bpb

Transformation and reorganisation 1969-1981

5.11.2012
In the 1970s the bpb underwent a series of structural and conceptual reforms. The Beutelsbach Consensus of 1976 defined three objectives for civic education that remain valid to this day.

Kurz vor seinem Ausscheiden als Direktor der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung erhält Dr. Paul Franken (m.) im Dezember 1968 das Bundesverdienstkreuz. Sein Nachfolger Dr. Hans Stercken (l.) und der damalige Bundesinnenminister Ernst Benda (r.) gratulieren.December 1968: Shortly before stepping down as Director of the Federal Agency for Civic Education Ph.D. Paul Franken (centre) is presented with the Federal Cross of Merit. He is congratulated by his successor, Ph.D. Hans Stercken (left) and the Federal Minister of the Interior, Ernst Benda (right). (© bpb)

1969 marked a turning point in the history of the Federal Republic. The first Social Democratic Chancellor of Germany, Willy Brandt, became the face of the new Germany. The seventies would be a decade of political and social change, new foreign policy alliances and a hope of less political tension. However, they would also bring a renewed cooling of relations between East and West, German terrorism, mass unemployment and the realisation that there were indeed limits to growth.

New management, new scope



1969 brought major changes to the bpb, too. The Agency's first director, Dr Paul Franken, retired from his post and was succeeded on 1 January 1969 by Dr Hans Sterken, a Christian Democrat (*1923).

A new decree entered into force on September 10, 1969 that redefined the scope of the bpb. Back in 1952, the inaugural decree had read, "The Federal Agency for Homeland Services is responsible for strengthening and popularising the democratic and European ideals among the German people". Now, its remit changed to "promoting an understanding among the German people of political issues, strengthening their awareness of democratic principles, and encouraging political participation." This new approach was reflected in the Agency's planning and activity report of 1969/1970. From now on, it stated, the bpb's work would be "more in line with reality, less romanticised and harmonised, and would sensitise the public to conflicts of interest and power". However, whether or not it was the responsibility of a government civic education programme to create a platform for party political debate and to provide the population with recommendations for political participation – and if so, of what nature – would remain one of the biggest contentions of the 1970s, accompanied by recurrent heated disagreements over the self-perception of civic education. These conflicts were motivated mainly by the question of whether civic education should have an emancipatory or rather affirmative character - whether it should serve to stabilise or rather change a system. Despite the widely differing opinions on these fundamental issues, the participants of a conference organised by Baden-Württemberg's Agency for Civic Education in 1976 nevertheless managed to adopt what became known as the Beutelsbach Consensus, a minimal agreement on the principles governing civic education that remain valid to this day. The three principles are: prohibition against overwhelming students (ban on indoctrination); the obligation to portray controversial issues as controversial in class; and the obligation to empower students to analyse and represent their own personal interests. This consensus was reiterated in the 1977 Guidelines governing the Work of the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

Establishment of a Scientific Advisory Council



The 1969 decree foresaw the setup of a Scientific Advisory Council for the bpb that would assist the Director and whose unanimous recommendations the Director would only be permitted to disregard by agreement from the Minister of the Interior. The Council, which initially consisted of five members, convened for the first time on April 27, 1970. Its establishment reflected the rising importance that politicians and society attached to the involvement of the research community in civic education. In fact, the 1970s saw a general increase in research activity in this field. The Agency itself began to promote and fund more basic research into civic education. The Bund-Länder Commission for Educational Planning even gave it responsibility for curricular research and development in the field of non-formal civic education. The outcomes of this research were used to produce effective teaching and learning materials in cooperation with other civic education organisations and experts in adult education, and were published as part of the Agency's series of publications.

Reorganisation of the Executive Committee



The bpb's top executive structure was reorganised in 1973 following a new decree dated June 21, 1974. The post of Director was replaced by a team of three, namely Franklin Schultheiß (SPD) and Horst Dahlhaus (FDP) as Directors and Dr Hans Stercken (CDU), previously the Agency's sole Director, as Managing Director. Stercken was succeeded in 1976 by Josef Rommerskirchen (CDU), with Franklin Schultheiß taking over as Managing Director until his departure in 1992. The composition of this new executive structure – which was not without controversy – served to ensure that all parliamentary parties would have a say in the leadership of the Federal Agency. The non-partisan approach of the early years would now be replaced by a politically balanced structure.

