Arbeitsbereich Geschichtsdidaktik / History Education, Universität Hamburg

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On Understanding Controversy in Historical-Political Learning (Version 3.3)

04. Mai 2022 Andreas Körber Keine Kommentare

[The fol­lowing is a rough Eng­lish trans­la­ti­on of my pie­ce: https://​his​to​risch​den​ken​ler​nen​.blogs​.uni​-ham​burg​.de/​z​u​m​-​v​e​r​s​t​a​e​n​d​n​i​s​-​v​o​n​-​k​o​n​t​r​o​v​e​r​s​i​t​a​e​t​-​i​m​-​h​i​s​t​o​r​i​s​c​h​-​p​o​l​i​t​i​s​c​h​e​n​-​l​e​r​n​en/]

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About four weeks ago, on the occa­si­on of the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry inva­si­on of Ukrai­ne that had just begun, I for­mu­la­ted some remarks on the role and signi­fi­can­ce of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus in his­to­ri­cal and poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on and, in this con­text, also took part in a pro­gram­me in the seri­es “Cam­pus und Kar­rie­re” (Cam­pus and Care­er) on Deutsch­land­funk radio 1. My cen­tral con­cern was to cla­ri­fy and reaf­firm the signi­fi­can­ce of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus- espe­cial­ly by reflec­ting on pos­si­ble misun­derstan­dings in its application.

The inten­si­ve public dis­cus­sions of the last few weeks and days on the ques­ti­on of how Ger­ma­ny can and should act poli­ti­cal­ly in this situa­ti­on have shown, in my opi­ni­on, that such cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­ons con­ti­nue to be necessa­ry, and that the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus – cor­rect­ly unders­tood and app­lied – remains indis­pensable as a gui­de­li­ne, but can also be pro­ble­ma­tic, even misus­ed, if misun­ders­tood and misapplied.

The focus is pri­ma­ri­ly on the second princip­le of the “Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus”, the princip­le of con­tro­ver­sy. What is con­tro­ver­si­al in sci­ence and (I would add: or) socie­ty must also appe­ar as con­tro­ver­si­al in the class­room. Four weeks ago, I argued that this com­man­dment is pre­cise­ly not one of neu­tra­li­ty, of free­dom from values. I would now like to ela­bo­ra­te a litt­le further.

First of all, every con­flict, every dif­fe­rence of inte­rest, every sub­ject of poli­ti­cal deba­te and decisi­on-making, which is somehow a topic, must be pre­sen­ted in a “balan­ced” way, if necessa­ry struc­tu­red by tasks and sup­por­ted with mate­ri­al in such a way that in the joint ana­ly­sis of the mate­ri­al, the pro­ces­sing of the tasks, the con­si­de­ra­ti­on of the pro­blems, i.e. in the fac­tu­al and value jud­ge­ments, a balan­ce always results. It is not pos­si­ble to deri­ve from the Beu­tels­bach Consensus’s requi­re­ment of con­tro­ver­sy that every con­flict of inte­rest and every dif­fe­rence of inte­rest that is somehow the sub­ject of poli­ti­cal deba­te and will for­ma­ti­on must be pre­sen­ted in a “balan­ced” way, struc­tu­red by tasks if necessa­ry, and sup­por­ted by mate­ri­al in such a way that the joint ana­ly­sis of the mate­ri­al, the pro­ces­sing of the tasks, the con­si­de­ra­ti­on of the pro­blems, i.e. the fac­tu­al and value jud­ge­ments, always result in a balan­ce in the sen­se that “both” (or all) sides are given equal weight, equal chan­ce of agree­ment, etc.

If it were, his­to­ri­cal-poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on would remain a kind of value- and con­cept-free exer­cise in tech­ni­ques, but would not pro­mo­te the acqui­si­ti­on and deve­lo­p­ment of com­pe­ten­ces and insights. Con­tro­ver­sy cer­tain­ly requi­res the pos­si­bi­li­ty of a plu­ra­li­ty of fac­tu­al and value jud­ge­ments, of qui­te dif­fe­rent insights, but neit­her a mecha­ni­cal, for­mal “balan­ce” and “equi­li­bri­um” in which every posi­ti­on has equal “chan­ces” and equal weight, nor uni­for­mi­ty. What is at sta­ke is rather the insight into the fact and the struc­tures that such ques­ti­ons (from the small, ever­y­day to the lar­ge) can never be con­si­de­red from only one per­spec­ti­ve, that dif­fe­rent inte­rests are natu­ral­ly, even necessa­ri­ly given in hete­ro­ge­ne­ous, diver­se and plu­ral socie­ties, that it is the­re­fo­re nor­mal that ques­ti­ons are jud­ged dif­fer­ent­ly – but that it is by no means irrele­vant from which per­spec­ti­ves, with which cate­go­ries, But that it is by no means irrele­vant from which per­spec­ti­ves, with which cate­go­ries, on the basis of which con­cepts and values the­se ques­ti­ons are ana­ly­sed, dis­cus­sed, jud­ged, but that pre­cise­ly the dis­cus­sion about such ques­ti­ons of jud­ge­ment, the cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on of per­spec­ti­ves, posi­tio­na­li­ties (such as being affec­ted) and posi­ti­ons, terms and con­cepts is sui­ta­ble and necessa­ry to con­tri­bu­te to cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­ons that neit­her over­whelm, exclu­de, discri­mi­na­te against some at the expen­se of others, nor pre­vent any clarification.

Con­tro­ver­si­al the­ma­ti­sa­ti­ons should thus neit­her aim at com­mon, uni­form insights, decisi­ons, jud­ge­ments etc. that are bin­ding for all – be it by majo­ri­ty decisi­on, be it pre­scri­bed by the mate­ri­al, by the assign­ment etc., sug­gested by expec­ted gra­ding or other­wi­se. Howe­ver, it also does not make sen­se to pro­mo­te the impres­si­on that agree­ments – for examp­le, in the form of com­pro­mi­ses or by means of voting – are fun­da­ment­al­ly not pos­si­ble and not to be stri­ved for becau­se of the com­man­dment of con­tro­ver­sy and an ori­en­ta­ti­on towards plu­ra­li­ty. Neit­her seems appro­pria­te in con­texts of con­tro­ver­sy-ori­en­ted poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on: neit­her the idea of having con­clu­si­ve­ly cla­ri­fied an issue (after all, the frame­work con­di­ti­ons and the avail­ab­le per­spec­ti­ves etc. are limi­ted wit­hin a les­son) nor the idea that the­re are no fur­ther pos­si­bi­li­ties of con­ver­gence, com­pro­mi­se, shif­ting per­spec­ti­ves on the pro­blem etc. does jus­ti­ce to the impor­t­ance of con­tro­ver­sy in socie­ty. Thus, neit­her direc­ti­ve “tal­king things out” nor com­ple­te open­ness to results are sui­ta­ble modes of thematisation.

As far as I can see, howe­ver, this ques­ti­on of the extent of open­ness to results domi­na­tes the deba­te on the con­tro­ver­sia­li­ty requi­re­ment – though less with a con­sen­sus-ori­en­ted “dis­cus­sion out” as a coun­ter­point than with the ques­ti­on of the extent to which cer­tain con­tro­ver­sies are not to be addres­sed “direct­ly” per se, i.e. with a fixed result.

It is often dedu­ced from the con­tro­ver­sia­li­ty requi­re­ment (not only) of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus that “ever­ything that is social­ly con­tro­ver­si­al should be put up for dis­cus­sion in class and sub­jec­ted to the indi­vi­du­al jud­ge­ment of the indi­vi­du­al pupil”.2 This for­mu­la­ti­on cor­re­sponds to the broad view that the princip­le of con­tro­ver­sy requi­res that “mat­ters that are con­tro­ver­si­al in poli­ti­cal and sci­en­ti­fic deba­tes should also be dis­cus­sed con­tro­ver­si­al­ly in class”, alt­hough it is deba­ted to what extent (or for which sub­jects and ques­ti­ons) such dis­cus­sions should be “open-ended” or “direc­ti­ve”.3
To deci­de on the open­ness and/​or “direc­ti­vi­ty” of such dis­cus­sions, three per­spec­ti­ves are used in the inter­na­tio­nal deba­te, which – in a respon­se to Johan­nes Dre­r­up – Johan­nes Gie­sin­ger cha­rac­te­ri­ses very suc­cinct­ly as follows:

“Accord­ing to the ’social’ cri­ter­ion, all that is actual­ly con­tro­ver­si­al in socie­ty is to be pre­sen­ted. Accord­ing to the ‘poli­ti­cal’ cri­ter­ion, the basic princi­ples of libe­ral demo­cra­cy are to be taught in a direc­ti­ve man­ner, while con­tro­ver­si­al reli­gious-ideo­lo­gi­cal ques­ti­ons are to be pre­sen­ted with an open out­co­me. The ‘epis­temic’ cri­ter­ion, on the other hand, assu­mes stan­dards of truth and moral right­ness and sta­tes that what is obvious­ly untrue and incor­rect should not be pre­sen­ted con­tro­ver­si­al­ly.“4

