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Information bulletin
(September 1950)

Grohe, Friedrich G. K.
America is different,   pp. 25-29 PDF (2.9 MB)


Page 25


America Is Different
By FRIEDRICH G. K. GROHE
IN THE VERY BEGINNING of my stay in the United
States I learneid to appreciate a significant and sym-
pathetic quality of most Americans  the wish to be
nice and helpful to the newcomer.
When I entered an office, I was usually welcomed with
the !encouraging question: "Can I help you?" This struck
me !as not merely an empty phriasle but rather a sincere
query. I enjoyed the complete absence of the authori-
tarian tone that is found so frequently in Germany.
I was also struck by the way of announcing decrees
and prohibitions which showed that American authorities
saw their citizens as individuals rather than as subjects.
The famous German word "verboten" (forbidden) was
mostly replaced by "please," and a polite "thank you"
was seldom forgotten at the end of an order.
I had been informed that the Midwest was very con-
servative in its political ideasland the center of American
isolationism. Therefore, I was greatly siurprised to meet
again and again so many people and groups all over
Michigan who had developed a. great interest in inter-
national affairs and who were eager to get better ac-
quainted with the problems, customs and cultures of the
nations abroad.
Although many Americans view the German nation
as a whole with some skepticism or at least reserve, there
was scarcely any resentment against the individual Ger-
man provided he showeid some tact and tolerance in
human relationships. It was therefore not difficult to
develop personal contact with many American students
as well as with people outside the collelge.
A SOURCE OF GREAT surprise was the small amount
of "academic freeidom" which the American student
enjoys. As a European, I was not accustomed to the
control of class attendance, the difficulties involved in
attending other classes as a casiual visitor, the daily home-
work and the frequent examinations.
Gradually I learned to understand that all this was a
natural result of the difference of the American conception
of higher education from our traditional German one.
The American colleges want to give higher education
to as many people as possible, which necessarily means
a certain lowering of the scientific
level. This also explains the great
amount of guidance and supervislion,
I may even say control, to which the
American student is subject.
In Germany, however, only a com-
paratively few and selected people
who are mature and talented enough to
wolrk independently are supposed to
receive higher education.
Of course, the scientific standing of
the graduate schools of some of the
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top-ranking American universities and colleges satisfy the
highest expectations students from any country may have.
I should like to point out that these remarks should not
be considered as an evaluation. I think that the American
system of mass education with its tremendous varieties of
opportunities for studies meets the requirements of the
country very well. Whether or not it could successfully
be introduced in a country like Germany with such dif-
ferent conditions seems somewhat 'doubtful to me.
In discussions the ide'a was often advanced -that a more
or less exact copy of the American system of eiducation
shouuld be established in Germany in order to guarantee
a 'democratic 'development.
However , I think it 'is false, to believe one need only
copy the outward form of an institution to automatically
achieve the same spiritual results. It seems far better to
try to 'understand the spirit and then to find suitable
forms, adapted to the particular local conditions, which
might proiduce the same spiritual results. I mentlion this
becaiuse so many Americans told me that we Germans
should just copy American institutions iand then every-
thing would be allright.
F ROM THE BEGINNING, I ha'd a strong desire to know
the United States as it really is and to 'get as com-
prehensive an impression as possible of the various parts
of the country an'd of the people. At the same time, as an
engineer, I was greatly interested in a number of giant
American engineering projects.
The Christmas vacation offered a welcomed opportunity
to realize some of my plans. After careful planning I
decided to 'go first to Knoxville, Tenn., to visit the Ten-
nessee Valley Authority and t'hen to proceed further
south to Miami. As my funds were limitefd I planned to
hitchhike, feeling that it was not only the cheapest means
of transportation 'but the most educational way of travel-
ing and of meeting different types of people.
On all my trips I was neveTr faced with ,any formal
difficulties in traveling. In every respect the foreigner
enjoys j'ust as much freedom as the American citizen.
I left Michigan equipped with many roaid maps and an
AAA tour book and hitchhiked through Fort Wayne, Ind.;
Cincinnati, O.; and Lexington, Ky., to
the condensed
t prepared by
he upon his re-
ifter attending
DI of Michigan
Lansing, Mich.,
ent. Grohe, who
and passed his
Lis Master of
ith distinction,
d States from
December 1949.
Knoxville. In southelrn Kentucky, a
section of the highway was closed and
I had to use a long detour that took me
high up into the mountains. Thus. I
passed through a typical "hillbilly"
region with all its poverty, dirt and, as
it appeared to me, depravity.
Only two days later, when I went
up to Fontana Dam, I passed through
,a similar region. But there, in bletween
the old, ruined huts, new, clean and
INFORMATION BULLETIN
SEPTEMBER 10950
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