Cultural development is a basic right, says former Goethe-Institut head | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 18.11.2010
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Cultural development is a basic right, says former Goethe-Institut head

The right to cultural development should be set in the constitution, argues the Goethe-Institut's former director, Hilmar Hoffmann. The government should do more to support cultural education at a young age, he says.

Sheet music

There are plenty of cultural opportunities in Germany's cities, says Hoffmann

Deutsche Welle: Mr Hoffmann, do you think there are enough museums, community cinemas and other similar cultural institutions in Germany, or is there room for improvement?

Hilmar Hoffmann: There is definitely room for improvement. It's always only the big cities which have an extensive collection of museums - like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart or Frankfurt.

Hilmar Hoffmann

Hilmar Hoffmann would like to see culture mentioned in the German constitution

But think about the people in the countryside, which is a large majority of the population. They didn't grow up with equal opportunity because they never had the chance to take advantage of cultural institutions.

"Culture for everyone" was your maxim during your time as head of the Goethe-Institut. Now that you are retired, how do you view the slogan "culture for everyone" in light of your current reality?

Statistically speaking, culture for everyone is still a work in progress. I would say that more than 15 percent of the population does not regularly participate in cultural events. That's why it's important for schools to make aesthetic development and musical training part of their curriculum, so that every young person has the opportunity to grow up with equal opportunities and become a participant in the cultural offerings that they are paying for with their tax money.

Where do you see the biggest deficits? Is it the schools that don't see it as a priority, or is there just not enough money from the state?

I would say, the deficit can be found in politics, which has failed to bring about the necessary changes in the school curriculum.

A young girl looks at a picture on the wall at a pre-school

Cultural development should start young, says Hoffmann

Here in the state of Hesse, for example, we had a culture commission with great partners, and, in our concluding report, we stated that the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education finally had to start working together to start providing cultural education in schools. And that's true not just for Hesse but for all the states. And as long as those are competing ministries - competing as far as funding goes - things won't change.

You mentioned politics. There has also been an ongoing discussion about making culture national policy - something which you have advocated. Why is that?

Because all kinds of special interests are secured in the constitution. Sport, for example, is considered a basic right. Why not culture? On the other hand, it is stated in the constitution that we are a Kulturstaat (cultural state). That's why it is the state's job to ensure the opportunity for cultural development from the very beginning of our individuation - that is, in pre-school.

Interview: Jochen Kuerten (kjb)

Editor: Greg Wiser

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