THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
|SCIENCE VERSUS THE CLASSICS.|
PROFESSOR IN THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA.
AT the present stage of the discussion as to the value of the training in the Latin and Greek languages and their literature, the testimony of Professor Preyer, of the University of Jena, is not without importance. Professor Preyer is interested, and he not alone among German professors, in the question of "health and vigor versus disease and weakness" of the German youth. In an article "On the Preservation of Health," published in the "Deutsche Rundschau," he made the following pertinent remarks:
"The preservation of health, of the power of sight and muscle, of the readiness of the mind to receive impressions from nature and man, of freshness and youthful elasticity, is undoubtedly of much more consequence for the age of our graduates than a knowledge, no matter how thorough, of history and the dead languages. A first-class German college (gymnasium) requires at present the reading of Sophocles, Homer, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Plutarch, Herodotus, Xenophon, Tacitus, Horace, Caesar, Cicero, Livy, Virgil, Sallust, Ovid, and I find among its text-books Greek, Latin, and Hebrew grammars, a Latin phrase-book, an ecclesiastical history, and several other books, which, to be understood, require an amount of brain-work out of proportion to the results obtained. I find there the very same Latin and Greek authors which I read myself at school some twenty-four to twenty-eight years ago. The present stand-point of the humanistic gymnasia is, in spite of some attempts at adaptation to the new time, essentially the mediæval one, which was justifiable several centuries ago, because there was then nothing better than the ancient classics, and particularly no exact natural science, to furnish means of discipline. At present, however, there are many books which, both as regards form and contents, are better fitted for the instruction of young people than the authors enumerated. Why are not extracts read from the writings of Galilei, Descartes, Newton, Bacon, Faraday, Luther, Harvey, Frederick the Great, Leibnitz, Kant, Haller? At the age of our graduates it is, besides, of the greatest importance that there be less reading and writing, less taxing of the memory, more exercise of the muscular system. Not learning, but health and character, should be the main objects in education and schooling, and therefore the education of the senses should be emphasized. Only a philologist will deny that grammar, with its many exceptions, is rather a heavy ballast for the memory than a proper means for the training of the logical faculty. The student involuntarily becomes accustomed to admit exceptions also in the case of other rules, ethical laws, the laws of nature, and in matters of his own experience. The elements of mechanics and chemistry—