On the Future of our Educational Institutions - Homer and Classical Philology

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"Now this last phenomenon should indeed surprise them; it should remind them of that allied, slowly understood tendency of a philosophy which was formerly promoted for reasons of State, [Pg 87]namely, the tendency of the Hegelian philosophy: yea, it would perhaps be no exaggeration to say that, in the subordination of all strivings after education to reasons of State, Prussia has appropriated, with success, the principle and the useful heirloom of the Hegelian philosophy, whose apotheosis of the State in this subordination certainly reaches its height."

"But," said the philosopher's companion, "what purposes can the State have in view with such a strange aim? For that it has some State objects in view is seen in the manner in which the conditions of Prussian schools are admired by, meditated upon, and occasionally imitated by other States. These other States obviously presuppose something here that, if adopted, would tend towards the maintenance and power of the State, like our well-known and popular conscription. Where everyone proudly wears his soldier's uniform at regular intervals, where almost every one has absorbed a uniform type of national culture through the public schools, enthusiastic hyperboles may well be uttered concerning the systems employed in former times, and a form of State omnipotence which was attained only in antiquity, and which almost every young man, by both instinct and training, thinks it is the crowning glory and highest aim of human beings to reach."

"Such a comparison," said the philosopher, "would be quite hyperbolical, and would not hobble along on one leg only. For, indeed, the ancient State emphatically did not share the utilitarian point of view of recognising as culture only [Pg 88]what was directly useful to the State itself, and was far from wishing to destroy those impulses which did not seem to be immediately applicable. For this very reason the profound Greek had for the State that strong feeling of admiration and thankfulness which is so distasteful to modern men; because he clearly recognised not only that without such State protection the germs of his culture could not develop, but also that all his inimitable and perennial culture had flourished so luxuriantly under the wise and careful guardianship of the protection afforded by the State. The State was for his culture not a supervisor, regulator, and watchman, but a vigorous and muscular companion and friend, ready for war, who accompanied his noble, admired, and, as it were, ethereal friend through disagreeable reality, earning his thanks therefor. This, however, does not happen when a modern State lays claim to such hearty gratitude because it renders such chivalrous service to German culture and art: for in this regard its past is as ignominious as its present, as a proof of which we have but to think of the manner in which the memory of our great poets and artists is celebrated in German cities, and how the highest objects of these German masters are supported on the part of the State.

"There must therefore be peculiar circumstances surrounding both this purpose towards which the State is tending, and which always promotes what is here called 'education'; and surrounding likewise the culture thus promoted, which subordinates itself to this purpose of the State. With the real German spirit and the education derived therefrom, [Pg 89]such as I have slowly outlined for you, this purpose of the State is at war, hiddenly or openly: the spirit of education, which is welcomed and encouraged with such interest by the State, and owing to which the schools of this country are so much admired abroad, must accordingly originate in a sphere that never comes into contact with this true German spirit: with that spirit which speaks to us so wondrously from the inner heart of the German Reformation, German music, and German philosophy, and which, like a noble exile, is regarded with such indifference and scorn by the luxurious education afforded by the State. This spirit is a stranger: it passes by in solitary sadness, and far away from it the censer of pseudo-culture is swung backwards and forwards, which, amidst the acclamations of 'educated' teachers and journalists, arrogates to itself its name and privileges, and metes out insulting treatment to the word 'German.' Why does the State require that surplus of educational institutions, of teachers? Why this education of the masses on such an extended scale? Because the true German spirit is hated, because the aristocratic nature of true culture is feared, because the people endeavour in this way to drive single great individuals into self-exile, so that the claims of the masses to education may be, so to speak, planted down and carefully tended, in order that the many may in this way endeavour to escape the rigid and strict discipline of the few great leaders, so that the masses may be persuaded that they can easily find the path for themselves—following the guiding star of the State!

[Pg 90]"A new phenomenon! The State as the guiding star of culture! In the meantime one thing consoles me: this German spirit, which people are combating so much, and for which they have substituted a gaudily attired locum tenens, this spirit is brave: it will fight and redeem itself into a purer age; noble, as it is now, and victorious, as it one day will be, it will always preserve in its mind a certain pitiful toleration of the State, if the latter, hard-pressed in the hour of extremity, secures such a pseudo-culture as its associate. For what, after all, do we know about the difficult task of governing men, i.e. to keep law, order, quietness, and peace among millions of boundlessly egoistical, unjust, unreasonable, dishonourable, envious, malignant, and hence very narrow-minded and perverse human beings; and thus to protect the few things that the State has conquered for itself against covetous neighbours and jealous robbers? Such a hard-pressed State holds out its arms to any associate, grasps at any straw; and when such an associate does introduce himself with flowery eloquence, when he adjudges the State, as Hegel did, to be an 'absolutely complete ethical organism,' the be-all and end-all of every one's education, and goes on to indicate how he himself can best promote the interests of the State—who will be surprised if, without further parley, the State falls upon his neck and cries aloud in a barbaric voice of full conviction: 'Yes! Thou art education! Thou art indeed culture!'"

[Pg 91]


(Delivered on the 5th of March 1872.)

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—Now that you have followed my tale up to this point, and that we have made ourselves joint masters of the solitary, remote, and at times abusive duologue of the philosopher and his companion, I sincerely hope that you, like strong swimmers, are ready to proceed on the second half of our journey, especially as I can promise you that a few other marionettes will appear in the puppet-play of my adventure, and that if up to the present you have only been able to do little more than endure what I have been telling you, the waves of my story will now bear you more quickly and easily towards the end. In other words we have now come to a turning, and it would be advisable for us to take a short glance backwards to see what we think we have gained from such a varied conversation.

"Remain in your present position," the philosopher seemed to say to his companion, "for you may cherish hopes. It is more and more clearly evident that we have no educational institutions at all; but that we ought to have them. Our public schools—established, it would seem, for this high object—have either become the nurseries [Pg 92]of a reprehensible culture which repels the true culture with profound hatred—i.e. a true, aristocratic culture, founded upon a few carefully chosen minds; or they foster a micrological and sterile learning which, while it is far removed from culture, has at least this merit, that it avoids that reprehensible culture as well as the true culture." The philosopher had particularly drawn his companion's attention to the strange corruption which must have entered into the heart of culture when the State thought itself capable of tyrannising over it and of attaining its ends through it; and further when the State, in conjunction with this culture, struggled against other hostile forces as well as against the spirit which the philosopher ventured to call the "true German spirit." This spirit, linked to the Greeks by the noblest ties, and shown by its past history to have been steadfast and courageous, pure and lofty in its aims, its faculties qualifying it for the high task of freeing modern man from the curse of modernity—this spirit is condemned to live apart, banished from its inheritance. But when its slow, painful tones of woe resound through the desert of the present, then the overladen and gaily-decked caravan of culture is pulled up short, horror-stricken. We must not only astonish, but terrify—such was the philosopher's opinion: not to fly shamefully away, but to take the offensive, was his advice; but he especially counselled his companion not to ponder too anxiously over the individual from whom, through a higher instinct, this aversion for the present barbarism proceeded, "Let it perish: [Pg 93]the Pythian god had no difficulty in finding a new tripod, a second Pythia, so long, at least, as the mystic cold vapours rose from the earth."

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