West Germany: Up from Medievalism

One of the rites of spring in West Germany last week was the dunking of young Germans in huge wooden tubs full of water. Like most such playful survivals of more leisurely times, this was the celebration of a medieval tradition more honored in modern Germany than anywhere else: the apprentice system. The water-soaked victims were printer apprentices who, having passed their spring journeyman examinations, submitted ritually to ''washing the stupidity away." Young ladies have entered the craft, too, since the war—and they were even more enthusiastically dunked.

Ancient Practice. While most countries depend on vocational schools to train their...

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