The ori­gi­nal for­mu­la­ti­on of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus5 obvious­ly cor­re­sponds to the “social” cri­ter­ion, whe­re­as Dre­r­up – accord­ing to Gie­sin­ger – com­bi­nes the other two in order to coun­ter the pro­blem of ulti­mate­ly having to admit posi­ti­ons that are objec­tively non­sen­si­cal (accord­ing to the epis­temic cri­ter­ion) and/​or (accord­ing to the poli­ti­cal cri­ter­ion) con­tra­dict the libe­ral-demo­cra­tic basic values in such dis­cus­sions. The lat­ter aspect in par­ti­cu­lar estab­lis­hes a clo­se con­nec­tion to the chal­len­ge of dealing with value jud­ge­ments in the class­room and tea­ching jud­ge­ments, which are bound to libe­ral norms – and it thus also expli­ci­tly con­cerns the cur­rent ques­ti­on of addres­sing the inva­si­on of Ukrai­ne.6

It is ques­tion­ab­le to what extent the ques­ti­ons that ari­se in prac­ti­ce, both on the con­cre­te sub­ject of the “Ukrai­ne attack” and in gene­ral on the ques­ti­on of the mea­ning of con­tro­ver­sy, can alrea­dy be cla­ri­fied with the help of the­se con­si­de­ra­ti­ons. Not only does the epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal cri­ter­ion its­elf pro­ve pro­ble­ma­tic inso­far as con­tro­ver­sies do not only (but also) con­cern ques­ti­ons of value jud­ge­ments in the sen­se of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus, whe­re­as all pro­blems to be cla­ri­fied fac­tual­ly and redu­ced to ques­ti­ons of cor­rect app­li­ca­ti­on of princi­ples of know­ledge could ulti­mate­ly be with­drawn from them and would thus have to be addres­sed “direct­ly”, for after all, con­tro­ver­sy is also a fun­da­men­tal struc­tu­ral ele­ment of sci­ence – and espe­cial­ly of the natu­ral sci­en­ces. If one does not want to restrict the for­mu­la­ti­on of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus on what is con­tro­ver­si­al “in sci­ence and poli­tics” from the out­set to the poli­ti­cal sphe­re in the nar­rower sen­se, it must be reco­gnis­ed that not only nor­ma­ti­ve ques­ti­ons and value jud­ge­ments, but also fac­tu­al jud­ge­ments, i.e. on the cor­rect app­li­ca­ti­on of con­cepts, terms, methods, etc., are con­tro­ver­si­al, and that such con­tro­ver­sy must also have its place in schools if they are to pre­pa­re stu­dents for par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in a socie­ty in which the results, princi­ples and pro­ce­du­res of sci­ence are ulti­mate­ly acces­si­ble to public reflec­tion and deba­te. Drerup’s app­li­ca­ti­on of the epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal cri­ter­ion to fac­tu­al ques­ti­ons7 can be agreed with fac­tual­ly, but in my opi­ni­on it is not sui­ta­ble as a jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­on for a direc­ti­ve, media­ted the­ma­ti­sa­ti­on, eit­her in rela­ti­on to moral ques­ti­ons (as with Hand) or in rela­ti­on to fac­tu­al ques­ti­ons: pupils must also expe­ri­ence that and how even ques­ti­ons that are amen­ab­le to ratio­nal cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on can­not sim­ply be con­si­de­red to have been cla­ri­fied – espe­cial­ly sin­ce the sta­te of know­ledge and rese­arch that has been achie­ved is con­stant­ly being cal­led into ques­ti­on anew.

Neit­her in gene­ral nor in rela­ti­on to the pro­blem dealt with here are the three cri­te­ria suf­fi­ci­ent to ade­qua­te­ly cla­ri­fy the natu­re of con­tro­ver­si­al the­ma­ti­sa­ti­on. Perhaps it hel­ps in this situa­ti­on to take ano­t­her look at what the con­tro­ver­sia­li­ty requi­re­ment actual­ly deman­ds. Is it real­ly the case that con­tro­ver­sia­li­ty means that the­re must always be dis­cus­sion – regard­less of whe­ther it is open-ended or goal-oriented?

This in par­ti­cu­lar does not seem at all com­pel­ling to me. Cer­tain­ly, dis­cus­sion, the expe­ri­ence of poli­ti­cal argu­ment cul­tu­re and dis­cur­si­ve­ness, also the expe­ri­ence of the signi­fi­can­ce of an agen­cy in arguing, in con­tra­dic­ting and main­tai­ning con­tra­dic­tion, belong to tho­se basic expe­ri­en­ces of demo­cra­cy as a way of life that must always have their place in school. So I am not con­cer­ned here with pushing fact- and value-based dis­cus­sions out of the class­room – on the con­tra­ry. Nevertheless, it seems to me qui­te ques­tion­ab­le that the direct dis­cus­sion of con­tro­ver­si­al ques­ti­ons in class is the only and for all ques­ti­ons sui­ta­ble form of doing jus­ti­ce to the con­tro­ver­sy requi­re­ment of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus. It is to be asked whe­ther the­re are not other facets and forms of addres­sing con­tro­ver­sy as a basic social princip­le as well as actu­al, con­cre­te con­tro­ver­sies, which can take over important func­tions in addi­ti­on (for examp­le, in the run-up, bet­ween several instan­ces of such dis­cus­sions) or in their place – depen­ding on the struc­tu­re of the sub­ject mat­ter, the invol­ve­ment of lear­ners, their fami­lies and peer groups in the­se con­tro­ver­sies, as well as for pedago­gi­cal reasons.

The fol­lowing con­si­de­ra­ti­ons are in no way inten­ded to exclu­de or dis­cou­ra­ge direct dis­cus­sion in tea­ching con­texts: Deba­tes about social con­tro­ver­sies are always use­ful in the class­room. At the same time, howe­ver, the self-evi­dence cited should be sub­jec­ted to reflec­tion inso­far as the man­ner of con­tro­ver­si­al the­ma­ti­sa­ti­on must be con­si­de­red not only in terms of the qua­li­ty and struc­tu­re of the topics and ques­ti­ons, but also in terms of the pos­si­ble deman­ds on and effects on the lear­ners and the struc­tu­re of social controversy.

As alrea­dy men­tio­ned, the con­tro­ver­sy requi­re­ment in its ori­gi­nal Beu­tels­bach ver­si­on does not mean that the con­tro­ver­si­al ques­ti­ons must be dis­cus­sed by the stu­dents in a con­ten­tious manner.
Rather, the for­mu­la­ti­on sta­tes that
matters “which are con­tro­ver­si­al in intel­lec­tu­al and poli­ti­cal affairs must also be taught as con­tro­ver­si­al in edu­ca­tio­nal inst­ruc­tion”.8

This means, first of all, neit­her to deny nor to con­ce­al the con­tro­ver­si­al natu­re of such ques­ti­ons, but to make clear the fact that they are dis­cus­sed in socie­ty and that (in the vast majo­ri­ty of cases) this con­tro­ver­sia­li­ty is part of the nor­ma­li­ty in plu­ral and diver­se socie­ties and must be endu­red and dealt with in demo­cra­ci­es. Howe­ver, the­re is no men­ti­on of a man­da­te to put such ques­ti­ons up for dis­cus­sion in class, to “let” con­tro­ver­si­al ques­ti­ons be dis­cus­sed in class, i.e. in a con­text that is pre­cise­ly not vol­un­ta­ry and not free of hier­ar­chies, or even to let them be “dis­cus­sed out” and perhaps even to for­ce lear­ners to make known very per­so­nal con­cerns and/​or opinions.

Also the fol­lowing – ques­tio­ning – for­mu­la­ti­on whe­ther the tea­cher “should not even have a cor­rec­ti­ve func­tion” inso­far as “[.…The fol­lowing – ques­tio­ning – for­mu­la­ti­on also does not con­tra­dict this – on the con­tra­ry: it affirms that it is not about the dis­cus­sion of posi­ti­ons and argu­men­ta­ti­ons that exist in the lear­ning group any­way, but about the insight into the social con­tro­ver­sy and the spec­trum of per­spec­ti­ves, posi­ti­ons, argu­ments, logics and values.

