In the center-left taz newspaper, a teacher of German “integration” courses for new arrivals vents her frustration (g) The courses involve over 700 “units” of instruction, which adds up to seven months of education: German language, German culture and customs and history, the German constitution, shopping, dealing with government agencies, etc. At the end, students must pass a multiple-choice test called “Integration in Germany”.
Right away, the teacher puts her finger on the problem (my translation):
At first, I thought seven months was plenty of time. I couldn’t imagine that integration required so much more than good will and knowledge transfer. Today, I even sometimes question myself whether such an enormously difficult plan will ever succeed. The idea that integration can be managed with courses, at any rate, strikes me as naive, considering all the experiences I have had.
She describes a typical day, in which the course begins at 9:00. Twenty students are assigned to the course, but by 10:30, only 13 have bothered to show up. At least nobody left after lunch that day. With every passing year, she says, she has had to get a little more strict, until she now finds herself in a “role I never wanted — a teacher to adults.” She says that one of her colleagues believes that the students don’t take the course seriously because they get it for free, and she agrees. The ones who have to pay come more often.
During her training to teach integration courses, she was told students come in one of two groups with euphemistic names, those with “educational experience” and those who “lack educational experience”. She notes that the ones who “lack educational experience”, many of whom are functional illiterates, have one main problem: abstract thinking:
A popular writing exercise reads as follows: You are going to visit your sister, who is sick, on the weekend. Please ask your neighbor to feed your cats. The cat exercise often results in confusion: What am I supposed to do? My sister isn’t sick, I don’t have a cat, I also don’t have a neighbor, I live in a shelter.
But the main problem lies in a different area:
But in addition to language there are other challenges which are much harder to evaluate than a German test. The most important of these is religion. Whether people are Muslim, and the differences between the Islamic faith and other religions, are a permanent theme in our courses. Again and again, minor incidents become major issues. Usually, it’s about honor, respect, and the observance of religious rules. Emotional debates break out, and I have to intervene.
For example, a male Muslim student refuses to read a language-learning dialogue with a female Muslim student. Previously, in the subway, the woman had snubbed him. “Bad girl”, he says, pointing at the young woman, who shifts uncomfortably in her chair.
That’s completely wrong, another student says. A Muslim man who sees a female Muslim fellow student in the company of a male may not even look at her, much less greet her: “You have no respect for women”, he says, in a rage, and a woman in a headscarf nods in agreement. I tell the students to continue the discussion in the break. Values, rules of conduct, world-views — they all smash together in our courses. A young Muslim woman without a headscarf? Impossible. Male gynecologists? They must be insane. It should be outlawed. The theory of evolution? The room erupts in laughter. Complete nonsense….
The fact that men can love men and women women is met with broad rejection in our courses. The most generous reaction to this “problem” is that these homosexuals must be cured; I don’t even want to repeat here the solution preferred by the hardliners. “You have to tolerate this, if you want to live here” — this is my small mantra for orientation courses.
She asked an Islamic studies graduate what to do about the problem, and he basically says nothing: If you moved to Saudi Arabia, when would you accept that homosexuals should be executed, or that your husband could bring home three additional wives? Never, of course.
She ends the piece on a note of resignation: “Integration, I now realize, is a long-term project which may well even need to be pursued for generations.” She declares that German should not accept people who “laugh at gays, harass Jews, or grope women between the legs in public places”. A harder line is needed, she says, to demand respect for German values. But of course, like most sensitive German liberals, she doesn’t actually get down to brass tacks and provide any policy solutions.
Are her experiences unusual? Nope — two friends of mine have forwarded this piece to me, each of them noting that it sums up the experiences they’ve heard about from many other instructors in integration courses.
I have a few observations:
First, I haven’t posted about immigration on this new blog, because there’s little need to. The euphoria of 2015 is long gone, and not a day goes by in which leading German politicians — of every single political party, including the Green party — do not address the issue of exactly what Germany is going to do with the 1.6 million or so people who have arrived since 2015. The tone ranges from sober second thoughts to calls for hard-line action to resignation. The fact that the taz published this piece is itself a statement, since the taz is basically the house organ of the Green Party, and was easily the most enthusiastic member of the “Refugees Welcome” bandwagon in 2015.
Second, The teacher’s comment on abstract thinking is revealing. There’s something she obviously knows but is loath to say, because it’s one of the main taboos in the education world: These students are slow. That is, they have low IQs, and, by the very nature of the thing, that will never change. The inability to grasp abstract concepts or counterfactual hypothetical situations (“Imagine you have a cat.” “But I don’t have a cat.”) is a hallmark of intellectual disability, and low intelligence in general. In a place like Nigeria, Syria, or Tunisia, people with low IQs can get along. They will never learn to read or write, but they can eke out a living as construction workers, street vendors, or delivery men. None of these professions requires much thinking, much less abstract thinking.
Their low IQs are going to be a huge problem in Germany, however. First of all, none of these people is going to learn good German. You can just give up on that right now. The probability that someone with a 78 IQ who is illiterate in his own native tongue will be able to learn proficient German is zero. The most that can be expected is maybe a vocabulary of 100-200 pidgin words. This is surely one explanation for why the idea of quickly integrating recent migrants into the German occupational-training system has largely failed (g).
