But those are symptoms of a philosophical difference. Kids learn very strict rules about behavior (stand behind that yellow line next to the U-bahn! Only cross the street with the light!) and are trained (it’s the only word for it) on how to ride a bike safely and follow the traffic laws. Then, given a framework, they have a lot more freedom than in the us...but the framework is quite rigid. In the US kids don’t even learn how to use cutlery, much less how to weld, somtheir world is, ironically, more circumscribed.
My friend got her driver's license in Germany when she was an adult. It was very expensive and she had to go through several courses. She had to prove that she could drive at night and during the day, and in a dense urban center, and also out on the highways, away from any cities. She was given multiple tests. It was a serious training effort.
This is the paradox of the American emphasis on freedom. The attitude tends to be juvenile. The American mindset, at its crudest, is something like, "You got to give me a car, man, because I'm free, man, I've got freedom, so give me a the right to drive man, authority sucks, man, the government sucks, I'm free so I can drive, you can't stop me, man." So the drivers are untrained, so the government responds by treating all drivers as if they are badly behaving children.
In Germany the attitude is "We (the government) will train you very well, and then we will trust you to be adults who can make wise choices."
One thing I never saw in Germany: cops hiding behind trees, hoping to catch people who were speeding. Traffic cops are very common in the USA, but basically unknown in Germany, since the major highways don't have speed limits.
Another thing I noticed in Germany, where there is a speed limit, people drive that limit, and not 5 kilometers above the speed limit. The drivers make the assumption that the government must have had some good reason for imposing a speed limit.
You won't see them much on the motorway, since for most of it there isn't a speed limit, but radar controls in towns and rural areas are somewhat common.
> Another thing I noticed in Germany, where there is a speed limit, people drive that limit, and not 5 kilometers above the speed limit. The drivers make the assumption that the government must have had some good reason for imposing a speed limit.
You'll literally only ever see that when A) the driver is some old person driving carefully, or B) the area is common for radar controls, or has radar traps installed. The unwritten rule is to drive 10km/hour faster, according to the speedometer, than the speed limit allows, which works out to ~5km/hour over the limit, due to the way speedometers are calibrated.
And there are speed cameras in some of these stretches. I have nasty collection letters from Hertz and Avis to confirm it.
Absolutely. Traffic light timing even takes that into account. Kind of unrelated, sometimes I'm puzzled about how many drivers are eager to be first at the next red light and wait the longest.
France puts equality above all else, and therefore you get "Frenchness" (we are all/should be equally French) above all else, with the accompanying discomfort with competing identities and fixation on the single correct identity.
America, as you correctly described, places freedom on top. It took me a long time to see how putting freedom on top of the stack leads to an insecure and juvenile culture.
And Germany, after the war, it put human dignity on top. This is a quiet, non-ostentatious value to organize society around, that does not advertise itself. But it is very good at quietly producing whole, confident humans.
This is the true value of proper education.  
And this holds in general for all aspects of education, not just school or driver's license.
I never got the "freedom to be stupid" attitude of certain countries.
You can't explain that to somebody who never experienced it, but once you are used to it, you'll miss it immediately once there is a lack of it.
To put a perhaps bad analogy, this is like having no running water, but having the "freedom" to buy 10 different sorts of bottled water to use for showering.
 I'm not saying that the German educational system is perfect, or even remotely the best in Europe. But it is so much better than in most other countries.
 And "proper" education of course includes critical thinking and rudimentary evaluation of information sources. And also I don't mean narrow-minded pseodo-critical thinking, but being able to see through those as well.
One little addition:
I guess the fact that the limits are higher also has some influence on this?
I remember a Dutch engineer telling me that when they increased the speed limits years ago the average speed sunk and it was hypothesized that it was (IIRC) because as the limits became more reasonable more people decided to just follow them.
See the other comments on that people definitely go above posted speed limits, but limits are also not necessarily higher.
Cities are 50kph (30mph) with residential areas often at 30kph (20mph), outside of cities the limits are 80-100kph (50-60mph). You get a lot of 100-120kph (60-75mph) sections on the Autobahn where the otherwise _recommended_ speed is 130kph (80mph) which is when BMWs will be overtaking you at twice that speed on the left lane.
