical, literary, artistic, scientific tradition binding for many people? The classical scholar Manfred Fuhrmann refers to it when he writes:

"The recently past epoch in European history, the modern era from Enlightenment up to the two world wars, from the late 17th to the early 20th century, undoubtedly knew and recognized an educational canon binding for it. Moving force of this education were no longer, or at best casually clergy and nobility and not yet the modern mass society but a well-circumscribed class, i.e. the middle class." {3}

That era has come to an end. The "main bastions of the middle-class canon" were the "cultured" home and the humanistic grammar school. They communicated to the young people above all a high standard of control of languages in talking and writing, and so at the same time the access to literature, philosophy and history. I will not describe in detail the development since then. We know it and it has often been named in the concept of the differentiation



of all areas of life and sciences, not least by of the emergence of the natural-, engineering- and life sciences, the development of the mass society, the differentiation of the educational system, and the legitimate right of everybody's participation in education for.

There is another fact: Up to Enlightenment religion was the only legitimate foundation of the European interpretation of world and life. As cult and source of ethical demands it moulded people's everyday life. The Bible had a position of prime importance before all other literature. During the Middle Ages and in the first centuries of the modern age art and science were in the service of the omnipresent Christian religion. That changed with the religious wars of the 16th and 17th century, by which Christianity was compromised as a means of public and private life. It was replaced now by the ideal of the autonomous personality guided by reason and the nation-state as intellectual force that moulded the thinking of the citizens belonging to the respective state:

"Finally also the social system of the Ordo Christianus broke down: the corporative hierarchy of the society; absolutism gave way to constitutional monarchy, in all fields of culture the tone was no longer set by the court but from now on by the upper middle class." {4}.

Hence the middle-class educational canon is the product of secularization, i.e. of that development that consists in the emancipation of arts and sciences from their religious integration. What was previously interpreted religiously is now scientifically and philosophically interpreted.

The state takes over the school system, which had previously been looked after by churches and religious orders. Towards the end of the 18th century the new profession of philologists replaces the theologians previously responsible for education. The national languages replaced Latin as a "common-European means of communication", and thus also in the sciences a tradition of more than 1000 years found its end. This is probably the sharpest break that the classical-European tradition since the time of the migration of peoples, since the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages had experienced. This is also the birth of an understanding of education that includes the processes of individual development and emancipation.

I admit that Manfred Fuhrmann is right when he says that this development does not simply mean the disappearance of cultural contents that belonged to the European educational canon. It means just as little that the Christian religion and its ethical demands disappear. With Enlightenment and secularization Europe went through transformation processes in which values and standards previously based in a Christian spirit are now developed by rational reflection.



Reconciled Diversity - Europe's Biography

I come back to the question what we as a European neighbours should know about each other. To our common knowledge belong the stories out of which the European history is composed. The knowledge of the sources belongs to it out of which the European spirit has emerged. The first German President, Theodor Heuss described the roots of European culture like this: Europe is mentally founded on three hills: the Capitol, the Acropolis and Golgotha {5}. Roman law, Greek philosophy and Christianity stood at Europe's cradle and work till today. But also the achievements of the Celtic, Germanic and Slavic peoples, the Jewish culture and Islamic influences are part of it.

About culture Dietrich Schwanitz writes in his book "The History of Europe":

"It is not least the common treasure of stories that keeps a society together. This includes the stories about one's own origins, hence the biography description of its life) of a society that tells it who it is." {6}

Hence what we should know of each other are those moulding stories that as it were make possible a biography of Europe: stories that have written history. That's why I some time ago made the proposal that we should entrust European historians with writing a European history book for our schools: a collection of those stories that constitute Europe's biography, that contribute to the better understanding of our origin, and can help us better to understand European identity. By it a culture-historical book is meant, just Europe's biography.

Europe's biography is moulded by the wrestling of different forces, by the argument with the unfamiliar; also by divisions, religious wars and great battles, after which Europe had time and again to find to itself and was instigated to new developments. Europe is the continent of diversity and tolerance; a continent that, as hardly any other in the course of its history, had to learn time and again anew how to handle plurality without losing itself. Also from that reconciled diversity Europe's wealth results, the unmistakable Spirit of Europe. When we call to mind the profound changes in the 20th century finally applies: Europe does not end and never ended at the end at the by terror and inhumanity drawn demarcation between Germany and Poland, between Austria and Hungary, between Italy and Slovenia or between the western and the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Riga is just as much a European city as Paris and Rome, the Baltic and Slavic languages are just as European as English and German.



