Made possible through the efforts of the Q1’s politics and economics teachers Mr. Nijhawan, Mr. Czudai, Mr. Paulsen and Mr. Ortmanns, twenty students from class 11 were able to attend the renowned annual DVPW-Congress for Political Science at Goethe University in Frankfurt. This year’s topic was “Grenzen der Demokratie/Frontiers of Democracy”. In a variety of so called panels issues like de-democratization in Turkey, human rights, populist movements and many more topics were dealt with. In line with HvGG’s teaching concept of offering Politics & Economics classes in English as well as German, about one third of the congress was held in English, the remaining two thirds in German.
Speakers at the event were members of most different international as well as national organisations, offering substantial perspectives on the debate around democracy’s frontiers. They analysed challenges modern democracy has to face confronted by current developments in world politics.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who came to Frankfurt for this special occasion, started the event by giving a speech. Our group was lucky to be able to be present at said, following his comment on the subject-matter of the congress.
Our group, the 24 students and Mr. Nijhawan, were only able to get into the lecture hall due to a considerable amount of luck and the extraordinary effort our chaperones made. After the BKA approved us being no security threat, we had gone through security checks and bag searches. So we were allowed to sit down in the largest auditorium on campus and welcome the federal president with applause.
His introductory speech was streaked by jokes and created a nonchalant and relaxed atmosphere in the audience of political scientists. One central point during his address was the responsibility, carried by students just as well as professors and political scientist to fight the existential crisis of liberal democracy. His argument is built upon the claim democracy is the only way of government able to renew itself, consequence to its ability to question itself. He urged us, the listeners, to defend the liberal democracy and fill it with living.
Since in times of upheaval hysteria may not be the way to go, Steinmeier wanted to simply state a wakeup-call to democrats and states “Democracy is either liberal, or not existent” (Original: “Demokratie ist liberal, oder sie ist es nicht”). He referred to historical events within Frankfurt, which had involved some kind of liberation movement of the citizens, f. e. developments in the pre-March era (Vormärz) and the March Revolution, calling Frankfurt an “outstanding place of democracy”. Steinmeier’s analysis offered the audience a good base for the discussions ahead, while maintaining a clear position and properly introducing into the congress.
The life at an academic faculty is still much more different than we thought it to be, and definitely from that at school. Thanks to the congress, we could gain a thorough insight, many of us for the first time. The presentations held during the panels distinguished from the ones we are used to at the Gymnasium to such a degree as that the research methods political scientists use, along with their strategy to construct an argument, are quite different.
The complex theories they establish and the analyses they carry out are highly interesting. However they were partly hard to understand with our limited previous knowledge. At a congress for political scientists having already done long-lasting and deep research in this thematic field their whole life often, of course we students lacked that previous knowledge and we had problems following their approaches. Hence, many speeches were too analytical and sometimes too wordy. Conversations and interviews with guests of the event who arrived from acknowledged universities and institutions like Harvard University in Boston, or the University of British Columbia in Canada, offered many new impressions we can now integrate in our lessons. Other participants and speakers we came into contact with always welcomed us very kindly in the panels and expressed their appreciation and respect at times that we students showed interest to their work.
In addition, we are now familiar with various foreign words and metaphors frequently used in political sciences, i.e the concept of the academic Ivory Tower, or what a Think Tank is.
However, we are convinced that participating at the congress and dealing with current crises of democracy are important experiences, especially as because we are part of the young generation und constitute the future. Therefore, we would like to express our thanks to Mr. Nijhawan, Mr. Czudai, Mr. Paulsen and Mr. Ortmanns for the opportunity to attend “Frontiers of Democracy”- to become the convinced advocates of democracy ourselves.