No centralised control of education in federalist Switzerland

by Dr iur Marianne Wüthrich

On 16 June 2015 the “House of Academies” was opened by a ceremony in the presence of 50 invited guests. Does this remind you of anything? Seven years ago, on 18 August 2008, the “House of Cantons”1 had been opened vis-ŕ-vis the Federal Parliament. In both Bernese houses one pursues the same objective: Together with various Federal Offices and the Conference of Cantonal Governments (CCG) one wants to eliminate federalism and direct democracy in order to make our entire lives manageable and controllable – and ultimately EU-compatible.
Let us first look at a current project undertaken by the House of the Academies. Then we present the various players and their closely interwoven network.

The House of Academies’ current project: summer camp “Cinderella”

On July 14, 2015 in the 12 o‘clock news there was a report about a summer camp for girls in Engelberg. The Foundation Science et Cité organises such camps, in order to “get children interested in natural sciences and humanities”, said Radio SRF.
Great idea, you think, finally something is done to ensure that more children and young people are interested in the MINT professions (mathematics, computer science, natural science and technology), which are so much required by the Swiss  business location.
Now, in Engelberg 29 girls aged 7 to 17, spent a whole week producing bath balls, lip balm, beauty beads and peeling (skin care products), “matching the camp motto: ‘Cinderella’, the fairy tale of Cinderella preparing for her life as a princess. With the help of Cinderella the girls [...] are to get involved into the world of big science.”
Well, what out of the world of big science does stay with them? Statements of the girls: “I like to knead and so, because actually I like baking, and that indeed includes the kneading, so I think it‘s cool.” – “I liked the trip, and the walking.” – “It‘s funny and all, but I would rather prefer reading  to walking.” – “The cool thing is that you get to know new girls.” – “The whole camp is really cool, because you can mostly take home what you have produced here, you have learned a lot here and you can make a lot of experiments.”. In short: The camp was cool. (Source: Radio SRF, “Rendez-vous am Mittag” (Rendez-vous at noon), 21.7.2015)

A lesson in constructivism

The question, how Switzerland as a business location will come to more MINT-professionals following such youth camps, is of greatest interest. In other words: How was the camp used in order to make the young participants – or at least part of them – familiar with the different training routes to MINT professions such as chemist or chemical laboratory assistant? How were further contact and further support in selecting their career offered to those girls, who had “taken the bait”?
Now: None of that did take place, since adults entering into real relationship with the kids do not match the view of the constructivist ideology. The project manager: “The goal is to stimulate interest and so to open this door. The child then decides whether to go through that door or not.” In reality, a child is not able to make such a decision without the adult taking it by the hand and setting off on the way through the door together with him or her. Only that would be the way to help the young girls to take the adults’ interest and delight in natural sciences as a model, and only by acquiring some specialised basic knowledge they would be able to get an insight into the field of chemistry, for example. Then some of them would remember this encouraging experience, whether later or even at once, – because some of the camp participants are indeed 17 years old! – so it is about the question of vocational choice. The project leader explicitly rejects this kind of expectations: “It is not about recruiting the next natural scientists here. The idea is to show this world somehow, and to give an insight into this world as otherwise they do not have the opportunity to get it in their lives.” (Radio SRF, 21.7.2015)
Giving the children an insight into a Cinderella wonderland and then sending them back home – that is indeed very discouraging! Will they in their later jobs belong to those 80 per cent, wo are allowed to fill lip balm into jars?
In any case, the hope of Science et Cité that the participants of the summer camp “by means of Cinderella will come closer to science in a playful way,” is not going to be fulfilled – not on the basis of constructivism – not by means of Curriculum 21.

The crux of the educational sovereignty of the cantons: The Federal Council brings the academies into play

Three years ago, in a parliamentary motion, a National Councillor demanded, the Federal Council should draw up a support programme for the MINT areas at schools. In its reply, the Federal Council stated “that the decisive phase of life for a decision for or against MINT is between the first years of life and 15 years of age, ie in the area of ​​compulsory education. These educational institutions, however, are in the jurisdiction of the cantons. The Federal Government has no competence to act there.”2
But instead of respecting the educational sovereignty of the cantons, the Federal Council provided themselves with an indirect empowerment to act, an intervention surreptitiously: Admittedly, it abstains “from launching an additional programme for the MINT promotion at schools. However, it aims at better coordinating the many existing individual projects and then at closing potential gaps. The academies, which will obtain a coordination role for the MINT range” shall take over this task [...]3
All right? Since there is no constitutional basis for the intervention of the Federal Government in the area of ​​the elementary school, the Federal Council installed an outpost, a player outside the federal administration. We already know this approach from other sectors, for example health care.

Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences

The Foundation Science et Cité (SEC)4, which carried out the Cinderella summer camps, is one of the organisations that reside at Laupenstrasse in Berne in the House of Academies, together with the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT), the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (SAGW), the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS) and the umbrella organisation Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and the Centre for Technology Assessment (TA-SWISS).
The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (a +) are a think tank, which is juridically organised as an association in accordance to Art. 60ff of the Civil Code (CC), but in accordance with its statutes (latest version dated 8 May 2015) it reaches far beyond the usual activities of an association under private law. A powerful network with great influence: a “group organised in about 160 specialised societies, about one hundred permanent committees and 29 cantonal societies, alltogether an estimated amount of 100,000 persons”5, all of them controlled and monitored by the headquarters in the House of Academies.
And: The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences are neither financially nor in terms of their mandate independent of the Federal Government, as becomes obvious by its statutes.6

Comment on the statutes of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences  (a +)

1. Claim to represent the sole truth (infallibility)

The “idea to redesign the relations between the sciences and society as a whole and to assign a central function to the four academies in this field” arose, by its own account, “because in times of growing scientific skepticism the sciences as a whole need a consistent representation”.7 [Emphasis Current Concerns]
This statement alone is a monstrosity! Since the modern age it is well-known that the claim of any scientist or any organisation to represent the sole truth would mean the end of all science! Once again the globalised world shows its merciless grimace of dictatorship and lack of freedom.

2. Federal Council and Cantonal Governments violate civil rights and liberties of citizens

If it were just about the expression of opinion of an association in private, it would be to the academies’ discretion to convey their biased views concerning issues related to social and science policy to the society. (Art. 4 par. 1) And they could also declare what topics they considered as “socially relevant” and how they intended to define “ethically justified responsibility” (Art. 5). But a + is not an association like a football club or a brass orchestra:
Because the association of academies

  • “is in its cooperation closely connected with science-funding authorities and institutions” (Art. 4 par. 4), with different offices and directorates of the federal administration and with the Conferences of Cantonal Governments.
  • is largely funded with our tax money (Art. 22; we would very be interested to know, which “third parties” besides the Federal Government are sponsoring this think tank).

By incorporating the biased perspective of the academies in their administrative and legislative work, such as consultation responses (Art. 16a), by presenting the statements of the academies, inter alia with phrases like: the science, the scientists, the experts are of the opinion…, the federal administration and the Conferences of Cantonal Governments violate a whole bunch of personal rights of all other scientifically active people in Switzerland, – of  all those citizens, who prefer to have other scientific views different from those of the academies – as well as the political rights of the voters:

  • Art. 20 of the Constitution, guarantee of the freedom of scientific teaching and research
  • Art. 8 of the Constitution, commandment of equal rights and ban on discrimination
  • Art. 9 of the Constitution, protection against arbitrariness
  • Art. 16 of the Constitution, freedom of expression and freedom of information
  •  Art. 34, par. 2, protection of free formation of will (as part of political rights)

We as citizens are called up to require compliance to fundamental rights by the Executive in the Federal Government and the Cantons!

3. In particular: controlling the scientific actors and shaping of public opinion

That the structures of the academies originate from places further to the West, becomes evident in provisions such as: “Controlling takes place by a consistent management and supervision” (Art. 7; similar in Art. 5). In Switzerland as a direct democracy we have nothing to do with strategically controlling and governing think tanks. The control and monitoring of its members goes particularly far within a+: it is not only checked whether their statements are really nicely uniform, but it is also “recommended” to them, what topics they are to elaborate (Art. 5). Those, who don‘t comply, can “be excluded with immediate effect” (Art. 2 par. 5). Oops!
The academies themselves are not bound “in disciplinary terms nor by any university”; that means, they consist of former administration officials and professors, who are neither subject to the disciplinary regulations of the federal administration, nor to those of universities. For their own management team “Open and pluralistic understanding of science” is therefore practically without restriction, but for everyone else involved in this authoritarian system, it is allowed only as far as  the “unified control and supervision” allows it.
The following poses a particular threat for direct democratic Switzerland: the influence of the academies is intended to capture the entire population. “Fostering the dialogue between science and society” as is it is harmlessly phrased in the statutes. (Art. 5c) In the “portrait” it sounds less innocuous: the academies are “[...]” best suited, to become active in an efficient way in the area of early detection, in ethics as well as in the dialogue with the society”.8 To become efficiently active in this way means a serious and unconstitutional interference with regard to the voters’ free opinion forming, because here the politically correct versions of mainstream press opinions are forced on them by “science”.

