A 60-page advice brochure for German kindergartens instructs teachers on how to identify and deal with children from ‘far-right’ families. Critics say it encourages spying and equates wearing braids and dresses with nationalism.
The manual, titled ‘Inequality and Early Education,’ was published by an anti-racist NGO, Amadeu Antonio Foundation. It was co-funded by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs.
The guide is designed to help the kindergarten staff to detect and deal with children from far-right families in the wake of the “significant increase in the right-wing populist movements” in Germany, the Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Franziska Giffey wrote in the brochure’s introduction.
The brochure suggests that the staff should be alerted of far-right views exhibited by the children and their parents. It offers advice on how to act in various scenarios. For example, what to do if a child draws swastikas in kindergarten and says it is “a good thing” at home.
Teachers are advised to be on the lookout for gender roles, too. It should be made clear “to what extent authoritarian and gender-stereotyped parenting styles limit the possibilities of children and complicate their development,” the manual says.
The guide lays out ‘clues’ that can help to spot children who might belong to far-right families. One of such signs is described as: “The girl wears dresses and braids, she is directed to do house work at home, while the boy faces strong physical challenges and drills.” Teachers are advised to hold face-to-face conversations with the parents in such cases.
The brochure’s approach was blasted not only by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), but by the politicians from the ruling coalition as well. The lawmaker from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christoph Bernstiel said that it is “unbelievable” that “a taxpayer-funded brochure identifies girls wearing braids and clothes as potentially ‘nationalist’.”
The critics argue that the well-meaning brochure encourages teachers to spy on children’s parents, which would resemble the bitter atmosphere of the pre-reunification socialist East Germany.
Saxony’s State Minister of Culture Christian Piwarz (CDU) warnedagainst using the manuals. “It’s unacceptable to tie the children’s looks with the political views of their parents,” the official said.
“We live in a free country. We shouldn’t let the teachers to examine and correct the political views of the parents.”
The federal family minister, meanwhile, stood by the manual. Franziska Giffey argued that all examples included in the guide are “based on true cases” drawn from “long-term counseling work” dealing with nationalist families.
“The basic principle is: it is not the task of the state to check on how parents live and what they think,” the Family Ministry explained, but instead the manual’s goal is to merely help the staff in tackling xenophobia.
The manual’s publisher, Amadeu Antonio Foundation, defended its approach, saying that the teachers were grateful for the brochure and found it useful.
The NGO revealed that it had received around 500 items of hate mail due to the backlash. In some of the messages, the outraged critics denounced the brochure as “Stalinist in nature,” and reminiscent of the methods of Stasi, the communist-era East Germany’s chief spy agency.
The manual was also slammed online. One commenter suggested that the paper “wasted” on the guide should be recycled and the earned money spent on “meaningful” daycare materials, like German language books for migrant children. Others called the manual “absurd” and its take akin to censorship and “manipulations.”
“What would be the signs of far-left parents? Or is no one interested in that?” one Twitter user remarked.