Of cour­se, this does not mean that the­re should be no dis­cus­sion and con­si­de­ra­ti­on in class – on the con­tra­ry. Pupils must be allo­wed to express their own, qui­te dif­fe­rent, opi­ni­ons on con­tro­ver­si­al issu­es in class – and this espe­cial­ly whe­re the­se opi­ni­ons are not yet firm con­vic­tions, but whe­re lear­ners are loo­king for cer­tain­ties and posi­ti­ons, struggling for them, see­king cer­tain­ty in the avai­la­bi­li­ty of know­ledge, terms and con­cepts and cri­te­ria. In this respect, school must offer a cer­tain pro­tec­ti­ve space, espe­cial­ly in sub­jects whe­re con­vic­tions and ori­en­ta­ti­ons are at play. Con­fes­si­ons and final jud­ge­ments, howe­ver, must not be deman­ded. It is often use­ful and pos­si­ble for lear­ners to try out cer­tain jud­ge­ments and the con­si­de­ra­ti­ons, values, hypo­the­ses on which they are based, not as them­sel­ves, but by adop­ting a more or less for­eign per­spec­ti­ve (also role), so that they are enab­led to draw their own per­so­nal con­clu­si­ons, if necessa­ry, indi­vi­du­al­ly and for them­sel­ves. In many cases, it will not be the major con­flicts them­sel­ves that can be fruit­ful­ly addres­sed in class, but rather the exis­ting dis­cus­sions in socie­ty about atti­tu­des, terms, con­cepts and posi­ti­ons. This is espe­cial­ly important for histo­ry les­sons. As use­ful as it may be to explo­re past con­flicts and the opti­ons for action of the actors in a “role-play­ing” man­ner wit­hin the frame­work of role-play­ing and simu­la­ti­on games, the impres­si­on must not be crea­ted that the con­si­de­ra­ti­ons and hypo­the­ses in the les­sons even appro­xi­ma­te the real situa­ti­on and that valid solu­ti­ons can thus be worked out in a cer­tain way in the les­sons. Accord­in­gly, it is not a mat­ter of “dis­cus­sing” one’s own atti­tu­des to the con­flict, but rather of using such role-play­ing games to make the mul­ti-dimen­sio­na­li­ty of con­flict situa­tions and (this is rele­vant for this para­graph) the value-rela­ted­ness of the actors’ actions accessible.

Perhaps a first attempt at a typo­lo­gy of dis­cus­sions will help:

  1. Pro­blem-ori­en­ted dis­cus­sions: Star­ting from a pro­blem – if necessa­ry pre­pa­red by pro­blem-ori­en­ted deve­lo­p­ment of basics with regard to sub­ject and con­cept know­ledge, deve­lo­p­ment of posi­ti­ons and argu­ments – rela­ted fac­tu­al and value jud­ge­ment ques­ti­ons are put up for dis­cus­sion with the aim of fin­ding a com­mon solu­ti­on and both posi­ti­ons, argu­ments and rea­sons are exch­an­ged so that at the end eit­her an (open) vote on a com­mon judgement/​position or a (secret) “opi­ni­on” beco­mes recognisable.

  2. Open dis­pu­ta­ti­on: Simi­lar to the pro­blem-ori­en­ted dis­cus­sion, posi­ti­ons and argu­ments as well as rea­sons and evi­dence are exch­an­ged, cer­tain­ly with the aim of con­vin­cing others, but inten­tio­nal­ly without a (tri­al) vote or opi­ni­on, but with the pro­vi­so that each individual’s jud­ge­ment can­not be finalised.

  3. Ana­ly­ti­cal dis­cus­sion: Star­ting from an (open and/​or anony­mous) initi­al sur­vey of dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons and argu­men­ta­ti­ons on a pro­blem and value ques­ti­on, in which lear­ners can con­tri­bu­te both their own posi­ti­ons and tho­se they have encoun­te­red, their dif­fe­ren­ces in terms of pre­mi­ses, values, norms, etc. are iden­ti­fied and ana­ly­sed in class – cer­tain­ly also in terms of their plau­si­bi­li­ty and cohe­rence, without the lear­ners having to express their own posi­ti­on on the ques­ti­on its­elf again at the end. Ins­tead, insights and ques­ti­ons about indi­vi­du­al posi­ti­ons, argu­ments, etc. can be for­mu­la­ted and compared.

Four weeks ago, against this back­ground, I was con­cer­ned that not every con­flict, every dis­pu­te can be inter­pre­ted in the same way as a “con­tro­ver­sy” in the sen­se of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus, but rather that the natu­re of dif­fe­rent forms of dis­pu­te, argu­ment etc. must also be asses­sed and lear­ned to be asses­sed. The exis­tence of dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons, par­ties, etc. alo­ne can­not lead to the con­clu­si­on that the­re is a com­mon struc­tu­re of “con­flict” or “con­tro­ver­sy”: Not every con­flict is a con­tro­ver­sy, not every act of vio­lence is a “con­flict”, etc. Rather, it is pre­cise­ly the con­cepts, posi­ti­ons, cri­te­ria and values necessa­ry and used to cha­rac­te­ri­se, assess and eva­lua­te dif­fe­rent pro­blems and issu­es, i.e. tho­se of the “ante­ce­dents” and “envi­ron­ment” of poli­ti­cal dis­pu­tes, so to speak, that are much more cen­tral to poli­ti­cal lear­ning, inso­far as they are con­tro­ver­si­al in socie­ty and aca­de­mia and their (incre­a­sing) cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on is necessa­ry for the par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of the mem­bers of socie­ty and is thus a cen­tral dimen­si­on of lear­ning for the lear­ners. Often, the­re­fo­re, it is not the major con­flicts and ques­ti­ons that con­sti­tu­te the actu­al con­tro­ver­sies, but the con­tro­ver­sies about con­cepts, values, etc. that pre­ce­de, fol­low and sur­round them.

This is the only place whe­re the cur­rent (and recent, but also ear­lier) events in Ukrai­ne (and its sur­roun­dings) come into view. This is whe­re important con­tro­ver­sies ari­se that are essen­ti­al for our actions and deba­tes as mem­bers of socie­ty as well as for his­to­ri­cal and poli­ti­cal lear­ning. It makes a dif­fe­rence whe­ther or to what extent the mili­ta­ry action of all or some actors the­re is descri­bed and asses­sed as “war”, “spe­cial mili­ta­ry ope­ra­ti­on”, “armed attack” or other­wi­se, and whe­ther and in what way the­se con­cepts are mutual­ly exclu­si­ve, com­pa­ti­ble with each other – and what fol­lows from this for the assess­ment and eva­lua­ti­on. None of the cha­rac­te­ri­sa­ti­ons and assess­ments is sim­ply eit­her “right” or “wrong”, none cap­tures “the natu­re” of the events in forms that can sim­ply be read from them. Often even their app­li­ca­ti­ons are con­tin­gent and ambivalent.

This is anything but trivial:

    • The very ques­ti­on of “whe­ther” it is a “war” or a spe­cial mili­ta­ry ope­ra­ti­on, an “armed raid”, genocide/​genocide, war crime or some­thing else is pro­ble­ma­tic in its bina­ry whether/​not form. Is the­re (only) one con­cept of war that has been cla­ri­fied over all times and for all con­texts? Hard­ly. Are “geno­ci­de” and “war of exter­mi­na­ti­on” mutual­ly exclu­si­ve? Are they alternatives?

    • Alt­hough com­bi­na­ti­ons and uncer­tain­ties can be mar­ked with their help, in my opi­ni­on the for­mu­la­ti­on of the ques­ti­on or pro­blem, “to what extent” the­se cha­rac­te­ri­sa­ti­ons app­ly to cur­rent events, does not do full jus­ti­ce to the mat­ter, becau­se it also pre­sup­po­ses, to a cer­tain extent, cla­ri­fied con­cepts, which then only have to and can be che­cked for “fit”. At least two fur­ther dif­fe­ren­tia­ti­ons are thus necessary:

      • Do we judge or mean “the event” as a who­le, or is it necessa­ry to dis­tin­guish bet­ween actors with dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons in it? Are the defen­si­ve actions of the Ukrai­ni­an army “war” in the same sen­se as tho­se of the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry that inva­ded the coun­try? So what does it mean when we talk about “war”? Can (may? must?) one simul­ta­ne­ous­ly out­law “war” as a means of poli­tics and con­si­der it wrong and sup­port the defence of Ukraine?

      • What do the con­cepts and terms we use imply? The Rus­si­an government does not refer to its actions in Ukrai­ne as “war”, but as a “spe­cial mili­ta­ry ope­ra­ti­on”, whe­re­as inter­na­tio­nal (Wes­tern) poli­tics and repor­ting have pre­do­mi­nant­ly used the term “war” immedia­te­ly. What does this imply? If one under­stands the ques­ti­on in terms of which term (alo­ne) is app­li­ca­ble and tri­es to ans­wer it on the basis of cha­rac­te­ris­tics, one only gets so far. It is only the ques­ti­on of whe­ther “it” is “a war” or not, but also what the use of the terms implies. If, on the one hand, the use of the term “war” as oppo­sed to the term used by offi­cial Rus­sia clear­ly marks that we are dealing here with an inter­na­tio­nal “con­flict” ( see below for more on this) and not with some kind of “inter­nal Rus­si­an”, qua­si domestic poli­ti­cal action (for examp­le, in the sen­se of enfor­cing hig­her sta­te law against sepa­ra­tists), it also implies at the same time that we are dealing with a more or less reco­gnis­ed, even regu­la­ted form of poli­ti­cal action. Whe­re the­re is war, the­re is mar­ti­al law, and at least the kil­ling of enemy com­ba­tants is not “mur­der” in the cri­mi­nal law sen­se. Is this what is/​should be implied here? After all, war has not been decla­red in the for­mal sen­se. One can (must?) also con­si­der to what extent the events can­not be descri­bed as (sta­te) for the Rus­si­an side only becau­se of the attacks on civi­li­an tar­gets and the bru­tal kil­ling of civi­li­ans, becau­se it is pre­cise­ly not an action in a “nor­mal” inter­sta­te con­flict? To what extent, then, does it make sen­se, and what are the con­se­quen­ces, to dis­tin­guish bet­ween Ukraine’s defen­si­ve actions as legi­ti­ma­te actions in terms of inter­na­tio­nal rela­ti­ons and the law of war (right to go to war), but the actions of the Rus­si­an side as not? On the other hand, to what extent is it not necessa­ry to demand com­pli­an­ce with the pro­vi­si­ons of the law of war for the lat­ter as well (for examp­le, with regard to the tre­at­ment of pri­so­ners, the pro­hi­bi­ti­on of their public dis­play, etc.)?

