Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/31

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21
GERMAN TESTIMONY ON CLASSICS QUESTION.

University in Berlin reported that the graduates of the practical-schools were poorer material than those sent up from the older schools, and assigned theoretical reasons for the deficiency. This report has been widely quoted in this country as deciding a question on which it had little, if any, bearing—namely, whether Latin and Greek are the best studies for early mental training. Great capital was likewise made of the fact that Professor Hofmann, who is a chemist, on assuming the rectorship of the University of Berlin, reiterated the conclusions of the faculty, and apparently acknowledged the pre-eminence claimed for the classics; but it is quite significant that the classical men failed to get any such public utterance from him during his visit to the United States last fall as they got from Lord Coleridge and Matthew Arnold. The numerous causes and considerations which led to the adverse report of the Berlin faculty have been ably set forth by Professor E. J. James, in an article on "The Classical Question in Germany," published in "The Popular Science Monthly" for January, 1884.

But the impression still persists that this decision of the principal state university in favor of the classical-schools and against the practical-schools, has something of the import of a German Government manifesto, and of a final answer to the question, upon which the culture and scholarship of that country are agreed. This, however, is a very great mistake. So far from quieting it, the celebrated Berlin report did not have sufficient influence in its own country to materially check the agitation of the classics question. The controversy over the traditional classical study, of which the practical-schools are a product, had raged long and hotly, taking a profound hold of the public mind, and the discussion goes on without abatement of interest or vigor, as may be inferred from the following introduction to a pamphlet[1] written nine months after the presentation of the report:

"The present condition of our secondary-school system must incite every thinking person to serious reflection. We see a school for the cultivated, aiming almost exclusively at acquaintance with classical antiquity, while an indescribable ignorance of the ancient civilization prevails among almost all classes; an eternal dispute in the daily press, and in most circles, as to whether Latin or Greek or both are indispensable in education; and a vast gulf between the two prevailing cultures, due to the difference between the ideals of the classical-school and of the practical-school. There is also a restless fluctuation in the prescriptions for the examination of one-year volunteers; a violent contest in regard to whether admission to the study of medicine shall be confined to classical-school graduates; and, finally, a decrease, perceptible to the superficial observer even, of intellectual workers, which means a general abatement of intellectual life so far

  1. "Betrachtungen über unser classisches Schulwesen," Leipsic, Verlag von Ambr. Abel, 1881.