Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/609

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THE GERMANS AT SCHOOL

enness. But there is an almost surprising unity in the instinctive acknowledgment of the admirable methods of research and of highly advanced instruction. This cordial appreciation by those who stand in the midst of the German influences corresponds to the judgment of all who see German academic life with impartial eyes. There is an intensity in the search for truth and an eagerness for the development of the best scholarly methods which is still unsurpassed in the world.

The weaknesses of the German university are not few. To those who come from American traditions the most regrettable difference is the lack of interest in the student's life. The student is practically left to himself. This is true as to his social life and true as to his studies. No one supervises him, no one cares whether he is industrious or lazy, and the result is that many a weak man comes to grief who might have succeeded with the help and control of the American system. But these defects of the German university as educational institutions are the necessary counterparts of their excellencies as places of independent scholarship. The highest goal of intellectual achievement will always be reached only in complete freedom, and this freedom is somewhat dangerous for the weak man. There can be no doubt that the German system is indeed much more adjusted to those above the average than to those below, and the opposite is true of the American system. But it is not only the lack of personal help and the demand for his own activity which is in contrast with the American ample provisions for intellectual support. Even the choice of the teachers differs in the same direction. The American instructor is appointed, above all, because he is a good teacher; the German because he is an important contributor to the advancement of knowledge. He may be and not seldom is a poor teacher. Yet the German university ideal suggests that the true student will profit more from the contact with a man who has mastered the method of research than with any inferior scholar, however effective he may be as a teacher. The American is often no less surprised by the way in which the professors are chosen for appointment. The American universities are monarchies. The president with his trustees elects a new member of the faculty without being dependent upon the vote of any professor. In the democratic life of the German university the government which has to make the appointments is dependent upon the vote of the faculty itself. The professors choose their own colleagues. This again in principle indicates the desire to make the point of view of scholarship superior to every administrative question. It can not be denied that in practise it frequently looks quite differently. The influence of the colleagues is too often exerted in the interest of some groups, cliques and petty prejudices. It would be a blessing for many a university faculty in Germany if an American president with his great powers stood above them. The Ger-