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October 04, 1959 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1959-10-04
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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The Social Democrats' Dream
of a Classless Society: h
Will Swecden Make It a Reality?
BS JAMES SERER

- V ~ -.: - ~.- - ____

Visitor Par fcipaloes
in Student Life-
German Style
at Munich University
By DOROTHEA STEUDLE

HAVE an expression that'
seems like it would cover
your situation, 'you can lead a
horse to water, but you can't make
him drink'," suggested an Amer-
ican visitor.
"Yes, that's exactly our prob-;
lem," answered a leading theorist
of Sweden's Social Democratic La-
bour Party, which has been in
power for nearly 40 years. The.
Social Democrats are attempting
to eliminate Sweden's class struc-
ture by knocking out the economic
props of that structure. Although
they are having remarkable suc-
cess in their economic reforms,
they have not, as yet, made much
progress toward their final objec-'
tive. In fact, the class structure
may even be growing more rigid.
Originally the Social Democrats
hoped to achieve their classless
society through a policy of wage
equalization. Through minimum
wage reforms and steeply progres-
sive taxation -- even to the point
where it becomes confiscatory -
James Seder is an assistant
night editor oni The Daily. He
spent the summer in Sweden
as part of the Experiment in
International Living.

the Social Democrats have made1
substantial progress in this field.1
Also, most of the more ostenta-
tious symbols of class cannot bea
found in Sweden. For example,
there are few or no mansions,
fleets of limousines, or liveried3
servants.
THERE appear to be three rea-
sons for this: the Swedes tend
to prefer simple living; because1
of the government's wage equali-
zation polcies, few Swedes can
afford a great deal of ostentation;
and theawealthier families are
afraid that any ostentatious dis-
plays might provoke new as-
saults on what wealth they do
have.
Nevertheless, a visitor to Swe-
den, particularly to rural areas of
Sweden, is immediately struck by
the elaborateness of the class con-
scious behaviour. For example,
one greets cordially an acquain-
tance of one's own class; one for-
mally shakes hands with a person
of an adjacent class and one only
waves to a person at the opposite
end of the social scale.
Perhaps the most obvious status
symbol, at least to an American
whose knowledge of Swedish is
decidedly limited, is the ability of
the people to speak English. This

is particularly true of the genera-
tion educated since the war.
Upper class Swedes speak fluent
English. Middle class Swedes
speak some English. The few lower
class Swedes who know any Eng-
lish generally refuse to use it.
Exceptions to this are the middle
class teachers and middle class
people engaged in tourism who
speak fluent English. But other
than these exceptions, a Swede's
degree of fluency in English is an
extremely accurate test of his
class.
THE USE of English as a status
symbol focuses on a larger ques-
tion: the place of education in
Swedish society.
The Social Democratic Party
realizes that in order to achieve
its goal of a classless society, it
must provide equal educational
opportunities for everyone.
Originally they thought they
could easily arrange this. The first
step - universal, free, compulsory
public schools - had already been
taken before- the Party came to
power. Students must go to school
until they are 14 years old and
may continue in the free public
schools until they graduate from
the gymnasium at 19 or 20.
However, children of lower class

Stockholm - Government Headquarters

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AIR CONDITIONED FOR YOUR COMFORT

families tended to drop out of
school at fourteen. The Party as-
sumed that everyone wanted to
continue their education, but
economic pressures forced the stu-
dents to"'go out and earn money.
The Party tried to eliminate
this problem by providing stipends
for all students continuing their
education after the age of 14.
The Social Democrats now re-
alize that even this stipend has
not solved the problem. The upper
class, which comprises ten per
cent of the population, supplies
50 per cent of the university stu-
dents. The lower class, which
comprises 50 per cent of the pop-
ulation, supplies only ten per cent
of the university students.
THE PARTY now faces a di-
lemma. They have, the horse
at the water hole (the lower class
student can afford advanced edu-
cation), but he isn't drinking (he's
not continuing his education).
There are three commonly ad-
vanced explanations of this:
1) A young person makes high-
er wages in industry than he does
from his stipend. And he is se-
duced away from education by the
glamour of increased spending
money - even though his long-
range income potential would be
increased by further education.
2) There is an increasing attl-
tude among all young Swedes that
"the rich don't get richer and the
poor don't get poorer" - a phrase
used by several young Swedes.
Thus neither fear nor ambition
provide incentive for hard work
in any sphere -- including educa-
tion.
3) Pressure against further edu-
cation is brought on the lower
class student and his family by
friends and neighbors who resent
"putting on airs."
Although the Swedish people in
general don't seem acutely aware
of it, the Party recognizes the
crisis confronting it. It has pro-
vided the lower class with an op-
portunity to raise its status. If the
lower class is unwilling to take
advantage of this opportunity,
how can the government bring
about a classless society?
THE PARTY is attempting to
meet the challenge by increas-
ing the student stipend. This
seems like a simple step, but the
philosophy behind it is a radical
departure from previous socialis-
tic, practices. They, are now at-
tempting to bribe students to con-
tinue their education, instead of
merely providing an opportunity
to do so.
If this plan does not work, its
failure will open up a new path:
of political development which is
sure, to have significance beyond

