Mrs Sarrazin at centre of new German political row (Feature)
By Andreas Rabenstein Jan 18, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Berlin - The name Sarrazin is back in the headlines in Germany, but this time it's not Thilo Sarrazin, author of a best- selling book that criticizes Muslim immigrants for living off social welfare.
It's Mrs Sarrazin.
The 59-year-old primary school teacher is facing a parent revolt over charges that she is too authoritarian and not sensitive to cultural differences.
Normally, that would be a purely local issue. But due to her marriage to Thilo Sarrazin - who caused a stir last year with a book criticizing immigrants for dragging down German culture - supporters say German liberals are using the charges against her as a way of getting back at her spouse.
Thilo Sarrazin, 65, already stepped down from Germany's central bank in the autumn over the furore centering around his book, Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab (Germany Abolishes Itself), which has sold at least 1.2 million copies and is rumoured to have earned him a 3 million euros (4 million dollars) in author royalties.
Just as the fuss over the book ebbs, spouse Ursula Sarrazin's alleged strict ways at the blackboard have been splashed across the headlines. The dispute is bitter - even hateful - and only rarely nuanced.
Some of Mrs Sarrazin's teacher and parent opponents describe her as a 19th-century education dinosaur, tyrannizing tender children.
Mrs Sarrazin has defended herself, saying real teachers should be in charge in the classroom.
The conflict has escalated so far that pro-Sarrazin readers of newspapers have sent ugly, threatening letters to the principal and parent-teacher association of the school where Mrs Sarrazin teaches in Westend, an upmarket Berlin district.
The police have been called.
Anti-Sarrazin people have been extraordinarily vehement too.
'In a just world, teachers like her would be sacked on the spot,' declared one angry blogger.
The issue came to national prominence last week when news weekly Der Spiegel reported there had been a round-robin complaint by more than 50 parents in March 2009 that the teacher 'was losing control in class and yelling at the children.'
The parents of a dual Japanese and German citizenship boy had been upset that Sarrazin 'repeatedly' nicknamed their son 'Suzuki,' inspired by the Japanese brand of cars and motorcycles.
They said this got a laugh from the other children, 'who began calling the boy the same name.'
A Berlin city newspaper, Tagesspiegel, added that Sarrazin was alleged to have hit a boy in 2001 with a musical instrument, a recorder. 'Mrs Sarrazin hit him on the head with it,' the father was quoted saying.
Sarrazin has given interviews defending herself.
'As a teacher, I need to exercise authority. But I am not authoritarian. I merely lay down rules that the children have to observe. It's what I'm supposed to do,' she told a conservative news weekly, Focus.
'I never yell in the classroom,' she told Bild am Sonntag, a Sunday newspaper.
She said 'Suzuki' was a slip of the tongue, not deliberate. She said neither parent of the boy had ever complained to her about the incident.
Sarrazin said several parents of ethnic Turkish children in her class had been defaming her.
'The school principal and a certain male teacher have been gunning for me,' she added.
Given that media have had no access to Sarrazin in her classroom, most of the back and forth debate remains conjecture.
Sarrazin contends she is being 'bullied' in response to the controversy her husband unleashed - even before his book he had drawn ire as finance minister of the city-state of Berlin, attacking welfare recipients and the tradition of wearing headscarves. She suggests critics are striking out at her as a surrogate.
'People think, 'We can't get back at Mr Sarrazin, so we'll have a go at Mrs Sarrazin,'' said the schoolteacher, who readily concedes she belongs to the old school when it comes to educational methods.
She has been in the teaching profession for 37 years and contends that Berlin children are worse at concentrating than they used to be and are now often incapable of reading even a chapter of a book.
She says its ridiculous that some parents say, 'Have fun,' when their offspring head off to school in the morning.
'That's what you say to someone going to a party. It would be more appropriate to tell a child, 'Pay attention today,'' she said.
The education department of the city-state of Berlin has played down the row, saying parent criticism of teachers happens all the time. The minister, Juergen Zollner, said letters of complaint are received every year about hundreds, sometimes thousands, of teachers.
A departmental official added, 'We check out all such complaints thoroughly.'
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