> I remember a Dutch engineer telling me that when they increased the speed limits years ago the average speed sunk and it was hypothesized that it was (IIRC) because as the limits became more reasonable more people decided to just follow them.
I'd assume they meant "rate of speeding violations went down" versus "average speed sunk". The problem with measuring the effect of speed limit changes is that so many things change over the timeframe of the measurement - better vehicle safety, change in traffic rate or overall transportation preference (increase of cyclist in the Netherlands)... studies on this topic are manifold and they all seem to come to rather different conclusions.
Which is weird, I mean just show up at their doorstep or seize their income or something, but then, it's the US so idk.
Maybe this has something to do with the school getting into big trouble when something does happen. I mean we have all heard of legends of the cat and the microwave oven. I guess companies and organizations just get sued over ridiculous things in the US?
I grew up in another European country.
We were allowed to roam around quite freely, keep knives (we even collected and made our own) and even practice with the air rifle since we were kids.
- we were taught the gun rules so thoroughly that I will still get annoyed when I see people waving guns around, even in a movie
- for the longest time my dad refused to buy toy weapons, and to the degree that we managed to get hold of one we were not allowed to point it at others, making it kind of useless.
- and yes, there were rules for the knives as well
My mother, who was a police officer (now retired) brought her gun home on a few occasions, and by that time all the stern toy-gun-lectures had sunken in so deep I found myself reluctant to even go near the thing, e.g. to pick up something lying next to it. Later, I found out that the gun had never been loaded while inside our house. Did not even matter really, I would not have touched it even if I had known that.
RIP: Woodshop, metal shop, automotive classes, electronics labs, marksmanship, Home economics, cooking...defense against the dark arts...
To be clear, I agree with you. High schools in particular should have more hands-on coursework as well as practical skills related to personal finance and statistics.
I can't help but feel that somehow, the dilution of this physical curriculum is somehow a result of the old equality of outcomes vs equality of opportunity debate. It is as if someone perverted the idea that working with your hands as an occupation paid less to meaning that we shouldn't teach it, and therefore everyone will get paid more. I'm not sure that there is a causal link there, but it seems that way to me. Now, we have a dearth of skilled tradesman and we have to hire immigrants with the right skills. (source: have multiple friends/family members in construction, cabinetry, etc.)
The biggest issue I can think of with shooting ranges honestly is not "violence" or danger of accidents, but the problem of lead exposure -- a problem that people were a bit less aware of back in "older times", and a particular problem for developing children. Given some reports I see (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9117191) I personally would not be comfortable with a school shooting range that doesn't try to mitigate this risk.
“freedom” is a reflexive talisman of American identity
So in short I think you can have more freedom in the US if you take it but the regular citizen with a typical employee lifestyle is less free.
But the average US citizen doesn't exercise most of these freedoms but actually lives a more restricted life than the average German citizen in my view.
"several states limit the number of characters that can be used due to the limitations of the software used for official record keeping." and "The Office of Vital Records in California requires that names contain only the 26 alphabetical characters of the English language. Some states (for example, Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon) allow accents and some (not always all) non-English letters in birth certificates and other documents."
So, it's a long way from total freedom, but I get your point. However, you can call your kid whatever you want, the limit is simply around what you can do with official paperwork.
(Of course, not everyone conceptualizes "freedom" this way in the US, but it's a depressingly common approach - especially where any sort of political discourse is concerned.)
To ideas that threaten: "You can't make me think that way, I am free to think as I want"
To feelings of discomfort: "It's a free country, I shouldn't have to feel this way"
To physical space: "this is me or my property, I can do what I want with it"
Obviously, when taken in extremes this results in polarization, mischaracterization, and ignorance. Taken responsibly, it is also not appreciably different from any place with a bill of rights. To americans, I would level the criticism that we use it as a crutch and an excuse, more than an ethos, as evidenced that most appeals to freedom are also appeals to the value of self interest.
That's a large part of Antonio Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony: A special type of agreement, in which the person who's agreeing doesn't necessarily understand what it is with which they're agreeing.
The notion of "rugged individualism" you'll often hear touted ... is in fact a political slogan produced by Herbert Hoover in 1928. This is highly evident from its Ngram trace:
If you look at the early discussion of the term, you'll find much of it is critical. H.L. Mencken speaks of the "curious conception of rugged individualism. It would be much more appropriate to speak about our rugged collectivism."
