Knowledge and Integrity

Integrity is valued very highly in Germany. And the German are considered to be of high integrity, especially when it comes to their work.

German integrity was damaged by recent scandals in academia and medicine. The German Minister of Defense, Carl-Theodor Guttenberg, resigned from office after well-grounded claims cited him of plagiarism in his doctoral thesis of years ago.

Since then, another high-ranking German politician has resigned from office for the same reason. And a second member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet has resigned under investigation for plagiarism in her Ph.D. thesis. The German academic community is enraged. The integrity of their work has been called into question. The German public is no less disgusted.

A network of medical physicians is also under investigation for corruption. Surgeons have been paying bribes to general practitioners – family doctors – for referring their patients to them for operations, many of which were unnecessary.

Shocking for the German public. At a minimum, Germans expect the highest standards of integrity from the academic and medical professions.

Conscientious, diligent: Organizations with flat hierarchies rely on conscientious and diligent employees. These are people with very high standards, who under no circumstances tolerate suboptimal work, shortcuts or easy approaches, even those which could benefit them personally and professionally. The Germans take pride in being known for their diligence, scruples, honesty.

Figures of speech: ‘Etwas mit seinem Gewissen vereinbaren.’ To be in agreement, in line with one’s own conscience. ‘Mit bestem Wissen und Gewissen.’ With best knowledge and conscience. ‘Gewissensbisse.’ Literally conscience bite.

Skepticism. German have a reputation for being skeptical. But the term ‘skepsis’ is positive in Germany. It means to first ask critical questions before agreeing to something. And until those questions are answered, Germans remain doubtful. Their skepsis is often misunderstood as rejection. It is simply distance, reticence, reluctance, caution.

Figures of speech: ‘Bedenken in den Wind schlagen.’ To toss doubt or misgivings to the wind. ‘Den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben.’ Don’t praise the day before the night has arrived. ‘Nicht auf die leichte Schulter nehmen.’ Literally don‘t accept things on a light shoulder, meaning don’t underestimate the situation.