itatively - particularly after a
short visit-it seems unlikely that
the reform will succeed.
In the first place, the Party
seems to have made a mistake in
discounting the degree of apathy
among Swedish youth (which is
at least partially the result of the
Party's highly socialistic program).
A lower class Swedish youth seems
to lack the motivation to continue
his studies. He finds working easi-
er and more glamorous. It seems
doubtful that even an increased
stipend can overcome these ten-
dencies.
Also, the Party probably has
badly underestimated the social
pressure exerted against a person
attempting to rise out of the
working class. Swedes just do not
seem to share the American "rags
to riches" dream.
And finally there is a factor
which may force a slow-down in
a few years of all the Party's so-
cial welfare programs. There
seems tq be increasingly bitter op-
position to these programs, i.e.,
the wage equalization policies, by
the educated youth. Each year,
more and more of these people

WALKED into the huge amphi-
theater, raced for the only
vacant seat, just as a rumbling of
knuckles upon desks announced
the entrance of the Herr Profes-
sor: My first lecture at the Lud-
wig Maximillian University of
Munich.
As a member of the Junior Year
in Munich program (JYM), spon-
sored by Wayne State University,
I went with 65 American students,
representing 35 American universi-
ties and colleges. With two years
of college German as a back-
ground, we enrolled in philosophy,
science, political science, history,
literature and psychology courses
and now it was November 1. Let-
ters from home told of our friends
crar Ing for mid-terms.
We had toured Paris, the World's
Fair, Cologne, had taken the ro-
mantic steamboat ride down the
Rhine River - site of old castles
and vineyards, and arrived in Mun-
chen (Munich) just as the tradi-
tional Munich Okoberfest reached
its climax. Situated in a huge
meadow, the many breweries set
up mammoth tents, where thou-
sands of Muncheners, students and
tourists gathered about long
tables to sing, philosophize, and
listen to- the traditional Bavarian
oom-pa-pa bands, complete with
national dress of Lederhosen and
Alpine hats. And, of course, every-
one was there to sample the beer
and eat from the open barbeques.
Dorothea Steudle partici-
pated in the Junior Year in
Munich program last year. She
is now completing her senior
year at the University.

This festival and trips deep in the
Bavarian mountains were our only
occasion to see the old conception
of Germany, which many Ameri-
cans hold.
MUNICH TODAY is a modern,
flourishing, cultural center of
over , million in population, ad-
dicted to the Wirtschaftswunder,
economical wonder, as the Ger-
mans critically refer to it. The
Munich of the turn of the century,
which enjoyed its peak of artistic,
musical and literary groups has
been completely rebuilt. The de-
stroyed, beaten Munich of the
'40s is nonexistent, as the revived
interest and optimism for opera,
concerts, art, a democratic gov-
ernment and a higher standard of
living stand as evidence.
The Okoberfest over, I now sat
in the lecture hall and saw the
academical side of Munchen. Lis-
tening very closely, I could not
quite comprehend the lecture--the
language being elevated and com-
plex. After 20 minutes of confu-
sion, I peeked at my neighbor's
notes and suddenly the realization
came to me-this was not German
Literature of the 20th Century, this
was the Philosophy of Law!
With a new if somewhat dis-
torted view of legal philosophy, I
concentrated upon the language
and my studies, hoping such mis-
takes would not occur again. They
did, but with the help of Junior
Year in Munich instructors and
tutors, who held sessions in con-
junction with our university
courses and administered examina-
tions, we soon felt at ease with our
second language and enjoyed stu-
dent life, German style.

ERMAN students must pass a
state examination called the
Abitur before entering a univer-
sity. Since the high school or Gym-
nasium education was an intensive
nine years, they enter the uni-
versity at the age 19 at a level of+
junior standing, according toI
American standards. No counselors
advise courses; the student en-
joys "academic freedom," may at-
tend courses at will, but to gradu-
ate, he must qualify for another

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w

^'
,

The Crowded Streets o IA Re

Staatsexam, and must there
use his, own discretion.
A total of 12 seminar certific
must be earned-six in the m
field of concentration and ti
in two minor fields. Towvard
end of his studies, the student s
mits an outline of his perspec
thesis to the desired professor,
upon acceptance from the 'T
tor-Vater," as he is called,
completion and publication of
thesis, the passing of an ambit

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contemplate emigration - either
to Western Europe or the United,
States. Someday this might de-
velop into a serious problem.
But the Party seems liked to
go through with this reform. The
Social Democrats are putting their
dream of a classless society on the

CALL.

I NO 2-5587

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