THE FUTURE OF OUR EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
HOMER AND CLASSICAL PHILOLOGY
"On the Future of our Educational Institutions" comprehends a series of five lectures delivered by Nietzsche when Professor of Classical Philology at Ble University. As they were prepared when he was only twenty-seven years of age, we can scarcely expect to find in them that broad, "good European" point of view which we meet with in his later works. These lectures, however, are not only highly interesting in themselves; but indispensable for those who wish to trace the gradual development of Nietzsche's thought.
Nietzsche's aim, as is now pretty well known, was the elevation of the type man. At this period of his life he believed that this end could be best attained by the protection and careful development of men of genius, Hence his antagonism in the following lectures towards the purely time-serving German schools and colleges of his age, in which culture was not only neglected but not even known—the one aim of the teachers being to instruct the pupils in the art of "getting on," of playing a successful part in the struggle for existence, of becoming useful citizens. Of course, Nietzsche was too little of a wild reformer to be adverse to a [Pg viii]schooling of this nature. He freely admits that a bread-winning education is necessary for the majority, and that officials are necessary to the State; but he adds that everything learnt as a preparation for taking part in the commercial or political battle of life has nothing to do with culture. True culture is only for a few select minds, which it is necessary to bring together under the protecting roof of an institution that shall prepare them for culture, and for culture only. Such an institution, he goes on to say, does not yet exist; but we must have it if the delicate flower of the German mind is no longer to be choked by the noxious weeds which have gathered round it. As instances of minds thus "choked," Nietzsche mentions Lessing, Winckelmann, and Schiller.
The standard of culture to be aimed at by the man of genius Nietzsche had in mind was to be found in the model literary and artistic works which have come down to us from ancient Greece. To understand these works, of course, the classical authors had to be studied in the original, and the methods of teaching then in vogue paid too much attention to inconsequential points (e.g. variant readings) instead of dealing with the subject in a broad-minded philosophical spirit. Nietzsche endeavoured to counteract this tendency in the "Homer and Classical Philology," his inaugural address at Ble University, by outlining a much vaster conception of philology than his fellow-teachers had ever dreamt of, laying stress upon the artistic results which would accrue if the science were applied on a wider scale—results [Pg ix] which would be of a much higher order than those obtained by the narrow pedantry then prevailing.
It is a very superficial comment on these lectures to say that Nietzsche was merely referring to the German schools and colleges of his time. It would be even shallower to suggest that his remarks do not apply to the schools and teachers of present-day England and America; for we likewise do not possess the cultural institution, the real educational establishment, that Nietzsche longed for. Broadly speaking, the English public schools, the older English universities, and the American high schools, train their scholars to be useful to the State: the modern universities and the remaining schools give that instructionin bread-winning which Nietzsche admits to be necessary for the majority; but in no case is an attempt made to pick out a few higher minds and train them for culture. Our crude methods of teaching the classical languages are too well known to be commented upon; and an insight into classical antiquity, with the good taste, the firm principles, and the lofty aims obtained therefrom, is exactly what our various educational institutions do not aim at giving. Yet, as Nietzsche truly says, no progress in any other direction, no matter how brilliant, can deliver our students from the curse of an education which adapts itself more and more to the needs of the age, and thus loses all its power of guiding the age. Let the student who, as the victim of this system, suffers more from it than his teachers care to admit, read the paragraph on pp. 132 and 133 containing the sentences—
[Pg x] He feels that he can neither lead nor help himself.... His condition is undignified, even dreadful: he keeps between the two extremes of work at high pressure and a state of melancholy enervation.... He seeks consolation in hasty and incessant action so as to hide himself from himself, etc.,
and then let him confess that Nietzsche's insight into his psychology is profound and decisive. The whole paragraph might have been written by Nietzsche after a visit to present-day England.
As bearing upon the same subject, the reader will find it interesting to compare the lectures here translated with Matthew Arnold's prose writings passim, particularly the Essays in Criticism, Mixed Essays, and Culture and Anarchy.
J. M. KENNEDY.
LONDON, May 1909.
The reader from whom I expect something must possess three qualities: he must be calm and must read without haste; he must not be ever interposing his own personality and his own special "culture"; and he must not expect as the ultimate results of his study of these pages that he will be presented with a set of new formul. I do not propose to furnish formul or new plans of study for Gymnasia or other schools; and I am much more inclined to admire the extraordinary power of those who are able to cover the whole distance between the depths of empiricism and the heights of special culture-problems, and who again descend to the level of the driest rules and the most neatly expressed formul. I shall be content if only I can ascend a tolerably lofty mountain, from the summit of which, after having recovered my breath, I may obtain a general survey of the ground; for I shall never be able, in this book, to satisfy the votaries of tabulated rules. [Pg 4] Indeed, I see a time coming when serious men, working together in the service of a completely rejuvenated and purified culture, may again become the directors of a system of everyday instruction, calculated to promote that culture; and they will probably be compelled once more to draw up sets of rules: but how remote this time now seems! And what may not happen meanwhile! It is just possible that between now and then all Gymnasia—yea, and perhaps all universities, may be destroyed, or have become so utterly transformed that their very regulations may, in the eyes of future generations, seem to be but the relics of the cave-dwellers' age.