THE partisans of classical studies had a Godsend a couple of years ago, in the shape of a report emanating from the professors of the University of Berlin, and corroborated by the action of other universities, which it was claimed ended the controversy on the question of modern against classical studies. It was represented that the Germans had tried out the issue in the fairest way, and on an extensive scale. They had two systems of schools which prepared young men for the universities—one the gymnasiums, devoted mainly to classical studies; and the other the real schools, modern in origin, and devoted chiefly to modern and scientific studies: and it was said that, after an ample trial of the two modes of mental preparation, the unanimous verdict of the faculty, including the scientific professors, was in favor of the classical preparation as superior to the scientific preparation of the young men. The statement as it appeared was very telling. The New York "Evening Post" gave an account of the report soon after its appearance, and said: "It will hardly fail to be regarded as the most powerful plea ever made in behalf of classical studies," and Mr. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., has been reproached from all the classical quarters for venturing to open his mouth in criticism of our dead-language studies after the German universities had given to the world their conclusive judgment upon the question.
We confess to having had no little distrust of the case as it was thus presented. It was sufficiently obvious at the time that we were not in possession of all the facts necessary to form an intelligent opinion on its merits. We know enough of the spirit and tactics of the classical party, in this country and in England, to justify some suspicion of the impartiality of their proceedings in Germany, and we accordingly deferred any discussion of the Berlin report until more information should become available for the purpose. Many questions arose of decisive significance to which answers could not be obtained, and it seemed futile to debate a question while in the dark regarding its most important conditions.
But the information wanted is now forthcoming, and it well pays for waiting. An American gentleman, both interested in the subject and very competent to investigate it, himself a cultivated classical scholar and educated in Germany, has made the subject a matter of special and careful inquiry, and gives the result in the opening article of the present "Monthly." He has been in Germany during the past year, expressly to study certain aspects of its university system, and has visited a large number of its great educational institutions, and conversed with many of the professors in relation to the nature and actual significance of the real-school controversy, and the action that has been taken upon the subject. The Berlin report is also itself published in English by Ginn & Heath, of Boston, so that both sides of the case are now open to all who care about the question. Those who read the paper of Professor James—and none can afford to pass it by—will find that the uses to which that report has been put in this country are entirely unjustifiable. It turns out, as we suspected, that there is a good deal more to be taken into consideration than has been represented, and that the German document is a thoroughly one-sided affair.
We have to remember, in the first place, that partisanship on this question