      • “Con­flict”: The situa­ti­on is simi­lar with the cate­go­ry and the term “con­flict”. Appeals for a (return to) peace­ful con­flict reso­lu­ti­on are and remain necessa­ry. But to what extent is what is hap­pe­ning in Ukrai­ne a “con­flict”? To what extent does the use of this term imply or at least con­no­te an at least for­mal­ly equal agen­cy of the par­ties, the par­ti­ci­pants? Calls for over­co­m­ing the “logic of war”, as for­mu­la­ted by the left-wing poli­ti­ci­an Bernd Riex­in­ger on Twit­ter, are urgent­ly nee­ded, but imply that the­re is an even remo­te­ly simi­lar object of con­flict. Coun­ter-posi­ti­ons for­mu­la­te that this is at least high­ly pro­ble­ma­tic in view of pre­vious and inte­rim “inter­pre­ta­ti­ons” that Ukrai­ne is not a sta­te of its own, that the­re is no Ukrai­ni­an peop­le, in view of the goals of des­troy­ing the sta­te struc­tu­re or even Ukrai­ni­an identity.

The­se ques­ti­ons, too, can­not be ans­we­red con­clu­si­ve­ly – as can the who­le seri­es of others that fol­low: for examp­le, whe­ther or to what extent the con­cept of “geno­ci­de” is both appro­pria­te and hel­pful in cha­rac­te­ri­sing the actions of the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry and the Rus­si­an government (for examp­le, inso­far as it is based on con­cepts of peop­le and, if app­li­ca­ble, does not exclu­de Ukrai­ni­an parts of the popu­la­ti­on in any “eth­nic” sen­se). If the con­cept of “geno­ci­de” is both appro­pria­te and hel­pful to cha­rac­te­ri­se the actions of the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry and government (for examp­le, if it is based on con­cepts of peop­le and does not exclu­de Ukrai­ni­an parts of the popu­la­ti­on in any “eth­nic” sen­se), and if cri­ti­ques of con­cepts of nati­on and natio­nal cul­tu­re in rela­ti­on to Ukrai­ne are appro­pria­te in view of the fact that Ukrai­ne was denied the qua­li­ty of being (or having) its own sta­te, nati­on and peop­le for the pur­po­se of inva­si­on or as a jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­on for it, then the reco­gni­ti­on of the iden­ti­ty for­ma­ti­on that took place during and in defence must not lead to the exclu­si­on of the limits and pro­blems of such con­cepts of nati­on. Again, it can­not only be a mat­ter of fac­tu­al and value jud­ge­ments about “whe­ther” or “to what extent” Ukrai­ne con­sti­tu­tes a “nati­on”, and whe­ther it may under­stand its­elf in this way or be unders­tood in this way, but what the use of the­se con­cepts implies in each case, what they achie­ve, to what extent they also remain pro­ble­ma­tic and must be dif­fe­ren­tia­ted or lin­ked with others.

Most of the ques­ti­ons addres­sed are, on a first level, ques­ti­ons of fac­tu­al jud­ge­ment, ques­ti­ons of the assess­ment of phe­no­me­na, con­di­ti­ons, struc­tures, actions on the basis of con­cepts, which in turn are to be asses­sed in terms of their defi­ni­ti­on, scope, impli­ca­ti­ons – and this in a dif­fe­ren­tia­ted man­ner. Howe­ver, the ques­ti­ons always imply – not least becau­se of the lat­ter impli­ca­ti­ons and ran­ges – value jud­ge­ments, which are con­tro­ver­si­al in a simi­lar way and can often only be sepa­ra­ted from the fac­tu­al jud­ge­ments ana­ly­ti­cal­ly (wher­eby the dis­tinc­tion its­elf is con­cep­tual­ly and didac­ti­cal­ly necessa­ry, is its­elf by no means tri­vi­al and is its­elf some­ti­mes con­tro­ver­si­al, but can also be pro­ces­sed cogni­tively).9

And in this sen­se, it is also value jud­ge­ments and action dis­po­si­ti­ons in our socie­ty that are con­tro­ver­si­al in such a rele­vant form – and they also con­tain (one would almost like to say: natu­ral­ly) dif­fe­rent refe­ren­ces to fac­tu­al jud­ge­ments – be it that they build on such jud­ge­ments, be it that they in turn under­pin other fac­tu­al judgements.

The­se inclu­de, among other things, atti­tu­des to war and peace both abs­tract­ly and in con­cre­te cases. For many mem­bers of the poli­ti­cal left (not just the par­ty, but the spec­trum of atti­tu­des and posi­ti­ons), for examp­le, they are based not least on a basic anti-fascist stance, which is often sum­ma­ri­sed in the for­mu­la “never again fascism – never again war”, and which in the com­po­nent “never again” at least has sub­stan­ti­al cor­re­spon­den­ces with other nor­ma­ti­ve com­mit­ments from the expe­ri­ence with Natio­nal Socia­list tyran­ny and its inva­si­on of other coun­tries, as well as the per­se­cu­ti­on of various “mino­ri­ties” (inclu­ding their exclu­si­on as such). But what this “never again” con­crete­ly ent­ails, what it refers to, is by no means as unam­bi­guous and clear as the quo­ted for­mu­la makes it seem. Natan Szna­ider, among others, has ana­ly­sed the plu­ra­li­ty of the­se out­ward­ly iden­ti­cal impe­ra­ti­ves in his most recent book “Vanis­hing Points of Memo­ry“10 . Dif­fe­rent ones are pos­si­ble – from a “never again (to) us” from a par­ti­cu­lar Jewish vic­tim memo­ry, to a “never again by us”, an equal­ly par­ti­cu­lar per­spec­ti­ve of memo­ry that faces up to its histo­ry and is thus by no means self-evi­dent, as well as clear­ly more abs­tract or unver­sa­li­sed deman­ds that “some­thing like this” should “never again” take place at all, i.e. by no one. The quo­ted anti-fascist for­mu­la “Never again fascism – never again war” also fits into this spec­trum.11 Depen­ding on how it is read, dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons and actions, i.e. his­to­ri­cal ori­en­ta­ti­ons, can be deri­ved or jus­ti­fied. Is any war to be avoided and thus also any sup­port for war­ring par­ties – even if it is a mat­ter of anti-colo­ni­al, anti-impe­ria­list or anti-fascist defence? Or does it rather fol­low that such sup­port for defen­si­ve wars – for examp­le by means of arms deli­ve­ries or even inter­ven­ti­on – is vir­tual­ly imperative?

The deba­te about con­clu­si­ons and posi­ti­ons on what con­cre­te con­se­quence should be drawn from Germany’s par­ti­cu­lar respon­si­bi­li­ty is thus a valid con­tro­ver­sy in the con­text of the war in Ukrai­ne, both in the abs­tract and in the con­cre­te case, espe­cial­ly sin­ce it is not only a bina­ry oppo­si­ti­on of conservative-national(istic) to mili­ta­ris­tic posi­tio­ning on the one hand and histo­ry-con­scious, respon­si­bi­li­ty-ori­en­ted to left-wing posi­tio­ning on the other, but also dif­fe­rent argu­men­ta­ti­ons and con­clu­si­ons can be found “wit­hin” essen­ti­al basic poli­ti­cal orientations.