The second reason this is a long-term disaster is that Germany is a highly complex, bureaucratized society with universal literacy. Countries with universal literacy make being able to read a prerequisite for even the most menial jobs. Being unable to read or write guarantees permanent exclusion. And there is nothing that can be done about this. There is no special trick or ingenious teaching method or motivational scheme that can increase a 78-IQ person’s intelligence to the point where they will be able to learn a foreign language. The attempt will always end in failure and frustration on both sides.
The other telling point of the article is all of the backward ideas the students have. They mainly come from honor cultures. Here’s a description of honor cultures from an Oxford bibliography:
Honor in this second sense can result in two types of violence. The first occurs predominately between men (indeed, honor is often equated with masculinity). An honorable man will not hesitate to use physical force to combat any assault, theft, insult, or other attempt at subordination of himself or his group (family, gang, or nation). For honor, unlike the more stable value of dignity, can be won or lost. Honor rises and falls when one man (or group) publicly challenges the willingness of another to physically defend himself, his intimates, or his property and hence his right to be treated as an equal. To uphold his honor a man need not beat his opponent, but he must display a willingness to fight him. Cultures of honor (those in which actors compete for status based on physical force) are far from uniform, but work by anthropologists, historians, sociologists, criminologists, social psychologists, and others reveals several shared characteristics.
One is that honor is a central source of status, which largely explains the apparently trivial causes of many violent conflicts: the issue is not really the taking of a few cents of change but whether one can person disrespect another publicly and get away with it. Honor cultures too are typically antipathetic to law and legal officials: a man must stand up for himself and not rely on others to do so. Traditional honor cultures tend, also, to be highly patriarchal, subordinating women and treating their sexuality as family property. In such cultures, a second type of honor violence may be found—men beating or even killing their female relatives for loss of chastity or other conduct that threatens male rule. These acts of violence committed in the name of family honor likely have a long history in human societies. Today, they are concentrated in predominately Muslim nations and among their emigrants to Western countries. In short, all honor cultures have high rates of violence principally among men; some also have high rates of violence by men against their female relatives.
There you have it, in a nutshell.
The problem is not that these migrants are Muslim, or that they come from countries with backward value systems. The problem is that they are the kind of people who cannot imagine modifying or rejecting these value systems. They are like the uneducated masses of medieval Europe, trapped in a self-defeating system of ancient, irrational taboos and commandments.
One of the stalest but truest cliches in sociology is that the educated elite in every country has more in common with the educated elite in any other country than they do with the uneducated masses in their own countries. There are millions of Muslims in the world, some of them even devout, who ignore the stupid strictures of honor culture, abhor physical violence, and treat everyone with respect. They are the people with relatively high IQs, who have obtained college degrees. These folks are no more likely to beat someone up than a Japanese marketing executive living in Düsseldorf.
Alas, that’s not who Germany imported. Will all these thousands of new arrivals who think all women should wear headscarves engage in long, painful introspection, and cast off their entire world-view? Of course they won’t. First, they’re too intellectually limited to do this. Second, they have no desire to change their values — who does? And third, they have no reason to change their values — they will immediately slip into ethnic enclaves, where they will live their entire lives.
Which brings me to the third point: free courses and welfare. As I pointed out a time or two on the old blog, the model of integration in countries which do it successfully is the “gift basket” program: “We’ll give you gift basket and a little help at the beginning, and then you’re on your own. You’ll have to learn the language, and pay for the privilege. You’ll have to find a job, and a place to live, or bunk with friends or roommates. No, you don’t get the same welfare benefits as citizens, because you’re not one (yet). And if you commit a serious crime, you go back to wherever you came from. And you should be grateful for this, because even life as a second-class resident of our rich, peaceful country is immeasurably superior to life as a full citizen of wherever you came from. Which is why you came here. Always remember that.”
By and large, they do. Because they have to.
This approach may seem cruel, but, as Nick Lowe once observed, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. The gift-basket approach does two important things: it fosters a sense of self-reliance, and it reduces resentment of foreigners from the native population, because the native population sees that foreigners have to work just as hard as they do, often even harder. And the gift basket model uses the best kind of integration training, which is forcing new arrivals to get along with people in the workplace. You can think whatever you want about women and headscarves privately, but if you make a big stink about it in the warehouse or Starbuck’s where you work, then you’ll be fired, and will have to go back to the 6-man flat in the ghetto and eat cat food until you find a new job — which will be hard, since your previous employer will warn people not to hire you, because you’re some kind of religious fruitcake.
The German approach, on the other hand, is almost ridiculously indulgent. The state pays for your food, lodging, clothing, healthcare, and education. It pays for your “integration” courses. And if you never (bother to) find a job, it will pay you modest but livable social welfare benefits until you die. Currently, there are 1.6 million (g) non-EU foreigners on “Hartz IV”, the main welfare system in Germany. And that doesn’t count the EU foreigners, or the various other government benefits systems.
The majority of new arrivals to Germany since 2015 will never successfully integrate, period. This is because they don’t have the skills and abilities needed for this, and because the German social welfare system, along with the existence of ethnic enclaves, removes bottom-line incentives to integrate. Integrating into another society is hard, and most people won’t do hard things unless they’re forced to. Germany lacks the will, the laws, or the institutions to force them to.
The sooner Germans face up to this blunt truth, the better.