ETTLINGEN, GERMANY — THE world over, ninth-graders like nothing more than an excuse to deviate from the day's lesson plan. With a reporter from the United States visiting the Anne-Frank Realschule, English teacher Wolfgang Noller suggested, Why not try a little cross-cultural exchange? In English, of course.
Great idea, responded the class of 19, which makes up the entire ninth grade. Oddly, the class has only four boys who, in the course of the "interviewing," turn out to be good sports about their minority status.
There are questions on the lighter side and more serious ones.
The reporter, for instance, wanted to know if today's German youth still feel the burden of German history. Do they play down their nationality, like their parents' generation does?
"I feel like a German in Europe," says Heinrich, echoing a German tendency toward "pan-Europa" thinking.
"The wars are very, very deep in me," says Marcus, suddenly turning serious after his performance as class clown in physics. "Everywhere we go, we hear, 'You have done the wars, you must do better.' Do I feel guilty? Yes."
"Adolf Hitler - I can't do anything about that," adds Anne after class. "I think it's dumb that people always hold this up before us."
During the Gulf war, some teachers in Germany interrupted their lessons and led their students onto the streets in antiwar demonstrations. This didn't happen at their school, teacher Noller says, though Anne adds that she marched in a local antiwar demonstration after school.
She says she saw more clearly the horror of war when her history teacher read aloud letters from a soldier written to his mother in the First World War.
Not all of English class was about war, though.
The students' impression of America? "Big cities, you could get lost."
And their questions for the American?
"How do you find Germany?" "Do Americans like European football?" And (it never fails), "Do Americans really eat hamburgers all the time?"
Answer: "Only with ketchup."