Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/460

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This is especially the case in those branches the substance of which is all strange to the newly entered student, and is endowed with an oppressive copiousness of new ideas, as, for example, in jurisprudence and medicine. Precisely in these branches is the course of the student in the first semester often decisive for his whole development, and indeed for his whole after life. For in them one lecture is built methodically on another, and no one can properly understand the superstructure without having become acquainted with the substructure in all its parts. Else there arises a piece-work of fragmentary knowledge without proper foundation. All the teacher's later influence can not fill up the gaps.

Doubtless the difficulty of the matter contributes to make beginners waver in their zeal; and yet it is the beginners on the gaining of whom all depends. Does the responsibility for a pause in learning occurring so often in the first semester rest upon the university teaching? Such a reproach can not be raised, even on the strictest investigation, and it has not been raised to my knowledge, at least not in a corresponding generality. On the contrary, all the considerations lead to the question of preparatory training. This point is at this instant engaging most extensive consideration. The attention of all cultivated persons, and no less of the Government, is directed to the question of what changes in the instruction in the higher schools are demanded in order to reach that measure of preparatory training which can assure a wholesome progress in the studies of the universities. It would far pass the scope of my address to discuss this highly important question in all its parts. The debate goes on concerning the subjects of instruction, the amount of time which should be given to each, the method of teaching, and finally the amount of work to be laid upon the students, and also upon the teacher. The experience of the university teacher has been large enough to enable him to form a judgment upon the majority of these questions. It will be sufficient for the present discussion to touch upon only a few of the less frequently mentioned points.

The university teacher has before everything else two demands to make upon the higher schools, which are in close connection with each other. He should require that the abiturients bring with them the desire to learn and the capacity for independent work. The proof of positive knowledge of any particular sort should give way to these demands. Individual faculties will make various requisitions with reference to them; but it will be hard to show a serious difference concerning the main point.

The desire to learn is originally present in every normally endowed child. We daily witness the joy of the infant when he succeeds in comprehending a new thing or perceives some new