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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/313

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THE CLASSICAL QUESTION IN GERMANY.

Would not our professors complain, as does one in Berlin, that they could not make so many references to Greece and Rome in their lectures, since some of their bearers would not understand them?

Let us suppose further that the above proposition should be accepted, and that after eight years a committee of the opponents of the measure should be called upon to express their opinions as to the results of the experiment. Could their report be considered as settling anything between the two opposing parties—the defenders and opponents of classical culture? Could the statement of these witnesses, that the students who, under such conditions, came from the scientific schools were not fully equal to those coming from the classical schools, be regarded as forever disposing of the claims of modern culture? The answer to this question can hardly be doubtful. And yet those who quote the Berlin report, as settling this much-vexed question, must maintain that such a report as the imaginary one above described would be satisfactory and conclusive.

We have thus far proceeded upon the assumption that the Berlin and similar reports were prepared by unprejudiced men, after a careful and detailed examination of the records made by the graduates of these two schools, and uninfluenced by extraneous considerations. We are compelled to believe, however, after a somewhat detailed investigation, that no one of these assumptions is true.

The men who were asked for their opinions on this subject were almost, if not absolutely, without exception graduates of the gymnasia. That lay, of course, in the nature of the case. Real-school graduates could not enter the universities until the spring of 1871. Allowing four years for the average length of time spent in the universities, the first real-school men were graduated in 1875, and in 1879 the first of these reports was prepared. As the candidates for admission to the university faculty must study one year more before entering the lowest grade of academic positions, and as promotions are very slow in Prussia, it would be a very rare thing for a graduate of 1875 to have reached a professorial chair by 1879. Those who made these reports were therefore men from rival schools, men imbued with prejudice in favor of the preparatory curriculum which they themselves had completed, men entirely under the sway of the traditional feeling in regard to the classics, and, of course, inclined to look with disfavor upon real-school men as representing a movement which questions the worth of classical culture. It is a well-known fact that there is usually a strong tendency for a man to attribute his general success in life to the particular things which he did, or left undone, and that it is an easy thing to regard an incidental as an essential. The worthy German professors are no exception to the rule. Many of them were so strongly convinced of the superiority of classical to modern training

    antagonism will be introduced into our national life, and our higher scholarship, that fairest flower of our civilization, will perish from the earth!"