Political educational work in Saxony: future in Zwickau

The Saxon Ministry of Social Affairs has been funding future workshops in Saxony since 2019. The taz was part of such a “time travel into the future”.

The main market in downtown Zwickau

In the middle of Zwickau Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Sebastian Willnow

ZWICKAU taz | In the end it’s ten to five. Ten students stand in the corner of the project room where the skeptics gather. The future doesn’t bring anything good, rather it complicates things. The political fringes are getting stronger, says one, the crises can hardly be overcome, says another. A student fears a conservative rollback. “Discrimination is increasing, rights like abortion are being restricted.”

The five, who are more optimistic about the future, hold against it. One sees the future as a challenge, as a motivation to get involved. “We should participate so that the polarization of the two camps does not become even greater,” he says.

The two camps that are in this “future workshop” in the Zwickauer Käthe-Kollwitz-Gymnasium facing each other on two sunny October days are the advocates of democracy and those who want to abolish it. A scenario with a real background. Because on the evening of the first day, some of the participants were able to experience once again the slogans with which the latter Zwickau take to the streets.

The threat is real

“Resistance” was the slogan on a banner of the “Monday Demonstration” on the main market of the city of 100,000 inhabitants in western Saxony. The demonstrators also chanted “resistance” as they then marched through the old town.

“For the first time since reunification, I’m afraid for democracy,” says Dorit Seichter the next morning.

Dorit Seichter teaches the advanced history course at the Kollwitz-Gymnasium. She thinks debates are important, which is why she has been organizing the event format for many years “School in Dialogue”. Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) has announced a visit to the school, Sahra Wagenknecht will present her new book.

On the two October days, Seichter leaves the lessons to two practitioners of political education and their future workshop. It should be about conspiracy thinking and what the future will look like in 2045.

Task: Act out a scene about the struggle for the truth, about fake news, about the arguments of science, about the doubts about positioning oneself in between everything. Which “freeze”, i.e. frozen scene, can you think of?

A group sits in the center of the circle of chairs. The doubter grabs his chin. At some distance stands someone who points a finger at the doubter. blaming Someone kneels behind him and adores him. Another stands by and taps his temple with his finger. Then the evaluation: The doubter is on the defensive, says one. An open situation, says another.

The Basic Law in a stranglehold

The Freeze, which represents a group in which the majority are girls rather than boys, is not open. A girl holds up the Basic Law. From behind she takes one in the chokehold. Another attacks with scissors. Only one stands in front of the girl with the Basic Law. The students who see the scene clap. Is the situation still manageable or is it already becoming dangerous?

“There have already been workshops where there was a real bang among the students,” says Paul Kuder. The 43-year-old has participated in the European University Viadrina studied cultural sciences in Frankfurt (Oder), did his doctorate in Dresden on Heidegger and Kierkegaard, and has been working for the association for several years pointingist in political education. “Most providers work with role-playing games in political education,” says Kuder. An EU Council meeting or a Bundestag debate on the mask requirement. “In this way, the students can take on different perspectives and argue accordingly.” The learning objective of such a role play: Democracy is not easy, it takes time to find compromises, but in the end the compromises are more sustainable than a decision made alone .

Kuder, who held the workshop as part of the program at the Kollwitz-Gymnasium in Zwickau “Cosmopolitan Saxony for democracy and tolerance” offers has a different approach. Instead of re-enacting a Bundestag debate, the students should beam themselves into the future. “By looking into the future in different scenarios, the students become aware of the consequences of political and social developments.”

Kuder and his colleagues have been offering the workshops in Saxony since 2019. By 2022 they closed the students “Contemporary Witnesses of the Future”. In the second phase of the project, the workshops are now, like the one in Zwickau, entitled “Youth writes the future”. The highlight is the scenic presentation of possible futures on the second day of the workshop.

What is important in the future

At the end of the first day it is about the things that will be important in the future. The topics are collected on a flipchart. Then they are clustered into trends. Artificial intelligence is one of them, energy is another, plus communication, health and care, education and work.

During the subsequent brainstorming, it turns out that almost all students are familiar with topics such as the metaverse, technological singularity or brain-computer interface. The statement is repeatedly made that food will come out of the printer in the future.

“The pandemic has helped us to be able to imagine more scenarios than before,” says Thomas Mehlhausen, who developed the concept for the now more than 50 workshops together with Paul Kuder. As project manager of the Zeitgeist association, Mehlhausen has a lot of praise for the tolerance program of the Saxon Minister of Social Affairs Petra Köpping (SPD) left over. “The Ministry gives the providers of political education a lot of freedom.” The funding has now been extended from one year to three years. “That gives planning security,” says Mehlhausen. In other federal states, the bureaucratic hurdles are higher.

One of those who doesn’t want to be frightened says, “If I say it’s going to get worse, then I surrender to the feeling that it’s going to get worse.”

67 democracy projects with a financing volume of 7 million euros will be funded in 2022 as part of the tolerance program. Petra Köpping is convinced: “With the state program Open to the World in Saxony, we are making a contribution to securing structures and expertise in the field of democratic educational work in Saxony.” “Especially in today’s world, it is important to promote commitment in the long term.”

How do you play the future? Paul Kuder says on the morning of the second day: “Think of three everyday situations that take place in the year 2045. What does it mean for everyone to live in the society of the future?” His workshop partner Stephan Felsberg adds: “Who are the winners and who are the losers? And how do you look back on the year 2022 in the future? Was everything better then?”

The students now have two hours. Kuder and Felsberg brought wigs, sunglasses and beards to stick on. Three groups of five students each play three scenes. Nine insights into the future will be created, which will be discussed in a feedback session. The scenes are recorded with an audio device and finally published on the website of “Youth writes the future” released.

It’s the girl group’s turn. news broadcast. Britain in 2045. Charles Webster came to power in 2028 through democratic elections. He closed the gap between rich and poor. There were no other elections. Webster strives for autonomy with the help of VR glasses. But the news program played by the five students from the eleventh and twelfth grades of the advanced history course shows that there is still unrest among the population. So the announcer announces that the Queen has risen again. Fake news, sure, some giggles. “By referring to tradition, Webster tries to gain legitimacy,” says a student afterwards in the feedback session. Before that, she has to watch a demonstrator being taken away in the middle of the news broadcast.

Utopias or Dystopias? Most of the three groups choose the latter. That might also be a reason why it ended up being ten to five.

One of those people who doesn’t want to be frightened says: “When I say it’s getting worse, I give in to the feeling that it’s getting worse.” Teacher Dorit Seichter likes to hear words like these.

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