Why do students struggle with status

Politics & Communication

p & k: Ms. Matthes, at the end of last year you surveyed that almost 900,000 free teaching materials are now available on the Internet. Did this large number surprise you?


Eva Matthes: Yes, especially since we had only done the same analysis a year earlier and at that time we had "only" come across half a million offers. From this we draw the conclusion that the market is growing rapidly.


Teaching materials that come from companies, business associations or business-related institutes are sometimes heavily criticized. Why?
Reinhold Hedtke: It always becomes problematic when actors such as the Initiative New Social Market Economy (INSM) already dominate the public. In addition, the INSM has privileged access to schools and politics. In my opinion, this is an accumulation of influences that is not at all justifiable.
Matthes: We found out that 15 of the 20 companies with the highest turnover in Germany offer free teaching materials. For me, the question arises as to whether this does not lead to an imbalance, which immensely favors some groups - precisely because the offers of commercial companies are not only very professional, but often also very promotional. What we see in this area is a battle for the minds of the students.


What exactly bothers you about the school materials of the INSM?
Hedtke: The basic ideological thrust: materials like those of the INSM want to convey a certain image of the market economy. Have students believe that there are no alternatives to the prevailing economic model. They should learn to be skeptical of the state and to trust the market.


The unions, for their part, also disseminate materials in which they present their political positions. Aren't you measuring with double standards?
Hedtke: From my point of view, the abundance of materials from the economy meant that the unions were forced to offer alternatives. And they have been doing this more and more for about a year now. In order to counteract the structural and financial imbalance to the economy, however, a broad alliance with social movements and critics of globalization would be needed.


Are there any other actors that you think are just as problematic?
Hedtke: Yes, for example large parts of the finance and insurance industry who primarily want to win new customers with their offers. They want to teach the students that you have to invest your money and in retirement provision. The focus here is clearly on the interest in profit. I also find some materials from the Federal Association of Investment and Asset Management (BVI), in which the causes of the financial crisis are played down, to be questionable.


Why are so few scientists concerned with the topic?
Hedtke: Because there are no donors for a critical analysis. Who should have an interest in funding this research? At least not the companies, foundations or business associations. Politicians have also avoided this area so far because the results could possibly come under pressure to act.


Ms. Matthes, your research is funded by the Bildungsmedien Association, which is supported by the school book publishers. In this case, how difficult is it to maintain the independence of science?
Matthes: Of course, at the beginning we sat down at the table with the Bildungsmedien association and clearly stated that we were tackling a scientific project that was open-ended. Fortunately, that was also accepted straight away.


The lobby control organization demands a state monitoring agency for external teaching content. What do you think about this suggestion?
Hedtke: Not a lot. In a free society, nobody can be forbidden to create such materials. The state cannot be a censor. What we need, on the other hand, are clear and strict rules on transparency. It must be clear which groups and financial resources are behind the offers. An annual report would also be conceivable in which materials that are particularly manipulative are publicly criticized.


How successful is this type of lobbying?
Hedtke: One can only speculate about this because there are no research results on this yet. But from an economic point of view, I ask myself why the various actors should offer something if it doesn't do them any good in the end.
Matthes: We are in the process of asking teachers why and to what extent they are using these materials. The first interviews show that they are used very actively. We can only say more details later. But we also want to speak to representatives of the cultural authorities of all federal states, because we have the impression that this group has so far known very little about the free market for teaching materials.