It is time to get political once more. Although I could write some thoughts about yesterday's Michigan primaries (especially the fact that Ms. Clinton only got 55% of the vote in a place where she was uncontested), I won't. No, today I am turning my critical commentary to the elections here in Germany.
Germany, like the U.S., is a federal system. In the next few weeks three laender (i.e. states for those from the U.S.) are going to elect their ministers (i.e. governor): Hessen, Hamburg, and my fair state, Lower Saxony. As I have watched the campaign progress here in Lower Saxony, I am struck by the thought that politicians are the same every where.
The CDU (something like the Republican Party) holds the most seats in Lower Saxony at the moment. I must say that the campaign here has been kind of bland. There almost seems to be the feeling that the minister, Christian Wulff, is going to be re-elected and so why bother. This really irritates the hell out of me, because I am not sure he should be re-elected.
Flashback to 5 years ago. Wulff was flying high as the bright new "Wunderkind" of the Lower Saxony CDU party. Young and charismatic (and not bad looking to boot), he and his family were all over campaign posters. Back then, he promised more jobs and economic growth, and more importantly for the German and our circle of friends, 5000 new teaching positions. Now that was an idea that even someone who leans SPD (something like the Democrats) could get behind. The German, as well as a lot of our friends, were university students studying education. Job prospects were not good at that time, so the idea that the new CDU government would focus on education was welcome.
Flash forward to today. Mr. Wulff, where did those teaching jobs go? The German, as well as three other people I know, could not get a job in Lower Saxony. Even more people from the university cannot find a position to do their required two years of student teaching. One good friend of mine had to wait 2 years before being offered a position that was no where near where she wanted to be and NOT WHAT SHE HAD STUDIED. Furthermore, there continues to be a teacher shortage in the state, especially of English teachers. When I applied for a job, I was turned down because I had "never studied English." No, being an American with a PhD from one of the best universities in the U.S. was not good enough. Do not even get me started on how bad the state run universities are doing at hiring new personnel.
A week ago I was driving home from an English lesson and I saw a huge CDU campaign poster. There in the middle of a group of children was Mr. Wulff. Above the picture was the headline: Better Education. I almost blew a gasket. However, I must not be the only person aware of the problems with the CDU stand on education. This week the poster has been replaced with a different headline: More Jobs.
So as you can see, it does not matter where you live, politicians regardless of nationality and party will say anything. Am I surprised by this? No, in fact it was a premise of my dissertation. Am I that upset about it? Also, surprisingly, no. We are self-interested beings and do what we have to get by. I cannot blame a politician for doing what I would do myself in order to get a job. However, I am a bit upset that no one around here seems to be talking about Wulff's perhaps less than stellar record. I also don't think that the opposition, the SPD, is taking advantage of a possible CDU weakness. They too just seem to be along for the ride.