And yes, it's also true that "American Individualism" predates the term, though the latter is by far the more prevalent today, and both can be traced to what is essentially corporate propraganda.
Emma Rothschild (yes, one of the Rothschilds) makes the explicit point that Adam Smith's "liberal philosophy" was one of material liberty, that is, of an abundance of material wealth at the individual level, which allows for a freedom of actions without catastrophic consequence. Several recent modern commentators have noted that the chief characteristic of poverty is a lack of choice: if there's only one way to do things right, without consequence, you have no freedom.
Which may not be much by way of an answer, though it is an endorsement of the question.
You're dealing with two (probably incompatible) types of freedom.
The freedom you're talking about is the freedom a parent has to leave their kids in a room with a turntable because their children know not to play with things that aren't designed to be toys because they may be delicate and could break.
The freedom you're comparing it to is the freedom a child has to put their hands on a turntable and scratch from an infinite number of rhythmic possibilities to create a new, dynamic form of music where there was previously a single, static form before.
And while you could amend the framework and make a bunch of edge cases for historical shifts in thinking, you cannot make a framework that leaves room for the future shifts because we don't know what those are yet.
Did you really mean welding? I know some 8 year olds that can solder but I've yet to see one that could weld and I only taught my eldest to weld when he was 13 or so.
My feeling is Norwegians focus on independence while Americans focus on ambition. Americans are more focused on their childrens enrichment and making them perform.
I notice e.g. from American relatives how much earlier they get school work, tests and academic work. Norwegian childhood is more play and social interaction oriented. We focus inteaching children self control.
When I came to the US I was surprised how out of controll American teenagers are. They don’t seem to function without lots of rules and regulations. They don’t seem used to regulating and controlling themselves.
I think this creates a society were nobody fully trust each other and compensate with lots of strict rules.
E.g. American police seem a lot more authoritarian than police in nordic countries.
[Edit: I see that Norway has a similarly low police:population ratio, so that observation isn’t really relevant for comparisons with Norway or the rest of Scandinavia. My error!]
Also, Norwegian border patrol agents seemed pretty damned authoritarian in my experience, so my personal contact with law enforcement doesn’t match yours for the respective countries. /end anecdote
Aggregate numbers for actual officers on a beat are quite different for large countries.
Most of Western Europe (according to the studies I’ve read) have significantly higher numbers of police in the community.
To answer your larger question: Humans don’t respond well to small probability high negative outcomes. One common theory in criminality is that we want to optimize people’s sense that they’ll be caught, and then give smaller, more certain punishments. Basically, ideally we’d have many more police, many fewer prisons.
German here, can someone explain to me what's weird/bad/uncommon about this?
It's still supervised.
In Canada, child services were called on a mother of three for letting her children play outside in their fenced backyard while watching from the window.
Humans aren't equipped to really comprehend a 24-hour global news cycle. Things that are common and deadly are deemphasized and things that are rare are raised to panic inducing levels of fear. Dangers to children get extra attention.
But the adults at the sleepover are the same as the adults that watch the kids during daytime :/
>In Canada, child services were called on a mother of three for letting her children play outside in their fenced backyard while watching from the window.
When I played in the sandbox my father could not see me from the house. Just our dog, and the dog would watch me :) So if he saw the dog he know I was ok.
If I did not know any better, I would be tempted to read that as satire. Ensuring a child's safety is obviously one of the most important duties of a parent, but there is such a thing as common sense.
When I was a child (German, in case it matters, born in 1980), we were given a lot of freedom to go where we wanted (within reasonable limits, of course), as long as we followed a few simple rules. Mostly, don't go alone, tell the parents where you go and when you will be back. So there was always a certain degree of parental oversight/control, but it did not really feel that way. In hindsight, I think it was important that these rules were applied fairly. Breaking them usually meant we got grounded, but as long as we kept our part of the bargain, we enjoyed a lot of freedom. At least after we learned about safety in traffic, which both my parents and the elementary school spent a lot of time on.
That suspicion is there against many single dads too.