All the­se ques­ti­ons are the­re­fo­re con­tro­ver­si­al in the sen­se addres­sed by the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus: It is about fac­tu­al and value jud­ge­ments that are neit­her arbi­tra­ry nor sim­ply alrea­dy ans­we­red in our socie­ty, and who­se more or less dif­fe­rent ans­wers are also not without con­se­quen­ces. It is not a mat­ter of achie­ving a solu­ti­on in the social con­tro­ver­sy and then decla­ring it bin­ding with all pos­si­ble con­se­quen­ces, nor is it a mat­ter of pre­scrib­ing such a solu­ti­on to the lear­ners in a bin­ding man­ner in lear­ning pro­ces­ses. Rather, social dis­cus­sion and deba­te as well as lear­ning pro­ces­ses must illu­mi­na­te and cla­ri­fy the achie­ve­ments and limits, the con­di­ti­ons and con­se­quen­ces of dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons, under­stan­dings, inter­pre­ta­ti­ons, etc., without ulti­mate­ly depri­ving the indi­vi­du­al of the pos­si­bi­li­ty of his or her own under­stan­ding and atti­tu­de – but also of the respon­si­bi­li­ty for it, becau­se (this is also part of dis­cus­sion as well as lear­ning) one’s own thin­king, jud­ge­ment and action does not take place in iso­la­ti­on from all others, nor does it remain without con­se­quen­ces for joint action in socie­ty. Even more: For such com­mon action, it is by no means necessa­ry, but rather even harm­ful, that ever­yo­ne thinks and does the same, and that ever­yo­ne assu­mes that such uni­for­mi­ty pre­vails – but it is a pre­re­qui­si­te for such action to ori­ent oneself across the spec­trum of dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons and jud­ge­ments as well as maxims of action and in the socie­ty thus struc­tu­red – inclu­ding the again dis­cur­si­ve (and thus con­tro­ver­si­al) cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on of the limits of what can and should be reco­gnis­ed in terms of posi­ti­ons, values, con­cepts and criteria.

Pupils who con­si­der, dis­cuss and try to cla­ri­fy ques­ti­ons such as tho­se out­lined abo­ve learn more – even if they do not arri­ve at a uni­form, memo­r­able and retriev­a­ble result – than if they sim­ply learn to app­ly given cha­rac­te­ris­tics and pro­per­ties of cer­tain con­cepts and struc­tures that sup­po­sed­ly trans­cend time, space, cul­tu­re and case. (Which cri­te­ria do not ther­eby beco­me worth­less, but must always be more and dif­fe­rent than an instru­ment of jud­ge­ment, name­ly always also the object of the same).

In terms of tea­ching, i.e. didac­ti­cal­ly, eit­her the ques­ti­ons must be for­mu­la­ted dif­fer­ent­ly – so that they do not pri­ma­ri­ly repre­sent decisi­on alter­na­ti­ves, but rather aim to deve­lop the under­ly­ing con­cepts, insights, values, etc. – or the ans­wers to ques­ti­ons for­mu­la­ted as decisi­on alter­na­ti­ves must be trans­for­med into such dif­fe­ren­tia­ti­ons. The con­tro­ver­sy requi­re­ment of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus does not demand that the con­tro­ver­sies that pupils encoun­ter in their ever­y­day lives (e.g. in the media, at home) and that natu­ral­ly occu­py them (inclu­ding dis­cus­sions among them­sel­ves on the way to school, during breaks, in their own peer group) be dealt with in the class­room, but to con­tri­bu­te, in reco­gni­ti­on and dis­clo­sure of their exis­tence, to ope­ning up to the lear­ners their foun­da­ti­ons and struc­tures, which the indi­vi­du­al posi­ti­ons and par­ties with their inte­rests, ways of thin­king and ratio­na­li­ties both, so that they can reco­gni­se, assess and judge them indi­vi­du­al­ly as well as in their interaction.

This, in turn, by no means pro­hi­bits the social­ly viru­lent ques­ti­ons of jud­ge­ment and decisi­on-making from being for­mu­la­ted in this way in class, but it does, on the one hand, pro­hi­bit the dis­cus­sion from arri­ving at an indi­vi­du­al solu­ti­on that is bin­ding for all or that can only be jus­ti­fied to the group and the tea­cher. This per­so­nal decisi­on-making, one’s own jud­ge­ment, lies out­side the area in which the school may demand a con­cre­te per­for­mance. What does fall wit­hin this area, howe­ver, and whe­re schools are allo­wed to make offers, set chal­len­ges and also demand per­for­mance, are the foun­da­ti­ons for the­se ulti­mate­ly per­so­nal decisi­ons and atti­tu­des. Among other things, this can be done in such a way that stu­dents are not requi­red to dis­c­lo­se and jus­ti­fy their high­ly per­so­nal thoughts and jud­ge­ments – but rather to think, speak and judge hypo­the­ti­cal­ly from a for­eign posi­ti­on in a dis­cus­sion. Espe­cial­ly when it is a uni­ver­sal­ly accep­ted con­di­ti­on that one’s own “real-world” jud­ge­ment must not be infer­red from the per­for­mance in class, jud­ge­ments, jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­ons, con­cepts and norms can be dis­cus­sed in terms of their inner con­sis­ten­cy and qua­li­ty as well as their com­bi­na­ti­on. Here too, howe­ver, care must be taken that stu­dents are not ulti­mate­ly “held liable” (e.g. through the way the dis­cus­sion is con­duc­ted) for argu­men­ta­ti­ons they have tried out vica­rious­ly, or that they are not put under pres­su­re by posi­ti­ons for­mu­la­ted by other mem­bers of the lear­ning group that come too clo­se to their own or even to a cli­chéd attri­bu­ti­on of such a posi­ti­on. The extent to which stu­dents should the­re­fo­re be allo­wed to express their actu­al views in such “as if” dis­cus­sions wit­hin the frame­work of a cer­tain amount of lee­way and free­dom must be deci­ded on a case-by-case basis. In princip­le, it should pro­bab­ly not be for­bid­den. The gui­de­li­ne should pro­bab­ly be that whe­re­ver it is a mat­ter of thin­king and jud­ging from a per­spec­ti­ve shaped by norms and values as well as poli­ti­cal posi­ti­ons, a hypo­the­ti­cal per­for­mance from a non-own per­spec­ti­ve may be deman­ded, but own, real posi­tio­ning and jud­ge­ments should remain pos­si­ble (espe­cial­ly sin­ce it can be a mat­ter of cla­ri­fy­ing actu­al uncer­tain­ties, inse­cu­ri­ties and irri­ta­ti­ons), as long as this does not pro­mo­te con­flicts in the lear­ning space and indi­vi­du­als are mar­ked or even stig­ma­tised. Without dif­fe­ren­tia­ted and tact­ful per­cep­ti­on, such lear­ning pro­ces­ses can thus hard­ly be struc­tu­red and guided.

Thus, even whe­re the cent­re of a lear­ning pro­cess lies in a (non-real, but hypo­the­ti­cal-repre­sen­ta­ti­ve) airing of con­tro­ver­sies, the focus of the lear­ning pro­cess must not lie in the decisi­on, but in the cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on of the pre­sup­po­si­ti­ons, under­stan­dings, impli­ca­ti­ons, etc. of positions.

So how can such the­ma­ti­sa­ti­ons of “con­tro­ver­sies” on cur­rent events in Ukrai­ne look like? A few examples:

  1. The fact that our socie­ty is cur­r­ent­ly deba­ting whe­ther Ger­ma­ny should sup­ply Ukrai­ne with (hea­vy, offen­si­ve or only “defen­si­ve”) wea­pons may, inde­ed should, not only be men­tio­ned as a con­tro­ver­sy in the class­room (and then rele­ga­ted to pri­va­te dis­cus­sions), but should also be the sub­ject of a les­son. The con­tro­ver­sy must appe­ar as such, without just say­ing that one can “just” see it this way or that way. Yes, one can hold dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons, but not “just so”, but with mutu­al per­cep­ti­on, also (fun­da­men­tal) reco­gni­ti­on, but at the same time dis­cur­si­ve and also self-con­tro­ver­si­al cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on of dif­fe­rent pre­mi­ses and values made in each case. Thus, not all lear­ners have to reco­gni­se all posi­ti­ons and ways of argu­men­ta­ti­on as equal­ly valid, equal­ly valu­able, but they must also not sim­ply gain the impres­si­on that some are fun­da­ment­al­ly (i.e. befo­re such cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­on, or without it) more cor­rect than others. The out­lined con­tro­ver­sy then breaks down qui­te quick­ly into a who­le seri­es of dif­fe­rent but inter­re­la­ted ques­ti­ons, which are in turn con­tro­ver­si­al and pre­sup­po­si­tio­nal; for instance

    1. What is it about Germany’s respon­si­bi­li­ty from its histo­ry – more pre­cise­ly: what are the dif­fe­rent under­stan­dings of this respon­si­bi­li­ty, how are they jus­ti­fied, what norms and values under­lie them (see above)?

    2. What about the fears of a NATO or EU alli­an­ce col­lap­se that could occur with such arms deliveries?

    3. How do tho­se invol­ved in the deba­te rela­te the values and opti­ons of “hel­ping the inva­ded Ukrai­ne” and “avoiding an escalation”?

    4. What pos­si­ble posi­ti­ons and opti­ons may ari­se depen­ding on whe­ther Ger­ma­ny is addres­sed as an indi­vi­du­al sta­te, as a mem­ber of the EU and NATO, i.e. an orga­ni­sa­ti­on of collec­ti­ve defence, and as a mem­ber of the United Nati­ons as an orga­ni­sa­ti­on of collec­ti­ve secu­ri­ty? What influ­ence do the­se simul­ta­ne­ous roles and posi­ti­ons have on the opti­ons for action – and how are the lat­ter to be asses­sed on the basis of the respec­ti­ve dif­fe­rent logics of action?

