2018 Fall - Europe in Bits & Bytes
Column Editor: Kathleen Smith
Vol. 42, no. 1
This column presents a roundup and summary of issues and articles under discussion on the ESS Facebook page in the past six months.
Language learning and education in US and EU
The gap between rates of foreign-language learning between high school students in Europe and the United States is increasing, according to this article in The PIE News. The situation at the college and university level appears to be similarly declining, with those requiring foreign language courses falling 17% from 1995 to approximately half of all US institutions in 2010, although Cornell is standing firm. Another factor in European higher education is the awareness of gender parity, with the most prestigious universities displaying the worst gender ratios. Meanwhile, Romanian universities are fighting a new ranking system that factors in classroom and dormitory spaces, which they argue reflects political views rather than students' needs.
The continuing importance of foreign-language knowledge, while clear to all ESS members, is highlighted in this article about being an interpreter at political meetings.
Migration and immigration
The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe is the largest since WWII. In addition to questions about the ethical and moral responsibilities of member states such as Spain, responses to this massive demographic shift include examining attitudes towards immigrants and religious minorities; what it means to be Christian in Western Europe; the origins of populism and the political ramifications of declining to accept refugees. These debates continue to play out in literature and in the news.
Copyright and Taxation
Recent developments that will no doubt have powerful effects on US academic libraries include the decision by the European Union’s Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) to allow member states to set their own VAT rates on ebooks, bringing ebooks in line with print books. Also of relevance is the vote in January 2019 on the controversial EU Copyright Directive, which could potentially change how Google, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and other social media and aggregator platforms are required to handle written material reproduced from its website of origin.
Spain and the Spanish-Speaking World
The controversy over fraudulent degrees held by politicians has led to Cristina Cifuentes, the premier of Madrid, returning her degree; however, she placed the blame on the university for offering her a degree under favorable conditions. To earn her degree, Cifuentes was not required to attend classes, take exams, or produce a thesis, and she was not the first politician from her party to obtain a degree in this way from the university.
Germany and Austria
In Germany the far right, using tactics similar to those used by right-wing parties in the US and the UK, continues to attack universities for practicing censorship and allegedly being sympathetic to left-wing extremism.
A joint project of the German Historical Institute Washington and the Deutsches Auswandererhaus in Bremerhaven, called Crossing the Atlantic/Bridging the Divide, will develop a number of initiatives, including an online exhibition featuring 30 maps of America by Germans and 30 maps of Germany by Americans to depict "how cartographers portrayed Germany and America over the course of a centuries-long relationship characterized by observation, engagement, knowledge transfer, and dialogue."
In response to the refugee crisis, Libraries Without Borders has set up its first Ideas Box in Sicily to provide recent immigrants with a way to give back to those who helped them.
Another type of migration, that of educated professionals, has long been feared in Italy, but this article from Inside Higher Education indicates that this exodus could be seen as a mixed blessing since both the most-highly ranked and the lowest-ranked researchers are searching for job opportunities outside Italy while those in between largely choose to remain.
Meanwhile, the New York Times wants its readers to know that there is more to Italian fiction than Elena Ferrante.
Congratulations to France and Belgium for taking first place and second place in this summer's World Cup! The Washington Post looked at nationalism, immigration, and integration in soccer as a model, claiming that the [second-place finishing] Belgian team "can point the way toward an ideal of successful, merit-based integration while boosting national pride as they play sublime soccer before billions of viewers."
Culturebox asks whether the booksellers on the Seine in Paris are part of France’s cultural patrimony.
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