But what about the real stuff, like I'm afraid my child will grow up without the ability to make good choices? I'm afraid my child will inherit my own fears? I'm afraid my child will not come to me when they need help? But these fears don't sell advertising on TV shows about abduction or pricy childcare centres and schools. The US is so deregulated and underfunded that it's a system of businesses doing anything they can to slowly tug at your wallet, which seems to have lead to the current day environment of fear.
I’ve lived extensively in both Europe and the US and it’s interesting how preexisting assumptions get confirmed when you first start living in a new place, but given enough time, you quickly realize that what you thought was “better” really isn’t. It’s just different — with different advantages and disadvantages.
This particular author seems to be projecting her own Tiger Mom ideas into most of the country, but I think helicopter parenting is highly regional, and has been different at different times. In more rural areas, among working class or lower class kids, parents were generally less intensively involved and kids have more freedom relative to suburbia IMHO. I was born in 71, and pretty much from age 7 I can remember saying bye to my mom after getting home from school and going out to play all day by myself with no oversight.
It is tru these days America d are more paranoid of sex predators, because our news media has hyped up crime over the last two decades and made everyone scared, of course there is some truth to it because crime statistics are generally higher here than in Europe, but again, it’s very regional with rates fluctuating between the safest European levels and looking like Honduras in some spots.
Americans do send kids for overnight stays, typically during summer in camps. I sent my kids away for two weeks to sleep outdoors under the stars, with no tech allowed for example. But it usually isn’t run by schools, our schools are too afraid of being sued or protested by parents these days to do anything.
She loves the school, and in my opinion it's been great for her. But almost everyone I describe the school to finds it terrifically weird and frightening.
There's a mythical "self-driven and exploratory" math education out there, but the cold reality is while essentially anyone would be able to supervise a journey through colors and counting only very few have even seen what's good about math. (Moreover, what small fraction of them would be willing to teach teenagers?)
Kids get to school on their own from all over town, by bike, bus, or walk, even in the early grades. Summers are pretty much a cacophony of kid activity until 10PM (or later). No one thinks twice about kids being out on their own.
My sons regaled me of stories of setting things on fire in chemistry class, field trips where kids fell in the creek (termed Lessons in Hypothermia), and the cool tools available in jewelry class, of all things.
It would seem to me these communities are smaller (10-20K) and politically progressive. Ours has a tax just to fund schools. You have to have a town that is willing to invest in the children and can attract good teachers. Even the non-secular people are fairly progressive as well.
I couldn't really have asked for much better living in the United States. Both sons are off to college and happy as can be, so I am grateful they got the community upbringing that they did.
One of the things that might be considered a drawback is preparation for the "real-world." When my oldest went off to college he had a difficult time adjusting to people. The lack of self control, respect for the law, willful ignorance, and just plain meanness, was surprising to him. It makes it difficult to try and nudge him to experience the greater world at large.
Another drawback is expense. The cost of living is high. A house here is fully $100,000-$150,000 more than a similar house in a town 15 miles away. This creates a dichotomy where families want to live here, but often can't afford it. Low to mid income housing is a politically hot topic.
There are a number of traditionalist conservative intentional communities doing much the same things. It's kinda like with homeschoolers: the left-wing & right-wing homeschoolers end up doing many similar things, and are different from the mainstream public-schoolers in similar ways.
I was homeschooled and my parents gave me a lot of freedom in learning and play. They definitely weren't helicopter parents. We had the cops called on us many times by people who wondered why we were roaming the streets during school hours. (We had already completed our work for the day. That was the deal.)
I spent hours playing in creeks or racing bikes in neighborhood woods.
But there were other homeschooling families we knew who kept their children cloistered and firmly under parental supervision. Those kids grew up with a very different experience.
It's a very welcoming community.
A young girl gets stuck up a tree, and asks for help which is (kindly) denied, the caretaker watching from a distance. She gets herself down, and promptly climbs up the tree again. The childhood we should all have!
Again, this is just an anecdote of my own experience.
