Alternative for Germany (AfD) claims that its informant website, called “Neutral Schools Online,” is an essential tool to prevent indoctrination in classrooms and protect freedom of speech.
Students and parents can use the portals, which were launched in Hamburg last month and are likely to be introduced in other states, to send information about educators violating the country’s neutrality code, which forbids them from expressing their political views in classrooms. The AfD said it had received more than 1,000 reports within days of its launch.
According to the AfD, the offences could range from encouraging pupils to take part in anti-AfD demonstrations to “crude criticism of the AfD to incorrect and subjective learning materials.”
But critics say the move is reminiscent of the authoritarian methods of the government of Nazi Germany and the spying practices of the Stasi, the Communist-era secret police, which ran a network of at least 10,000 child informants.
Katarina Barley, the country’s Justice Minister, criticised the measure, saying it was “a method of dictators” and warned that it would cultivate a culture of unease and suspicion.
She told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that “a party using this to expose disagreeable teachers … reveals a lot about its own understanding of democracy.”
The AfD entered parliament for the first time this year after finishing third in the 2017 parliamentary elections. It has since become the leading opposition party after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats formed a centrist ruling coalition.
“Anyone who incites students to spy on their teachers brings Stasi methods back to Germany,” Ms Barley wrote on Twitter. “Organised denunciation intends to set us against each other and drive a wedge into society.”
Education Minister Susanne Eisenmann also warned that the idea was “completely wrong and harmful”, adding that teachers need to be able to present opposing points of view in the classroom, in order to teach pupils how democracy works.
“On the contrary, this grasp in the instrument box of authoritarian systems shows that some actors in Baden-Württemberg are in dire need of political education.”
The AfD rejects the criticism and the Stasi parallel, and insists that the online site is designed to help parents who feel their children are being manipulated by schools and teachers who have perceived left-wing tendencies.