  2. The same goes for the ques­ti­on of whe­ther or to what extent one cur­r­ent­ly agrees to Swe­den and Fin­land joi­ning NATO, etc.

  3. In a simi­lar way, it is cer­tain­ly very con­du­ci­ve to lear­ning not only to address posi­ti­ons and atti­tu­des to peace and war in an abs­tract and gene­ral way, but to weigh up dif­fe­rent con­stel­la­ti­ons and under­stan­dings. This con­cerns cla­ri­fi­ca­ti­ons of dif­fe­rent con­cepts of war (see abo­ve) as well as ques­ti­ons as to whe­ther immedia­te peace at any pri­ce is always pre­fera­ble in any situa­ti­on, or to what extent even cer­tain forms of peace as non-war mean anything but peace­ful con­di­ti­ons for actors and can even pro­mo­te con­di­ti­ons for later resump­ti­ons of war or fur­ther aggression.

  4. In the abo­ve-men­tio­ned Deutsch­land­funk pro­gram­me enti­t­led “Frie­dens­er­zie­hung” (Peace Edu­ca­ti­on)12 , in addi­ti­on to a deci­ded­ly Chris­ti­an reli­gious edu­ca­ti­on per­spec­ti­ve, the Ser­vice Agen­cy for Peace Edu­ca­ti­on of the Lan­des­zen­tra­le für poli­ti­sche Bil­dung Baden-Würt­tem­berg also pre­sen­ted the Bundeswehr’s “POL&IS” simu­la­ti­on game pro­ject, which dates back to the 1980s, in which pupils work out the basics of secu­ri­ty poli­cy and stra­te­gies and pos­si­ble cour­ses of action in cor­re­spon­ding con­flicts in a simu­la­ti­on game under the gui­d­ance of Bun­des­wehr offi­cers. This is in clear con­trast to the cate­go­ri­cal rejec­tion of any invi­ta­ti­on of youth offi­cers (and other repre­sen­ta­ti­ves) of the Bun­des­wehr in schools, some­thing that is com­mon in many are­as of the left. From the point of view of the Beu­tels­bach Consensus’s requi­re­ment for con­tro­ver­sy, it must be said that both approa­ches are pro­ble­ma­tic in their own right – the assign­ment of the topic to the Bun­des­wehr as well as its exclu­si­on from it. Rather, it is urgent­ly requi­red that schools and les­sons make the con­tro­ver­sies that appe­ar in the back­ground of such posi­tio­ning expli­cit and thus reflec­ta­ble. This must inclu­de neit­her encou­ra­ging a pure iden­ti­fi­ca­ti­on of peace with mili­ta­ri­ly gua­ran­te­ed or brought about absence of “hot” wars nor exclu­ding this dimen­si­on and opti­ons for action from the out­set from the dis­cour­se in the class­room. Both simu­la­ti­on games and ethi­cal and reli­gious con­si­de­ra­ti­ons thus make sen­se – but neit­her alo­ne nor sepa­r­ate­ly from each other, but only when the lear­ners not only have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to form their own views on ever­ything, but when they are given the oppor­tu­ni­ty and sup­port in class to con­si­der the respec­ti­ve pre­mi­ses, value and action con­cepts as well as the are­as of ten­si­on ari­sing in and bet­ween them. Again, the­se ques­ti­ons must be addres­sed and con­si­de­red in class, but not (necessa­ri­ly) dis­cus­sed out”. The aim is to enab­le stu­dents to form their own views and opi­ni­ons and to deal (peace­ful­ly) with other views and opi­ni­ons, but not to form the­se views and opi­ni­ons themselves.

Many more examp­les can be found. And it would pro­bab­ly not be a limi­ta­ti­on of the lear­ning value if at the end of such inst­ruc­tio­n­al tre­at­ments the­re were no abso­lute­ly cla­ri­fied posi­ti­ons (even if the­re are several), but only a clea­rer per­cep­ti­on of fur­ther pos­si­ble under­stan­dings of con­cepts, norms, values, of respec­ti­ve other posi­ti­ons and ways of thin­king, tog­e­ther with more con­crete­ly for­mu­la­ted ques­ti­ons. It is not the task of school and tea­ching to equip stu­dents once and for all (i.e. for the rest of their lives) with abso­lute­ly fixed con­vic­tions and ori­en­ta­ti­ons, but with the abi­li­ty, skill and wil­ling­ness to reo­ri­en­ta­te them­sel­ves inde­pendent­ly (and that also means con­stant­ly them­sel­ves, even if not in iso­la­ti­on) in the face of chan­ging chal­len­ges and under chan­ging con­di­ti­ons and to par­ti­ci­pa­te in the asso­cia­ted debates.

