Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/319

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305
THE CLASSICAL QUESTION IN GERMANY.

or Homer without difficulty—not even in Yale College; and the boy who takes up a Greek author and reads him for the pleasure that he derives from the thought is an avis rara indeed. It is the writer's opinion, based upon considerable investigation and comparison of notes with Greek teachers, both in America and Germany, that it is impossible for the average boy who spends the average amount of time on his Greek up to the close of his sophomore year to acquire the power of reading it easily. It is a universally admitted fact in Germany that the gymnasiast, who spends so much more time and labor than the American college boy, never acquires this power; and it is as true of the former as it is of the latter that the last day of his school-life is the last day of his Greek reading, with the exception of those following a profession which calls for a knowledge of the Greek, such as the philologists, philosophers, and clergymen.

One other point is worthy of notice. President Porter attempts to show that the main reason for unsatisfactory results in Greek study is the bad teaching of Greek which prevailed long ago, and which he hints has almost disappeared. That the teaching of Greek is now superior to what it was a generation ago we are very ready to believe, but it can hardly be said that there is any greater agreement among teachers as to the proper object of Greek study and the advantages to be derived from it. A visit to several of our leading colleges last winter, and conversation with the professors and instructors in Greek, revealed to the writer the very greatest differences of opinion, not only among the various colleges, but even among the representatives of that study within the same college. It is evident that the teachers who believe that the most important object to be attained is the ability to read Greek at sight, and to understand it without having to translate it, will pursue a very different method from those who see in the "incidental training" in grammar, logic, philology, etc., the chief benefit from Greek study. And yet the writer recently found these two opposite views held by two men in the same department of one of our leading colleges, the one of whom had one division of the sophomore class and the other the second division. It is hardly necessary to say that, however much the second may have benefited his class, the first did not get his division to read Greek at sight.

The writer does not wish to be misunderstood. He is making no attack on the study of Greek. He remembers well the keen pleasure and, as he thinks, profit with which he pursued the study of Greek under an exceptionally able series of teachers, and his viris illustrissimis summas gratias agit, semperque habebit. But he realizes well the great importance of these educational questions, and that many of them can never be settled except by actual experiment. It is of the highest importance that all things should be fairly tried, and that held fast which is good. It is demanded in the interests of society that modern education have a fair chance by the side of classical edu-