4. International networking

Internationally, the academies are especially well interconnected in the scientific bodies of the EU: they are today member of the European Science Foundation (ESF), the All European Academies (Allea), the European Academies of Science Advisory Council (EASAC), the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), the InterAcademy Council (IAC).9 A detailed investigation about the individual organisations goes beyond the scope of this article, but could be done if necessary.

5. Awarding of contracts to like-minded people

According to Art. 8 par. 1c. of the statutes, the academies can “to ensure the strategic management of the coordinated tasks, grant mutually orders to members and third parties and delegate tasks against clearing or tender”.
Can you imagine something like that: former professors and administrative officials and their assistants in the academies give orders to carefully selected right-minded persons or associations without public tender; on behalf of public authorities “the politically correct theory” is published, and the contracting authority in the federal administration can issue government programmes according to the “latest scientific findings”, Parliament and the electorate remain sidelined or are bypassed in their decisions? In the private sector such procedure is called “nepotism”, for the authorities in the constitutional state, this is plainly and simply unlawful.

Conclusion

It has been known for a long time: It is outrageous that the executive authorities think of tricks to manipulate voters (fortunately they do not succeed in all cases). We also have long noticed that the pseudo science-based, politically correct “truths” that are circulating in Switzerland as well as in the EU, are controlled from somewhere else. Now we know: In the House of Academies there resides an opinion manipulation headquarters, wrapped in scientific guise, tightly enmeshed with the government and funded by the federal treasury, to permeate the population with their politically correct mainstream theories. This surpasses the permissible limits!

Prime example “national educational strategy”

The “Plea for a national educational strategy”10 of 2014 is a prime example of the subtle interplay between the federal, the democratically not legitimised EDK (Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education)11 and the “Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences”, which were used as editors of “arguments” and which are beyond any democratic control.
To emphasise the supremacy of the Confederation in the educational system, as of 1.1.2013, the “Federal Department of Economic Affairs (EVD)” has been renamed as the “Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (WBF)”. All areas of education – some of which were previously settled in the “Federal Department of the Interior (EDI)” – have been concentrated in this department. The centralisers set to work under the leadership of the WBF and the assistance of the EDK to engineer a “coherent and coordinated national educational strategy”. As a basis they utilised the very openly formulated educational Art. 61a of the year 200612, to abolish the educational sovereignty of the cantons: “By the new Constitution Art. 61a, the political and legal foundations of the education system were redefined by the sovereign. Therefore the Federal Government now has an enhanced responsibility in education.” (Plea, p. 13).
Therefore the academies were commissioned to design a “national educational strategy”, which is then to be applied as a so-called objective scientific expert perspective in the programmes of the Federal Council and EDK. This strategy is to be eventually used as a basis for any future legislative projects. In New-German it is called “educational monitoring”. Incidentally in the working group “Future Education Switzerland”, whose members wrote the “Plea” on behalf of the academies, the former Zurich Cantonal Councillor Ernst Buschor takes a seat among others, who in the Canton of Zurich once enforced his unspeakable reform programmes in health and education. Today the whole of Switzerland is suffering from the consequences.

Cantons as henchmen of the control centre– or: Who doesn’t like Swiss federalism?