Anmer­kun­gen /​ Refe­ren­ces
  1. Hübert, Hen­ning (2022): Frie­dens­er­zie­hung (Cam­pus & Kar­rie­re). Deutsch­land­funk, 12.03.2022. Online: https://​www​.deutsch​land​funk​.de/​c​a​m​p​u​s​-​u​n​d​-​k​a​r​r​i​e​r​e​-12 – 03-2022-komplette-sendung-friedenserziehung-dlf-f194b5ce-100.html.[]
  2. This is the for­mu­la­ti­on of the con­tri­bu­ti­on of histo­ry les­sons to the gui­ding per­spec­ti­ve “value for­ma­ti­on /​ value ori­en­ta­ti­on” in the cur­rent draft of the Ham­burg edu­ca­tio­nal plan for the stu­dy level. Cf. Freie und Han­se­stadt Ham­burg; Behör­de für Bil­dung und Sport: Bil­dungs­plan Stu­di­en­stu­fe Geschich­te. Online: https://​www​.ham​burg​.de/​b​i​l​d​u​n​g​s​p​l​a​e​n​e​/​1​5​9​4​4​9​0​4​/​g​e​s​c​h​i​c​h​t​e​-​g​y​o​-​e​n​t​w​u​r​f​-​2​0​22/, p. 7.[]
  3. Dre­r­up, Johan­nes (n.d.): Poli­ti­sche Bil­dung und die Kon­tro­ver­se über Kon­tro­ver­si­täts­ge­bo­te. In: Pra­e­fak­tisch (Blog), n.d. Avail­ab­le online at https://www.praefaktisch.de/bildung/%ef%bb%bfpolitische-bildung-und-die-kontroverse-ueber-kontroversitaetsgebote/#, p. 1f; cf. also Hil­brich, Ole (n.d.): Kon­tro­ver­si­tät, Dis­sens und Streit­kul­tur – Zu Zie­len und For­men demo­kra­ti­scher poli­ti­scher Bil­dung. Eine Ant­wort auf Johan­nes Dre­r­up and Johan­nes Gie­sin­ger. In: Pra­e­fak­tisch (Blog), n.d. Avail­ab­le online at https://​www​.pra​e​fak​tisch​.de/​b​i​l​d​u​n​g​/​k​o​n​t​r​o​v​e​r​s​i​t​a​e​t​-​d​i​s​s​e​n​s​-​u​n​d​-​s​t​r​e​i​t​k​u​l​t​u​r​-​z​u​-​z​i​e​l​e​n​-​u​n​d​-​f​o​r​m​e​n​-​d​e​m​o​k​r​a​t​i​s​c​h​e​r​-​p​o​l​i​t​i​s​c​h​e​r​-​b​i​l​d​u​n​g​-​e​i​n​e​-​r​e​p​l​i​k​-​a​u​f​-​j​o​h​a​n​n​e​s​-​d​r​e​r​u​p​-​u​n​d​-​j​o​h​a​n​n​e​s​-​g​i​e​s​i​n​g​er/.[]
  4. Gie­sin­ger, Johan­nes (n.d.): Zur Kon­tro­ver­se um das Kon­tro­ver­si­täts­ge­bot: Ein poli­tisch-libe­ra­les Kri­te­ri­um. In: Pra­e­fak­tisch (Blog), n.d. Online: htt­ps://www.praefaktisch.de/bildung/zur-kontroverse-um-das-kontroversitaetsgebot-ein-politisch-liberales-kriterium/.[]
  5. Weh­ling, Hans-Georg (1977): Kon­sens à la Beu­tels­bach? Nach­le­se zu einem Exper­ten­ge­spräch. In: Sieg­fried Schie­le, Her­bert Schnei­der and Kurt Ger­hard Fischer (eds.): Das Kon­sens­pro­blem in der poli­ti­schen Bil­dung. Stutt­gart: E. Klett (Anmer­kun­gen und Argu­mente zur His­to­rischen und Poli­tischen Bil­dung, 17), pp. 173 – 184, here p. 178; again in Jochen Schmidt and Stef­fen Scho­on (eds.): Poli­ti­sche Bil­dung auf schwie­ri­gem Ter­rain. Rechts­ex­tre­mis­mus, Gedenk­stät­ten­ar­beit, DDR-Auf­ar­bei­tung und der Beu­tels­ba­cher Kon­sens. Schwe­rin: Lan­des­zen­tra­le für Poli­ti­sche Bil­dung Meck­len­burg-Vor­pom­mern, pp. 67 – 77, here p. 73; cf. also Weh­ling, Hans-Georg (n.d.): Der Beu­tels­ba­cher Kon­sens: Ent­ste­hung und Wir­kung. Online: https://​www​.lpb​-bw​.de/​w​i​e​b​e​u​t​e​l​b​a​c​h​e​r​k​o​n​s​e​n​s​e​n​t​s​t​and, last acces­sed: 06.08.2021; my empha­sis; see also Lan­des­zen­tra­le für Poli­ti­sche Bil­dung Baden-Würt­tem­berg (o.D.): Beu­tels­ba­cher Kon­sens. Stan­dard für den poli­tisch-his­to­ri­schen Unter­richt in allen Schu­len, o.D. Online: htt­ps://www.lpb-bw.de/beutelsbacher-konsens, last access: 11.05.2022.[]
  6. Cf. Dre­r­up, Johan­nes (n.d.): Nicht wer­ten? Demokra­tie­er­zie­hung in Zei­ten des Krie­ges. In: Pra­e­fak­tisch (Blog), n.d. Online: htt­ps://www.praefaktisch.de/krieg-und-frieden/nicht-werten-demokratieerziehung-in-zeiten-des-krieges/.[]
  7. Gie­sin­ger points out that the epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal cri­ter­ion was pre­vious­ly for­mu­la­ted by Micha­el Hand pre­cise­ly for moral ques­ti­ons. Cf. Gie­sin­ger, ibid.[]
  8. Weh­ling, Hans-Georg (1977): Kon­sens, p. 178, trans­la­ti­on by https://​www​.lpb​-bw​.de/​b​e​u​t​e​l​s​b​a​c​h​e​r​-​k​o​n​s​ens. Ger­man original: „Was in Wis­sen­schaft und Poli­tik kon­tro­vers ist, muss auch im Unter­richt kon­tro­vers erschei­nen“, ver­ba­tim: „What is con­tro­ver­si­al in aca­de­mics and poli­tics must also figu­re as con­tro­ver­si­al in tea­ching“.[]
  9. On the pro­ble­ma­tic and incon­sis­tent natu­re of the dis­tinc­tion, also among theo­rists and prac­ti­tio­ners, see e.g. Fauth, Lisa; Kahlcke, Inga (2020): “Per­spek­ti­ven oder Kate­go­rien? Die Unter­schei­dung von Sach- und Wert­ur­teil in der For­schung, in Unter­richts­ma­te­ria­li­en und bei Geschichts­lehr­kräf­ten [Per­spec­ti­ves or Cate­go­ries? The Dis­tinc­tion bet­ween Fac­tu­al and Value Jud­ge­ments in Rese­arch, Tea­ching Mate­ri­als, and Histo­ry Tea­chers].” In: GWU 71 (2), 35 – 47, but their own solu­ti­on is uncon­vin­cing. A much more via­ble, but also more dif­fe­ren­tia­ted con­cep­tua­li­sa­ti­on can be found in Buch­stei­ner, Mar­tin; Düwel, Jan (2021): “Urtei­le im Geschichts­un­ter­richt [Jud­ge­ments in Histo­ry Edu­ca­ti­on]” In: Geschich­te für heu­te 14 (2), pp. 49 – 64.[]
  10. Szna­ider, Natan (2022): Flucht­punk­te der Erin­ne­rung. Über die Gegen­wart von Holo­caust und Kolo­nia­lis­mus [Vanis­hing Points of Memo­ry. On the Pre­sence of the Holo­caust and Colo­nia­lism]. 1st edi­ti­on. Munich: Han­ser.[]
  11. This for­mu­la is some­ti­mes quo­ted as the “Oath of Buchen­wald”, for examp­le in ‘Nie wie­der Faschis­mus, nie wie­der Krieg’ [‘Never again fascism, never again war’] (2017). In: Jun­ge Welt, 09.05.2017, p. 8. Online: https://www.jungewelt.de?ref=/artikel/310345.nie-wieder-faschismus-nie-wieder-krieg.html. In the ori­gi­nal of the oath spo­ken on 13.4.1945 by sur­vi­ving pri­so­ners of Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­ti­on camp in several lan­guages (inclu­ding in Rus­si­an by Boris Romant­schen­ko, who was kil­led by Rus­si­an tro­ops on 18 March 2022 at the age of 92 as a civi­li­an), howe­ver, this for­mu­la­ti­on is pre­cise­ly not to be found. Ins­tead, the oath is to con­ti­nue the fight “until the last guil­ty per­son is sen­ten­ced by the court of all nati­ons”, after expli­ci­tly thanking the “allied armies of the Ame­ri­cans, the Bri­tish, the Soviets and all free­dom armies who fought for our lives and the lives of the who­le world”, as well as F.D. Roo­se­velt by name. (The text ver­si­ons of the sheet pro­bab­ly used as a lec­tu­re script – Buchen­wald Archi­ve NZ488 – and the quo­ta­ti­on in the Buchen­wald News No. 5 of the fol­lowing 20.4.1945, p.1., dif­fer slight­ly. The “t” in “erkämpf(t)en” indi­ca­ting the past and thus a con­clu­si­on of the thank­ed strugg­le is only found in the lat­ter ver­si­on, but cros­sed out the­re. Cf. https://​www​.buchen​wald​.de/​f​i​l​e​a​d​m​i​n​/​b​u​c​h​e​n​w​a​l​d​/​d​o​w​n​l​o​a​d​/​d​e​r​_​o​r​t​/​B​u​c​h​e​n​w​a​l​d​s​c​h​w​u​r​.​pdf.) The for­mu­la “Never again mili­ta­rism, fascism and war” is then found at the latest 9 years later (13 April 1954) in the tit­le of a report in Neu­es Deutsch­land on a cere­mo­ny in Buchen­wald, under which a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent text was pre­sen­ted as the “Oath of Buchen­wald” (Cf.: “The true Euro­pe swears: Never again mili­ta­rism, fascism and war! The peo­p­les of Euro­pe reco­gni­se the Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic as the repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the new, peace-loving Ger­ma­ny Cere­mo­ni­al con­clu­si­on of the Inter­na­tio­nal Libe­ra­ti­on Day in Buchen­wald (1954)”. In: Neu­es Deutsch­land, 13.04.1954. Online: https://​www​.nd​-archiv​.de/​a​r​t​i​k​e​l​/​4​2​4​9​7​.​d​a​s​-​w​a​h​r​e​-​e​u​r​o​p​a​-​s​c​h​w​o​e​r​t​-​n​i​e​-​w​i​e​d​e​r​-​m​i​l​i​t​a​r​i​s​m​u​s​-​f​a​s​c​h​i​s​m​u​s​-​u​n​d​-​k​r​i​e​g​.​h​tml), and in the form “Never again fascism and war [“Nie wie­der Faschis­mus und Krieg”]” in Otto Grotewohl’s speech at the inau­gu­ra­ti­on of the memo­ri­al in Buchen­wald on 14.9.1958 (quo­ted in Men­zel, Claus (2008): Nie wie­der Faschis­mus und Krieg”. In: Deutsch­land­funk Kul­tur, 14.09.2008. Online: https://​www​.deutsch​land​funk​kul​tur​.de/​n​i​e​-​w​i​e​d​e​r​-​f​a​s​c​h​i​s​m​u​s​-​u​n​d​-​k​r​i​e​g​-​1​0​2​.​h​tml). Sub­se­quent­ly, the­re has been an accu­mu­la­ti­on of “Oaths of Buchen­wald”, so to speak, through com­bi­na­ti­ons of images of the group of figu­res on the memo­ri­al with other anti-fascist oath texts. Cf. for examp­le the GDR stamp from 1970 at https://​de​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​B​r​i​e​f​m​a​r​k​e​n​-​J​a​h​r​g​a​n​g​_​1​9​7​0​_​d​e​r​_​D​e​u​t​s​c​h​e​n​_​P​o​s​t​_​d​e​r​_​D​D​R​#​/​m​e​d​i​a​/​D​a​t​e​i​:​S​t​a​m​p​s​_​o​f​_​G​e​r​m​a​n​y​_​(​D​D​R​)​_​1​9​7​0​,​_​M​i​N​r​_​B​l​o​c​k​_​0​3​2​.​jpg.[]
  12. Hübert, Hen­ning (2022): Frie­dens­er­zie­hung (Cam­pus & Kar­rie­re). Deutsch­land­funk, 12.03.2022. Online: https://​www​.deutsch​land​funk​.de/​c​a​m​p​u​s​-​u​n​d​-​k​a​r​r​i​e​r​e​-12 – 03-2022-komplette-sendung-friedenserziehung-dlf-f194b5ce-100.html.[]
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Neutrality in History and Political Education on the Ukraine War? Understanding the Beutelsbach Consensus

28. März 2022 Andreas Körber Keine Kommentare

[The fol­lowing post docu­ments a Twit­ter thread )ori­gi­nal­ly in Ger­man) from 27 Febru­a­ry 2022: Tog­e­ther with the ori­gal replies, it can be found here: https://​twit​ter​.com/​A​n​_​K​o​e​r​/​s​t​a​t​u​s​/​1​4​9​8​0​5​3​7​9​8​9​8​3​6​1​4​4​7​0​?​s​=​2​0​&​t​=​O​q​a​x​0​V​S​W​v​S​Q​8​q​w​L​E​U​e​V​vSg].

