Imagine the following: The state decides on a support program specifically for lottery winners. A lottery-winning foundation of the German people has been established, which connects lucky people with faith and organizes seminars where they can learn which country houses and yachts are worth their money and where they can invest their wealth profitably. Millionaires are paid a small amount of 300 euros per month from the taxpayer’s fund.
Such a support program for lottery winners will probably annoy most people. In principle, however, this is exactly what happens when it comes to promoting talented students in German universities. A false system of preferential treatment has established itself, which should be abolished according to the standard of justice, but surprisingly it has not really been questioned by anyone.
Many first-year students are applying for a scholarship this week, and school principals are recommending thousands of high school graduates who they deem fit for the German National Academic Foundation. In selection seminars, foundations evaluate their applicants, focus on grades, personalities, and commitments, and make decisions based on more or less vague criteria about who they consider talented and who they don’t. In the end it is a minority that is allowed in the exclusive club.
One percent of all German students receive scholarships from one of 13 funding agencies. Scholars receive a subsidy of ইউ 300 per month – regardless of whether their parents are cleaners or dentists. As a rule, they are more dental. Because scholarships are often for the benefit of children from academic families who are already well off. The good two-thirds come from families with university degrees; Of all the students, on the other hand, this is only half. The money comes from the federal Ministry of Education, which thus promotes redistribution from the bottom to the top middle. Whoever has will be given.
In recent years, the scholarship system has expanded even more liberally. In 2005, 80.5 million euros went to talented companies, this year more than 200 million euros have already been earmarked for it. Those who get scholarships today get more money than in the past. The current government – despite Social Democratic participation – is committed to this policy: “We want to further strengthen the culture of scholarships and organizations that support gifting in Germany,” says the Black-Red Alliance.
The elite support system is backed by a very large coalition, which may explain why it has so little criticism. All teams have their own support for the meritorious through their affiliate foundations; They all benefited from the expansion of the top fund. The only thing that has raised concerns recently is the possibility that within a few years, AfD may even be able to support some elite students from its approved foundation according to its own criteria. There are many more obvious reasons to question the system.
Isn’t broad and top promotion mutually exclusive?
It is difficult to understand that those who have already successfully completed their studies and have the best prospects for a good career should receive additional grants. Most of the time, proponents of elitism dispel such objections with the phrase that mass and top-level funds are not mutually exclusive and should not play against each other. But why not? This is equally true: even heavily increased budgets for gifted organizations, 266.3 million euros, seem smaller than the 1.5 billion euros the federal government has planned to help needy students. If the money for the funding agencies were cut and distributed among all the students in the state, each would be more than 7.74 euros per month, which is enough for one and a half meals in the canteen. The subtext is that the promotion of talented people is actually too small to be bothered about it.
This argument goes only in circles. By definition, an elite is smaller than a large rest that is omitted. Inevitably, their support carries less weight as a budget item. It is not a contradiction to elevate the elite to the support of the masses, this argument becomes unreasonably stronger, as the smaller attracts the elite. Would anyone consider a support program for a handful of lottery millionaires to be morally problematic because it would be smaller than billions upon billions of social budgets? What an annoying size, but the principle. You need a good reason for this.
The largest and most important organization for the promotion of talent, The Studentistftung des Deutsche Welles, justifies its existence with a vague reference to an indefinite advantage that society presumably derives from the promotion of top talent. The constitution states that those who “can expect special services in the service of the general public” are supported. What does it mean: service to the general public? What exactly is the added value of Studienstiftung for those who use it in their name? Scholarship holders are those who are sure to benefit from the scholarship policy.
Politicians must have felt some discomfort, too, as they linked the expansion of scholarships to the expectation that the works would do more to help previously disadvantaged groups. And the FDP’s new proposal also goes in this direction to include trainees in the circle. The concept of gifted education refers to the fact that educational qualifications and parental income are not the criteria for selection. Talent decides. Otherwise, scholarship providers may call themselves “financial institutions for the children of good people.” The term “promotion of talent” suggests that the promotion of the elite is a fair matter unless scholarship opportunities are independent of social background.
This is a mistake. Things don’t get any better that way.
The concept of genius already implies that it is not something that one chooses independently; Talent can only be acquired within limits. You don’t gift yourself. Some researchers have suggested that intelligence – if you want to see it as a hypothesis of talent or even a cloudy concept – is largely genetic. Just as innate talent is ineligible as a basis for financial support, so are parents’ educational qualifications and income.
There is no better reason than the historical and social coincidences for the influence of natural power on the distribution of income and wealth, writes the philosopher John Rolls. “Once one is dissatisfied with the distributional effects of social or natural conditions, reflection forces one to be dissatisfied with both. From a moral point of view, both seem to be equally arbitrary.”
Rolls call it the natural lottery. It would seem wonderful as a state subsidy program for lottery winners, from this point of view, the promotion of talented people is not too far away. And some less affluent students will be happy with the 7.74 euro extra for cafeteria meals.