When 50 years ago the Treaty of Rome was signed an incomparable era of prosperity and peace began for this community. The look into Europe's history shows how little a matter of course these last five decades are. Now our look, the look in the 27 member states of the European Union is turned to the future. In her lecture on 16 March 2007 at the university of Warsaw Chancellor Angela Merkel formulated it like that: "More than ever applies: Europe does not only determine our present but it is also crucial for our future." Taken for itself, each European country alone is too weak to cope with the global challenges such as energy security and climatic change, innovation and growth, the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Taken for itself each European country alone is too weak to be able to hold it's own in the economic competition, for example with China and India. Hence there can be only one answer to these challenges of the 21st century: not as individual fighter, but only together we will answer the major questions of the time, avert dangers from Europe, and smooth the ways into a future of Europe that gives this Union also the strength to have a convincing effect in the international dialogue.

The decision for Europe is a decision for peace and prosperity. It is also the decision for a certain way of life, for a particular understanding of man, and for values and basic attitudes that are reflected in the whole European commonwealth. It is ultimately the decision for a common European way of life {7}.


European Dialogue According to Kant

Immanuel Kant published in Riga in 1781 the "Critique of Pure Reason." In the final chapter Kant summarizes his philosophical quest in answering the four central questions of mankind: What can I know? What am I to do? What may I hope? - summarizing these three in: What is man?

Those four fundamental philosophical questions of every generation are suitable for the European dialogue on our common values. The question about the knowledge in connection with the above mentioned biography of Europe refers to the relevant stories, to the relevant findings of a culture led by science, as well as to the question how to assess such knowledge and to interpret stories. The question about the ethical imperative???? is the question about our morals, about standards and basic attitudes that guide our actions, and with man's ability to conscientiousness to open the possibility to assess individual decisions and actions. Kant has summarized it in the general moral law; in today's free translation it says, to act not otherwise than the consequences arising for others from just that acting allow.



The question what we may hope, is the question of religion. Kant answers this question by assuming that people have to rely on that there is a God, to be able to become really happy. Succeeding life in this tradition means man's conception of himself to be God's creature, and to believe in the God who in Jesus Christ's Incarnation comes to meet man and calls him to his imitation.

I am thoroughly convinced that for the growing together of Europe ways to ecumene, ways of a diversity in the unity of the Christian churches are of central importance. Western and Eastern European world need the bridging of the gap especially between the churches of the West and the East.

The concepts faith and reason belong to Europe's cultural substance - not least Pope Benedict XVI has often referred to that:

"The establishment of value and dignity of man, of freedom, equality and solidarity with the principles of democracy and the rule of law includes an image of man, a moral option and an idea of law which do not at all go without saying, but in fact are essential factors of Europe's identity and must also be guaranteed in their concrete consequences." {8}

Europe as continent of tolerance is based on a common European foundation created by Christian faith and enlightened reason.

The question about man summarizes the three previous questions. That is the question of anthropology, the question of man about himself, his conception of and relationship to himself. And the answer connected with it in the European tradition is the conviction of the inviolable dignity of every human being - irrespective of performance and wealth, talents and limitations, the conviction of the vocation of man to freedom and responsibility, the conviction that man is an end in himself, and that therefore his dignity is not conferred to him by others but is owed to him out of himself.


Love of Freedom

Wilhelm von Humboldt was convinced that man achieves peace only by education. The ability to handle freedom and responsibility, the love of freedom belong to the education in the holistic understanding just described. It is able to pull down walls in a peaceful way and to overcome separation and oppression. This too belongs to the stories of European history and is part of the Berlin Declaration on the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome: "We owe it to the love of freedom of the people of Central and Eastern Europe that today Europe's unnatural division is finally overcome."



The luck of freedom for millions of citizens in Europe has become possible by courage and love of freedom; it has become possible because there were those who did not want to come to terms with the destruction of the cultural substance of Europe, who were convinced that democracy is the only constitution of our polity appropriate to man. In democracy education must in every generation anew awaken the passion for freedom and democracy; hence it must have told the stories of freedom and slavery, dictatorship and democracy, of struggle, of aberrations und confusions, of God and man, and of the great moments in which European history was written.



{1} W. v. Humboldt, Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staates zu bestimmen, in: Wilhelm von Humboldt. Studienausgabe, volume 1, edited by A. Flitner and K. Giel (Stuttgart 1980) 64.

{2} M. Kaku, Zukunftsvisionen. Wie Wissenschaft u. Technik des 21. Jahrhunderts unser Leben revolutionieren (München 2000) 17.

{3} M. Fuhrmann, Der europäische Bildungskanon des bürgerlichen Zeitalters (Frankfurt 1999).

{4} In the same place 13.

{5} See Th. Heuss, Reden an die Jugend (Tübingen 1956).

{6} D. Schwanitz, Die Geschichte Europas (Frankfurt 2000) 13.

{7} See in the same place

{8} J. Ratzinger - Benedikt XVI., Werte in Zeiten des Umbruchs. Die Herausforderungen der Zukunft bestehen (Freiburg 2005) 86.


    {*} Europe's wealth lies in people's knowledge and skills. ANNETTE SCHAVAN, Federal Minister for Education and Research, proposes a biography of Europe, which in its diversity and tolerance can be a way of life for the future of our continent.


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