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Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? Why You'd Probably Be Healthier and Wealthier in Germany

How Europe makes people's everyday life much more pleasant to live in.

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Why are kids in Germany paying dues, voluntarily?

I think it's an American who can best explain why. It's not Marx but John Dewey whose picture should be in the lobby of the Willy Brandt Haus, the headquarters of the Social Democratic Party. It's Dewey who believed that schools should not just teach practical skills but explain why kids have to be political, to be citizens and yes, to get into labor movements to protect the skills they are acquiring. One can say that union membership is a "tradition" in certain industries. But that's just an opaque way of saying that the kids get politicized both at home and at school as they go through the Dual Track -- Germany's specialized, apprenticeship vocational schools.

The answer to the problems of our country is education, but not the kind we're pursuing, i.e., jamming more kids into college or even teaching practical skills; instead, it's teaching them how, politically, to cut themselves a better deal. As long as that's going on, it's impossible to write off the European or, more specifically, the German model.

Just as the answer to the problems of democracy is usually more democracy, so the answer to the problems of a social democracy is usually more social democracy.

Copyright © 2010 by Thomas Geoghegan.  This excerpt was adapted from  in Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life, published by The New Press. Reprinted here with permission. It first appeared in In These Times.

Thomas Geoghegan is a Chicago-based labor lawyer. He is the author of six books, including Whose Side Are You On?, The Secret Lives of Citizens, The Law in Shambles and, most recently, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? .

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