Hey, we are the YES! team of the Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium Dillingen and we are from Saarland. Our school is the Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium in Dillingen and we have chosen to participate because we wanted to take the chance to meddle in Politics and Economy as young adults because obviously, we are tomorrow’s future.
Our subject is “European Integration and the Rise of National Populist Parties”. Our main focus was combatting right-wing thinking. We thought long and hard about the roots of this problem. Soon we found our possible conclusion in our adjacent environment. Like many things that escalate, our problem starts small, it starts at our schools. Many of our students, parents and even teachers did not know sufficiently enough about the EU. What the EU does, how they do it and what the EU is good for. This offers nationalist and populist thoughts an opportunity to manifest, seeping into the minds of even the youngest. This exactly – is what we are trying to combat.
To show you what we want to express, we have chosen our school as an example. We conducted a survey within grades nine to eleven, including several parents and 15 teachers.
It was shocking to see how many people have not expressed any interest for the EU and how many people simply do not know what the EU is good for. 91.3% believe that the EU is important for them, but when asked why they often cannot tell. It was the third most common answer. The most common one was to keep peace within Europe.
We have also conducted a survey in France because we found out that a very right-wing thinking is dominant in that region. Here you can see the results:
People could chose a number within 0 (completely discontented, no relevance form e) or 10 (very satisfied, huge relevance form e). N.A means “No Answer”.
Usually, Students were neither completely satisfied, nor utterly discontented with the European Union. The same effect occurred to their parents. It seems that most students had chosen the most neutral answer because they did not know what they shall choose. Our French neighbours also seem to have a lack of knowledge: The lion’s share of students being interviewed has never received any political education from their parents. About 40% do not have enough knowledge to understand the news.
Aside from the surveys, we have taken a look at the syllabi in our federal state. In all types of schools, a lack of information on the EU is present. And some schools do not handle this topic at all.
That is the point, where our attempt to a solution stems from. The 9th of May is the supposed Europe Day. Who honestly knew about that? We certainly did not know about it. 81.4% of all people being asked in our survey did not know about it.
In our state, newspapers rather like to report about the “international day of lost socks“ than mentioning the Europe Day. That has got to change! We want to make use of this day as a day being dedicated to bring the EU closer to the people, to inform them and support European projects. This shall happen in all member states of the EU. First, we would like to start at home. In Saarland, an informational week about Europe took place, but it was not public enough to know about it. This certainly has to change. If Germany manages to do so, it might spark a little interest all over the EU. We want to reinforce the Europe Day with a stronger impact. But we need YOU for that!
For example, in Kindergartens we could let the kids paint the flag of Europe and solve puzzles with a European theme. In primary schools one could explain the EU to the pupils and talk about other students’ heritage in terms of integration. One could play games with a European theme (games about travelling through Europe) and do some arts and crafts. In our own experience, simulation games in which students have to fulfil as EU organs have been very educational and made fun to play. Visiting refugee camps and explaining how each of us can help may also be a valid option.
All charts being shown in this essay are made by the YES!-Team of the ASG Dillingen. They are under Public Domain Licence CC0 and therefore free to use.
In recent years, there has been a rise of EU-sceptic party’s across EU member states, e.g. ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ in Germany, ‘Front du National’ or ´Jobbik´ in Hungary. The resurgence of nationalism culminated last year in UK’s popular vote for the Brexit. In many aspects, nationalist parties challenge both the status quo -as shown by the separatist vote in the UK- and the process of further European Integration.
Union-wide reforms are needed to increase stability across member states, prevent future crises and foster future welfare in Europe. Nationalist tendencies, implying lower willingness to coordinate and delegate tasks to the EU level might put the European reform process at danger. Moreover, current compliance with existing rules of the Union such as reform requirements in exchange for loans from the European stability mechanism (ESM) might be challenged by individual nationalist ´free-riders´.
How can Europe cope with increasing nationalism? What can be done to support the European Union in an environment of diverging preferences? Is a resurgence of nationalism even a chance for a new legitimacy and accountability of the Union? Who is responsible: the EU, member states or is it a story told by the legacy of the financial crisis? Can Europe adapt more legitimacy, be more accountable and incorporate more direct democracy? How can the European value added be measured and communicated?
Read more about the YES! 2017 topic “European Integration and the Rise of National Populist Parties” here.
The topic “European Integration and the Rise of National Populist Parties” was proposed by researchers at the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim. The YES!-teams are supported by the researchers Sebastian Blesse and Thomas Schwab.
The YES! 2017 team Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium Dillingen introduces itself here. If you would like to know more about the YES! 2017 team of the Hohe Landesschule Hanau visit their team page here.