Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/607

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THE GERMANS AT SCHOOL

of reaction has set in in America. The tradition that German university work represents the highest standards of scholarship has recently been roughly handled by skeptics. Some have claimed that German university research is too specialistic and on that account too narrow. The German scholars lack the wide perspective which has been characteristic of so much of the best English work. Others insist that the structure of the German publications is formless. They long for the French polish and clearness. Some blame the German professors for a certain remoteness from life and feel that American scholarship will abolish this kind of "scholarship for scholars" and will again unite science and life. It was inevitable that such a reaction should occur. The young generation of American university instructors found a situation entirely different from that which their teachers had found some decades before. Great American universities had been built up in the meantime and had created a new spirit of scholarly independence which naturally took the turn of a slight opposition to the former masters. But such reactions are only passing moods. Those who know German scholarship to-day have no doubt that all these accusations never have had less justice than at present. Certainly German scholarship is specialistic, and there will never be any true scholarship which is not founded on specialistic work. Any thorough research must be specialistic, and research without thoroughness can never secure lasting results. But the work of the great German naturalists and historians has shown at all times the tendency to wide generalizations, and the present day perhaps more than the last half century is again filled with broad philosophical endeavor. Still more unfair is the often repeated cry against the formlessness of German scholarship. Not every doctor's thesis can be a thing of beauty, but perhaps there has never been a time in which the German language has been so shaped by aesthetic ideals. The German bookbinders were for a long while notorious for tasteless covers, but the general opinion in recent international exhibitions has been that now no country makes more beautiful bindings than Germany. This artistic improvement of the book is not confined to the cover. The content of the German book shows a literary finish in structure and style which ought not to be overlooked. Finally, as to the aloofness of German scholarship, the triumphs of modern German technique and medical therapy speak loudly enough of the comradeship between science and life. And how could it be otherwise in a country which has become so mark-hunting and practical. The best proof of the injustice of such accusations and attacks lies in the number of American students who still feel attracted by the German academic atmosphere in spite of the wonderful development of American higher institutions of learning.

Last winter there were three hundred American students in Ger-