The Ger­man col­la­ti­on on this blog is  here: https://​his​to​risch​den​ken​ler​nen​.blogs​.uni​-ham​burg​.de/​u​k​r​a​i​n​e​-​k​o​n​f​l​i​k​t​-​u​n​d​-​b​e​u​t​e​l​s​b​a​c​h​e​r​-​k​o​n​s​e​ns/

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Many insti­tu­ti­ons and accounts in several coun­tries are cur­r­ent­ly com­pi­ling advice and mate­ri­als on how to talk to stu­dents about the war in Ukrai­ne. This inclu­des valu­able advice on how to deal sen­si­tively with fears and anxie­ties as well as on poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on. One examp­le is the pad­let with mate­ri­als from the Ham­burg Sta­te Insti­tu­te for Tea­cher Trai­ning and School Deve­lo­p­ment. The­re, the cover let­ter refers to the princi­ples of the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus, i.e. to the princip­le of con­tro­ver­si­al­ty 1 (“Trea­ting Con­tro­ver­si­al Sub­jects as Con­tro­ver­si­al”) and the pro­hi­bi­ti­on of over­whel­ming the pupil, in the spi­rit of Ger­man poli­ti­cal didactics.

In con­trast to the lat­ter, the for­mer is perhaps not so obvious in view of the unani­mous and jus­ti­fied assess­ment of the war as a bre­ach of inter­na­tio­nal law. Nevertheless, it is not only jus­ti­fied but necessa­ry. One must just not make the mista­ke of assuming that under the “princip­le” or even “com­man­dment” of con­tro­ver­si­al­ty the­re is some kind of neu­tra­li­ty or an atti­tu­de that “both” (or all) sides are somehow equal­ly right. It can­not be about a for­mal “balan­ce” — and accord­ing to the Beu­tels­bach Con­sen­sus it is not.

The “princip­le of con­tro­ver­si­al­ty” sta­tes that what is con­tro­ver­si­al in poli­tics and socie­ty needs to appe­ar as con­tro­ver­si­al in the class­room — neit­her as “incon­si­derable”, nor as “not to be deci­ded” or even as not to be with­drwan from eva­lua­ti­on. So it is not “the Rus­si­an” vs. “the Wes­tern” side and view that form the con­tro­ver­si­al topic, but some of the many issu­es that are qui­te right­ly (albeit not sim­ply sym­metri­cal­ly) con­tro­ver­si­al in our (and the world’s) socie­ty. The­se points must not (and must not) sim­ply be redu­ced to value jud­ge­ments, but must always be based on ques­ti­ons of fac­tu­al jud­ge­ments, such as, e.g. the ques­ti­on of the cha­rac­ter of war as a bre­ach of inter­na­tio­nal law, as a bre­ach of inter­na­tio­nal trea­ties, etc. Even though (and may­be espe­cial­ly becau­se) the­se lat­ter ques­ti­ons are lar­ge­ly unam­bi­guous and appe­ar to have have been deci­ded — still they have been dis­cus­sed: Not whe­ther, but why and to what extent this war is wrong — the­re were and are fac­tu­al jud­ge­ments on this.

Like­wi­se, ques­ti­ons of the legi­ti­ma­cy of Germany’s reluc­tance to sup­ply arms, of the pos­si­ble effects of sup­port or lack the­re­of, of forms of sup­port for civil socie­ty can be dis­cus­sed and con­si­de­red — even and espe­cial­ly without arri­ving at a sin­gle com­mon and pre­de­ter­mi­ned answer.

The princip­le of con­tro­ver­si­al­ty thus means a non-for­mal­ly balan­ced dis­cus­sion and con­si­de­ra­ti­on of ques­ti­ons with the pos­si­bi­li­ty of dif­fe­rent assess­ments (and also eva­lua­tions), but it also means that argu­ments and jud­ge­ments are con­si­de­red and weig­hed up, wher­eby strengths and weak­nes­ses can cer­tain­ly be named. This can — and in many cases must — also inclu­de clear­ly cri­ti­cis­ing the accep­ta­bi­li­ty of some argu­men­ta­ti­on, but without auto­ma­ti­cal­ly pre­scrib­ing exact­ly one sin­gle coun­ter-argu­ment as correct.

In such con­flicts, the con­tro­ver­sy refer­red to in the princip­le of con­tro­ver­si­al­ty does not mean the see­min­gly neu­tral con­fron­ta­ti­on of the par­ties to the con­flict, but rather con­cerns more and more clear­ly a who­le seri­es of ques­ti­ons about the inter­pre­ta­ti­on of cau­ses, the plau­si­bi­li­ty of stra­te­gies, etc., which are inten­si­ve­ly dis­cus­sed in our socie­ty. It is pre­cise­ly such ques­ti­ons that can be dis­cus­sed in open socie­ties with an open and plu­ral media cul­tu­re — which (hope­ful­ly) dis­tin­guis­hes this socie­ty from others — and in this con­flict from that of the oppo­sing side. This cer­tain­ly requi­res tea­ching units and pre­pa­ra­ti­on of vary­ing scope — and often also cross-cur­ri­cu­lar or inter­di­sci­pli­na­ry learning.

For examp­le, the ques­ti­on of what is and can be meant by “Rus­si­an secu­ri­ty inte­rests” from dif­fe­rent sides, and in what rela­ti­on they can and must be pla­ced to the inte­rests of Ukrai­ne, is cer­tain­ly deba­t­a­ble — but requi­res mate­ri­al. One last point: The princip­le of con­tro­ver­si­al­ty also inclu­des avoiding the impres­si­on that in the con­text of tea­ching, but also in life in the forums in which such ques­ti­ons are dis­cus­sed, one could ever arri­ve at ans­wers that would be con­clu­si­ve in any way, that could not requi­re re-shar­pe­ning (up to revi­si­on) with new infor­ma­ti­on, under chan­ged con­di­ti­ons, also with more life expe­ri­ence and other perspectives.

For ano­t­her rea­son, the princip­le of con­tro­ver­si­al­ty does not demand that decisi­ons, final or pro­vi­sio­nal jud­ge­ments be reached and that argu­ments always be weig­hed against each other. Alrea­dy the rea­li­sa­ti­on that the­re are dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons, per­spec­ti­ves, fac­tu­al and value jud­ge­ments tog­e­ther with their under­ly­ing world views, con­cepts, values etc., and (bet­ter:) how they (or some of them) look like and “func­tion”, con­tri­bu­tes great­ly to the abi­li­ty to ori­ent oneself. Moreo­ver, their know­ledge also requi­res jud­ge­ments that can be discussed.

Perhaps it is worthwhile to collect a few questions/​topics that can be honest­ly (con­si­de­red) controversial?

  • What can par­ti­ci­pants in the public dis­cus­sion mean when they speak of Russia’s “secu­ri­ty inte­rests” and argue whe­ther they “should” be taken into account?
  • Putin’s poli­cy as “tra­di­tio­nal gre­at power aspi­ra­ti­ons” or as the result of “loss of rea­li­ty” or even ill­ness, insa­ni­ty? What do the­se inter­pre­ta­ti­ons mean, and what do they imply for expec­ta­ti­ons and pos­si­ble reactions?
  • Germany’s “his­to­ri­cal­ly con­di­tio­ned” restraint in for­eign poli­cy — what is/​is meant by this? What is/​are the rea­sons for this? To what extent is it jud­ged to be (no lon­ger) appro­pria­te? Which (dif­fe­rent) ide­as of a new ori­en­ta­ti­on are jus­ti­fied and how?
Anmer­kun­gen /​ Refe­ren­ces
  1. In con­trast to well-estab­lis­hed prac­ti­ce of using “con­tro­ver­sy”, I use the pos­si­b­ly neo­lo­gist “controversial(i)ty” in order to match the cha­rac­ter of the Ger­man term “Kon­tro­ver­si­tät” as refer­ring not a mani­fest con­tro­ver­si­ty, but to the cha­rac­te­ris­tic of a ques­ti­on, a topic to be dis­cus­sed about in socie­ty and in aca­de­me. As will be visi­ble in the fol­lowing, this dif­fe­ren­tia­ti­on is cru­cial in our case at hand. It is not necessa­ri­ly the war against Ukrai­ne which is the con­tro­ver­sy to be cove­r­ed and to be addres­sed from dif­fe­rent and open per­spec­ti­ves (alt­hough in other cases, wars and their inter­pre­ta­ti­on can form such con­tro­ver­si­al topics, and some aspects even of this war may be con­si­de­red to be legi­ti­mate­ly open to deba­te), but rather ques­ti­ons rela­ting to this war.[]
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