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Schools to blame for 'anti-German feeling' among young, says Brighton College head

Schools are largely to blame for “a sub-culture of anti-German feeling among young people” in Britain, according to the headteacher of one of the country’s leading independent schools.

On the day that German chancellor Angela Merkel visits Downing Street, Richard Cairns, leader of Brighton College, said that schools needed to do more to tackle anti-German sentiment among their students.

The private school headteacher said he had witnessed it first-hand on a trip to the German capital.

“When I was in Berlin recently, I heard young Brits chanting pathetically that we had won the war,” Mr Cairns said. “Young Germans looked on in some disbelief. Seventy years on from the end of the Second World War, they have moved on. Too many in Britain have not. And in large part that is the fault of schools."

He blamed the way that history is taught, with too much emphasis on Nazism and German Imperialism.

“But only a tiny handful will study anything about any other part of German history or culture. Even Martin Luther barely gets a mention in British classrooms. Goethe, Bauhaus and the Holy Roman Empire get none at all,” he said.

In attempt to combat the sentiment, Brighton College will be hosting a conference in the summer term, open to sixth-formers from across the country, to discuss Germany, its place in the world and “reasons why we need to look at Germany with fresh eyes”.

Mr Cairns also pointed the finger at teachers, who too often tolerated “throwaway anti-German comments about the war, football or the fabled German sense of humour” in a way that would not be accepted if it were about “women or black people”.

“The Germans, it seems, are fair game,” Mr Cairns added. “Germans know this. And, understandably, they resent it. More than that, I think they are puzzled by it.”

Related stories: 

Hitler and the Henrys still dominate A-level history – 13 August 2014

First World War centenary will leave pupils battle weary, study claims – 19 June 2014

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