Kidding aside, I think there are two problems with your interpretation: For once, if you rank acceptance of emotional display on a scale going from Russia to America, you will find us somewhere close to Russia. Here, typical American displays of friendliness ("I'm so happy to see you!", "you guys should totally come over to our place sometimes") are grossly inappropriate, and in some areas (customer servic) they border on being sociopathic, as long as isn't meant literally. But this is just a cultural difference, not something that hints at emotional damage. Russians can laugh, Germans can be friendly and Americans can be reserved or grumpy. It's just that there are huge differences in terms of the social setting in which those things are deemed acceptable.
As a second note, there are obviously very diverse approaches to parenting in Germany as well as very differently skilled parents. There are caring and loving parents as well as emotionally distant narcissists. I'm very uncomfortable with you attributing such things to a culturally determined approach to parenting instead of looking at individual factors. What you can actually do is looking at how things like independence, discipline, athleticism and so forth as well as individual practices like spanking are valued. Some of the results might be very surprising.
 The story about German customers calling the police because they were feeling stalked by wal-mart employees trying to help them with bringing their groceries to their cars is legendary.
You should thank God you aren't American...it seems everyone else thinks they know exactly what makes us tick, and (as in this thread?) aren't shy at all about making sweeping generalizations about us.
That said - and having spent a good bit of time in the US - there are quite a few things that Hollywood unfortunately portrays quite accurately.
I have always felt this hands-off approach does not mean my parents do not care or that it annoys them to spend time with me. If I had a problem or question, they were always there for me. But it felt like they respected my privacy and boundaries and trusted me enough not to get into trouble.
In my experience, the hands-off approach takes a back seat very quickly when you break the rules or get into trouble.
Yes. TBH, it takes quite a lot of restraint sometimes :-)
> and devoid of any warmth.
No. Anecdotal, of course, as I can really only speak about my family and close friends.
Our parenting is full of warmth, in two ways.
1. we interact a lot with the kids: I don't usually go out in the evening, because when I come home from work, I belong to my kids. We'll build Lego, or play with cars, or fire up Spotify and dance like loonies. I also haven't watched TV in... IDK, 2 years maybe? (Nothing philosophical about it, I just have better things to do, like playing Lego)
but 2. we give warmth also in the form of trust and safety. We show them that we trust and rely on them to figure their own stuff out. This may seem standoffish, but it's the opposite: we prove to them that we trust them, but provide a safety net if they get in over their heads.
E.g. if I work around the house, I'm busy, and my sons know that now is a bad time to disturb me. On the other hand, I encourage them to steal my tools (say, a saw) and do their own "work", and teach tehm how to use the tools if they can't figure it out by themselves. I'll of course watch them from the corner of my eye, but I trust them to learn by themselves, and not to saw their heads off or ruin anything of value in the process.
> the people I met genuienly expect kids to be able to occupy their own time and the notion that they need family support apart from the material one is almost slightly weird to them.
Well, yes, I expect my children to be self-sufficient (to an age-appropriate degree). And they are happy to be, because they know they get the attention they need, just perhaps not right now (see: all my evenings, or fun weekend outings).
If you visit German friends and observe them interacting with their kids (or not), I assume there's an agreement within the family that this is a time to not disturb the parents while they entertain their guests. So you don't get to see that other side, it happens after you leave.
> From my observations, it results in people who are fantastically independent and confident, but who can also be emotionally distant to everything.
I suspect this is an American misinterpretation of social interaction (I'm guessing you're American). You see, Americans feel over-the-top to me. A meal isn't "good", it's "fantastic", a holiday isn't "pleasant", it's "amazing". There's nothing wrong with either style, of course, it's just different. So if you're used to the more exuberant American style, perhaps the German way feels cold to you, even though in reality the same sense of warmth is conveyed to those who know to interpret it.
The OP isn't American, and was speaking from personal experience.
My in-laws were apparently quite cold/distant to their kids, but my parents were not, and I try not to be either ;-)
My parents demanded respect. That's a good thing, imho. Otherwise, I enjoyed a freedom kids nowadays can only dream of. I never felt any lack of love from my parents.
> My parents demanded respect. That's a good thing, imho. Otherwise, I enjoyed a freedom kids nowadays can only dream of. I never felt any lack of love from my parents.
Well, that's the problem with painting a whole generation with one brush: For a lot of individuals, it's not representative. 0
We spend lots of time with my parents: Hiking, holidays etc.
Aside from playing with fire in school many of these experiences were my own and were the norm.