The “Plea for a national educational strategy” seeks to achieve a serious paradigm shift for the federally organised and diverse Swiss school system:
The leadership in the Federal Government and the EDK – that is, the reign of the executive – aims at introducing the centrally controlled standardisation and the reduction of cantonal diversity.
The cantons are to be relegated to be mere recipients of orders and henchmen of the control centre: “As part of a national educational strategy, a federal organisation can create per se a good basis for the necessary adaptation, specification and contextualisation of strategic objectives on site.” (Plea, p.21)
What is the Swiss Academies of Arts and Science’s conception of federalism: “A small-scale particularism, amplified by  general federalism leads to a modernisation at different speeds. Also the regional language differences are accentuating. Compared to many other countries, therefore the Swiss educational system is confusing for many who are involved and affected.” (Plea, p.17) Indeed, our 26 cantonal educational systems are confusing for a national control centre – it happens to be in a federal state. Modernisation at different speeds is also true. For example, with respect to the inter-cantonal agreement HarmoS, which ten cantons did not join. Who cares? In any case the Swiss population does not care. That precisely reveals the diversity in our state. To discredit this diversity as a “small-scale particularism” and even attack (!) the diversity of the four linguistic cultures, unmasks an intolerable lack of federalist sentiment and indicates that there are other objectives intended.

The actual purpose of the national educational strategy: “alignment with supranational practices”

Under the title “position and foundation of a national educational strategy in the context of national and international actors” the interested reader learns, that the centralisation of our federalist education shall occur for completely different reasons: “In a mobile, economically and politically interconnected environment, the education and training systems are also a part of a globalised world.” Therefore, “national educational systems must be designed [...] in particular with regard to a sectoral globalising labour market in alignment with supranational practices. [...] The active participation in the international and supranational efforts and developments is a prerequisite for the strengthening of our national educational system.” (Plea, p.22)
It is well-known by now that before aligning with supranational practices the Swiss educational system was in incomparably better shape than the education killers from Brussels or overseas such as Pisa and Bologna! Does it mean “strengthening” when due to orders from outside our good elementary schools, vocational schools, secondary schools and universities are being run down? This is pure cynicism, because such strategies promotes a 20:80 school system. 20 per cent of the pupils will be pushed so that they can fill the executive jobs in a globalised labour market. The rest will be kept busy and happy at their schools with gimmicks and “self-directed” internet surfing and are at best useful for the Swiss economy as back staff, in the worst case as social welfare recipients.
Who benefits from a school dumbed down that way? Unfortunately, there are many actors in the educational area nowadays, who are not so much interested in our youth learning anything useful at school: “Switzerland has established itself as a committed and innovative partner in this area. Also position and quality of a well-known educational research depends significantly on this international exchange and cooperation in supranational institutions such as the OECD or the EU [...].” (Plea, p.22). In short: Some education activists have gained a plush armchair in the relevant bodies of the OECD and the EU and are keen on keeping it.

What are your feelings on direct democracy?

The authors of the Plea are obviously aware that their national educational strategy does not correspond to the  school system as most Swiss want to have it. Rather than submitting their plans to the vote of the people by a referendum, they think about how they can best elude the people’s will: “Its [project] implementation is likely to trigger a fierce debate and perhaps a politically motivated resistance. Therefore, it is particularly important that this process is initiated and supported broadly by civil society.” (Plea p.15) – “An informed discussion about the fundamental orientation and the overall objectives of the educational system cannot keep up with the attention spurts and waves of public exasperation.” (Plea, pp. 18)
It is all the more important that we citizens counteract, as we are currently doing in many cantons with popular initiatives against Curriculum 21 and for an exit from HarmoS.    •

1    See box “The House of Cantons”
2     12.3622 Motion Favre Laurent
3     12.3622 Motion Favre Laurent
4     See box „Science et Cite“
5     Swiss Academies of Arts and Science, – Past Future – Swiss Academies of Arts and Science, page 3
6     Statutes of Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, 8 May 2015
7     Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, Detailed portrait, p. 3
8     Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, Detailed portrait, p. 7
9    Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, Detailed portrait, p. 9
10    Plea for a national education strategy, written by the working group “Future Education Switzerland”, Publisher: Swiss Academies of Arts and Science, 2014 (cited: Plea)
11    One each member of the government from the 26 cantons sits in the EDK.
12    Federal Constitution Art. 61a Educational area Switzerland

House of Cantons: reign of the executive instead of Swiss federalism

mw. Reminder: The foundation of the Conference of Cantonal Governments (CCG) has been arranged with regard to the planned EEA membership, because the cantons, they too, wanted to participate in case Switzerland was to be integrated in the EU. Despite the rejection of the EEA membership by Swiss voters, the CCG was nevertheless established in 1993 and has been serving the Federal Government for over 20 years as a “common voice” of the cantons, not only in foreign policy. Because there is also a GDK (Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health), an EDK (Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Education), etc. – according to the pattern of the ministerial conferences in the EU.

