Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Is Good About Germany

I surely do not want to present myself as an expert on Germany after a couple of weeks there; however since I blasted their system for directing folks about their highway systems, I would like to comment on the topics I did admire about the country.

First, all the roads and Autobahn are in fine condition, excellent condition compared to the roads in this country (he said after a 6 hour trip to and from Baltimore). And I was totally impressed but not surprised by the immaculate condition of the roadsides. I cannot remember one bit of litter, period, no where, no how. That is admirable since Snake Road which seems to be one of western Sussex County's unofficial landfills. I have heard a lot from our politicians about our infrastructure's condition; compared to Germany's, ours is in deplorable shape, no contest. And maybe if it cost a twenty-five cent deposit on a plastic coke bottle here as it does in Germany ( actually about 33 cents in American) maybe there wouldn't be quite so much roadside litter. I certainly came away with the feeling that Germans have pride in the way their country looks.

Another feature I noticed and admired was Germany's efforts to provide safe bike lanes for its citizens. I cannot remember a road, other than major highways, that was not paralleled by a blacktopped, ten foot?, bike path regularly used by German citizens. Furthermore, in Munster, bike lanes where identified on every sidewalk throughout the parts of the city that I saw. And the bike lanes are full of folks saving gas, getting to work, and traveling to school. The key there is safely traveling, no four wheelers to dodge nor danger of getting flattened by a feed truck while pedaling about; the paths are safely away from traffic. I like riding a bike, not a zealot either, but I would bet more folks here would hit the road if they thought they could do it safely. I admire Germany's efforts to provide safe places for its folks to be active and safe.

I didn't get a chance to visit any schools but am pretty impressed by the education the grandkids are getting. Both older kids are required to play an instrument, the older has graduated to guitar plus recorder. I think German students study English as a requirement plus take another language; the fifth grader has been exposed to Russian already. I especially like that schools are modeled to complement a student's strengths. For example, Ruben, the kids' back door neighbor and friend, is good at music. He now attends a school that is academically strong but where music is emphasized, and as a fifth or sixth grader, he plays the flute, guitar, and drums. I am pretty sure that some of this information is off a grade or language because I learned about it on the run, but I am still impressed. And get this: the younger two are in school 4 or less hours per day and seem to be more fit than the students here who are in the "slam" for 7 hours a day. I do think I am correct in reporting as they get older, the days get longer but I am not sure that they ever spend 5 days a week at seven hours a day, ever. Maybe one of them or their parents will read this and straighten me out if I am too far off. But I like the idea of required enrichment and challenge and like that somebody has enough sense to pay attention to the developmental fact that kids' attention spans are short when they are young. Hell, my attention span is short and I am old. I was truly impressed that the grandkids are getting and excellent education.

All in all, Germany was pretty cool, and I am glad I visited. I am not sure that I would like to live there, but the country has many admirable features.