The Executive Committee's decision-making process was complex. As a rule, decisions had to be unanimous. In cases where this proved impossible, after one week the Committee would take a majority decision. The objecting Director would be able to appeal to the Minister of the Interior for agreement.

New organisational structure



Already in the late 1960s the entire structure of the Agency had been reorganised and the various departments merged to form five working groups. From the 1970s onwards, these were Mass Media, Journalism, Non-formal Civic Education, Civic Education in Schools, and Central Administration. In addition, there was the General Planning department as well as the Ostkolleg, whose responsibilities were extended in the amended version of the decree of November 1, 1975 concerning the Ostkolleg. Section 2 reads, "The Ostkolleg is charged with organising conferences on the ideology, economy, law, political and social systems and historical origins of Communism in its various guises, especially in Eastern Europe that provide comprehensive information and guidance on this subject. The structures, opportunities and problems associated with free and democratic orders are to be made visible by means of juxtaposition and comparison." The Scientific Committee of the Ostkolleg was meanwhile composed of between seven and nine members who were appointed by the Minister of the Interior as recommended by the bpb's Executive Committee. The Committees worked closely with each other in a spirit of mutual agreement. Each year the Scientific Committee chose a chairman from among its members.

New agenda, new activities



By 1977, 129 women and men were working for the Agency. 23 of them had civil servant status, 86 were salaried employees, and 20 were low-skilled workers. Its budget had risen to over 25 million German marks. Peacekeeping issues, growing environmental concerns, and in particular the struggle with left-wing extremist terrorism appeared on the Agency's agenda. A new activity in this context was the Agency's programme to stimulate intellectual and political debate on terrorism and extremism, which was launched in 1975 and ran for several years.
Erstausgabe der Politischen Zeitschrift (PZ) von 1971.Issue 1 of Politische Zeitschrift (PZ), 1971


In the 1970s, the most important publication to cover the scientific angle on topical issues was Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte (APuZ), a supplement that came with the weekly magazine Das Parlament. New publications were launched, such as the Kontrovers series, whose name reflected the nature of the issues it covered. The first theme in 1969 was all about voting at 18. This series was designed for use in upper secondary education. Controversial subjects were discussed from various angles using selected documents and source texts that gave students a well-rounded body of material with which to form an opinion and discuss the issues with their peers. The early 1970s also saw a popularisation of civic education. The first issue of PZ, or Politische Zeitschrift, came out in 1971. Each issue of PZ, whose cover was designed to make it look like a tabloid, covered a certain theme such as women's affairs or the environment. In so doing, the Agency intended to reach out to a younger, broader audience. The first issue was titled "We are the slaves of the nation. Housewife: a terrible job. Kitchen, children, crisis." "On the pulse of time" was PZ's editorial motto. The hope was that the magazine would be read by a target group that was not easily reachable through traditional civic education media. The publication Zeitlupe (Slow motion) was first issued in 1975. Its attractively presented material was aimed at lower secondary school and vocational college students. Another innovation was the Schülerwettbewerb (Competition for pupils) which was launched in 1971 under the patronage of the Federal President and has taken place once a year ever since. The competition, which replaced the Agency's long-standing Preisausschreiben competition, was designed to help the young entrants form their own opinions. As many as 3,000 classes with around 100,000 pupils entered the 1977 competition. From the 1979/1980 school year onwards the bpb began to publish a civic education calendar for use in the classroom.

Yet another innovation was a local journalists' programme that the bpb launched in 1975. Initially designed as a series of training seminars, the programme soon progressed to issuing publications such as ABC des Journalismus (Basic journalism) and Materialien für Lokaljournalisten (Material for local journalists). Since 1981 bpb has worked with the local journalism project team on producing Drehscheibe (Turntable) magazine, which contains ideas, suggests topics and provides technical tips for local journalists.



 
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