The CCG – henchman for a smooth integration of Switzerland into the EU

In its positioning of 24 June 2011, the CCG speaks plain language: It is primarily with concern to the European policy of the Federal Government in which “the cantons”, say some cantonal executive members, want to participate “with one voice”. The CCG accommodates to an “increasing deepening of relations between Switzerland and the EU”. In its earlier positioning of 23 March 2007, it was even clearer:
“Because of domestic and foreign policy reasons in short and medium terms, the accession to the EU continues indeed to be out of the question, but in the opinion of the Cantonal Governments it has definitely to be kept open as a longer term option.” One would expect from our Cantonal Governments that they take note: We citizens do not elect our Cantonal Government in order to “speak with one voice with the other 25 Cantonal Governments “, but expect that it sets itself the goal of incorporating the concerns of our canton. For this purpose federalism has been installed. And, as long as the sovereign says No to EU membership, it is the bounden duty of our cantonal authorities – and, incidentally, the federal ones! – to comply with this requirement.

Foundation Science et Cité

mw. A notable member of the association Swiss Academies of Arts and Science is the Foundation Science et Cité. It describes itself as a “central national network unit in the field of science communication. [...]The nationally operating foundation promotes the dialogue between science and society.” It “specialises in low-threshold and innovative forms of communication, if possible with direct contact between scientists and citizens. Science et Cité deals with pertinent, socially relevant topics and encourages the knowledge and the opinion-forming at the service of democracy.” (Source: www.science-et-cite.ch)
We have already seen one example of “low-threshold” communication in the style of Science et Cité: the summer camp Cinderella with the lofty goal of letting the young participants have a look through the portal of entry to science, for once in their lives.
In light of the findings about the academies it should be noted that considering their claim to infallibility the “dialogue” with citizens could quickly degenerate into manipulation – providing that there any Swiss citizens willing to engage in it. At any rate, the foundation’s arrogant tone does not conform to the Swiss mindset of all the citizens’ being on the same eye level: “low-threshold forms of communication”, “direct contact” between scientists and citizens! In direct-democratic Switzerland scientists do not belong to some higher caste, here everyone has exactly one vote. Here with us, there is only a direct dialogue between citizens, which often takes place on the highest level.

How did this foundation come into existence?

According to its website, the Foundation Science et Cité was founded in 1998 by the Swiss Scientific Academies SAHS, SAMS, SCNAT, SATW, the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF, the Swiss Trade and Industry Association (today economiesuisse) and the private foundation Silva Casa at the suggestion of the State Secretariat for Science and Research (now SERI). So this was an amalgamation of public and private actors. But why a foundation? This legal form is advisable when there are assets dedicated to a specific purpose. The endowment is managed by a Board of Trustees, whose competences are limited to the fulfilment of the foundation’s purpose.

Foundation assets

It is however very interesting to note the origin of Science et Cité’s foundation assets. According to Article 3 of the statutes of 2 June 2003 (revised on 7 December 2011) the four Academies each contributed 25,000 Swiss francs, the Swiss Trade and Industry Association 100,000 Swiss francs, and the Silva Casa Foundation 1 million Swiss francs. Thus the lion’s share of the assets is the million given by a very generous benefactor and the other donations are small change in comparison.
Google provides only scant information about the Silva Casa Foundation. From moneyhouse (which gives commercial and economic information) we may gather the following facts: It was active between 1992 amd 2006 and headquartered in Berne, incidentally at the address of the globally oriented major US corporation PricewaterhouseCoopers. Its purpose was “to sell all paintings and objets d’art which had passed into its ownership within ten years, as reasonably as possible, to invest the proceeds from these sales, as well as any assets gained in other ways, safely and favourably, and to pay the capital and the income derived from it to the beneficiaries within ten years.” And this foundation had just 1 million Swiss francs left to shell out to Science et Cité, of all things? Silva Casa certainly had nothing to do with science.

And to cap it all off: Who presides over the Board of Trustees?

“The knowledge of today is the error of tomorrow. This keeps science alive, but also requires constant dialogue with the population.”
This quintessential remark was made by the President of Science et Cité’s Governing Board Thomas Zeltner, former director of the Federal Office of Public Health, whose activities there have already been presented in a critical light in several issues of Current Concerns.