ARCHIVE IMAGE: Teachers in Germany should instruct their students about the "anti-constitutional tendencies" of the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, the head of the Education and Science Union (GEW) has said. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)


German teachers should warn students of ‘anti-constitutional’ AfD, head of teachers’ union says


Teachers in Germany should instruct their students about the “anti-constitutional tendencies” of the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, the head of the country’s teachers’ union has said.

Teachers in the country have an obligation to warn their pupils about the AfD in order to defend democracy, said Maike Finnern, who chairs the Education and Science Union (GEW).

“I not only encourage teachers to also look into the AfD in the classroom. I also expressly call on them to do so,” she told Stuttgarter Zeitung.

It was the responsibility of Germany’s teachers to defend the country’s constitution, which meant taking on parties deemed to be a threat to the document if and when they arose, Finnern argued.

“The AfD is a party with anti-constitutional tendencies. Teachers can and should say that in the classroom,” added the union leader.

“The best way to do this is to analyse specific statements and events and discuss them with the students.”

“Teachers swear by the Constitution – and to defend it,” she added. “In our view, they have even more of a duty than others to stand up for democracy and diversity and to raise their voices against right-wing extremism and anti-constitutional activities.”

This is not the first time senior officials have encouraged teachers to mobilise against the AfD.

In February, Dorothee Feller, a Christian Democrat and schools minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, urged teachers living in the region to join ongoing protests against the party after reports some of its members attended a secret right-wing meeting in Potsdam.

“I would like to expressly encourage teachers to take part in these demonstrations for our vibrant democracy in order to set an example,” she said, adding teachers could even attend the demonstrations with their students if they wished.

Politicians in the AfD have routinely protested against such calls, as well as claims the group opposes the German constitution.

Responding to Finnern’s claims, AfD Bundestag member Götz Frömming challenged suggestions his party wants to undermine Germany’s Basic Law, and said the post-war constitution exists in part to protect groups like his party.

“GEW is trying to mobilise teachers as a fifth column in the election campaign against the AfD,” he said, describing the union as using the idea of protecting the constitution as a “pretext” for the attack.

“But the constitution specifically serves to protect political parties — including the AfD.”