Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/459

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443
LEARN AND SEARCH.

must be limits to this indulgence, for it is not really academical freedom as we understand it and as the state should understand it. “Academical freedom” does not mean “freedom in not-doing” or “freedom in pleasure, or in the gratification of the passions,” but “freedom to learn.” This is real academic freedom, and the university has been opened to students for its exercise.

Neither teachers nor scholars should forget that the object of the university is a very high one, namely, general scientific and ethical cultivation and full knowledge of the special branch pursued. Once at least in his life, at the close of his university career, the cultivated young man should be so far advanced that his knowledge, especially in his own branch, should correspond with the average condition of scientific research. If he does not succeed in that, there is little hope that he will ever become an honored specialist in the circle of his associates. He has every prospect of continuing a bungler all his life. Let no one, therefore, be deceived: only in exceptional cases does a period of freedom to learn like that normally possessed by the academical citizen return in later life.

To the exercise of this freedom the desire to learn is essential before everything else. Whoever desires to learn at the university will have to decide at once what and how he will learn. The indifferent pupil shirks this decision. His choice does not really concern the kind of learning; it wavers principally between learning and not-learning. The university possesses no means of compulsion to enforce learning. The means of discipline and regulation at its command are not adequate to secure participation in instruction; only the medical faculty has in its examinations obligatory provisions which are adapted to secure a certain order in the succession of lectures and exercises. Yet experience teaches that complete success can not be reached without the desire to learn. How can this desire be aroused?

In so large a university as ours the personal influence of the teacher on individual students is naturally very limited; only special conditions can enable him to form close relations with a smaller circle of hearers, or exceptionally with single hearers. His influence is, therefore, chiefly exercised upon the mass of students, and he often first learns from a later examination how little of this influence the individual has received. We can declare with pleasure that the number of hearers who followed the instruction with ardor and success, even with distinguished success, is not small. But it would be a mistake to conceal the fact that the complaint of the teacher very often is that his trouble has been in vain. Many go further, and assert that a progressive diminution in the work accomplished by the students may be remarked.