Berlin and beyond: Snitching for the far-right AfD | DW | 16.11.2018

It's a believably unbelievable next step from a party that has campaigned using slogans such as "New Germans? We can make our own" and "Islam has no place in the German kitchen," and whose members have publicly decried Berlin's Holocaust Memorial as a "monument of shame" and described the Nazi era as a drop of "bird poo" in Germany's history. Even so, the AfD's introduction of a "platform for neutral schools" knocked me for six.

The idea that children, including my own, are being encouraged to snitch on teachers who don't applaud the xenophobic, sexist and environmentally unfriendly ideals of the AfD is as absurd as it is desperate. But it's also frightening. Not only because it demonstrates a flagrant disregard for recent history and hardens divisions in a society that would be better served by greater tolerance, but because despite the party's claims to the contrary, the platform aims to stifle debate.

Established, so goes the official line, to promote freedom of opinion and prevent violations of the 1976 "Beutelsbacher Konsens" (Beutelsbach consensus) under which teachers are forbidden from politically indoctrinating their students, the platform actually seeks to normalize an acceptance of the AfD's nationalist agenda. And we know how that can end.

Besides, there's a big difference between indoctrination and illustration of the facts. And in an age when so many young people rely on superficial, misleading, if not downright false social media posts as a primary source of information, it's imperative to make them understand the essence and dangers of extremism and to equip them with the tools for critical thinking and analysis.

Doing the right thing

In the initial weeks of the Berlin's platform's existence, the AfD says it received around 5,000 complaints. How many were in response to calls to bombard the site with hoax messages and takeout pizza orders, or from teachers publicly insisting their names be added to the list, the party, naturally, did not say. The party did say that all but 10 were not serious enough to warrant further intervention, such as ratting them out to their head teachers.

Read more: Berlin and Beyond: Alcoholics, not so anonymous

The party has also said it expects to see reports keep on coming. We'll see how that pans out and to what extent Berlin students and their parents back this scheme — which it is in more ways than one. And whether it ultimately goes down as an absurdity, an act of desperation or as the dawn of a new era in which teachers slowly cease to speak their minds. Though that kind of scenario no longer feels confined to the Nazi and Stasi eras, I have faith in the Berlin of today to do the right — not the far-right — thing.

As one 13-year old student put it, if a teacher says something about the AfD that others take issue with, that's kind of tough luck. They ought to be able to live with it, because not everyone likes their alternative version of Germany. Hear, hear.

In Berlin and Beyond, British-born Tamsin Walker takes a closer look at some of the quirks and perks of life in Germany, which has been her home for almost 20 years. She tweets as @TamsinkateW

6 months conditional neutral

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