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OUTLINES OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF EDUCATIONAL IDEAS
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
PROFESSOR W. REIN, Jena.
A CONSCIENTIOUS man will from time to time survey his past work critically, in order to satisfy himself whether he has made progress or not. Similarly should a nation criticise itself, and inquire if it has increased the goods which it inherited from its ancestors; if it has strengthened the factors, which are of value for its existence, and if it has in consequence thereof advanced a step. If a nation is sound and healthy, it will not lack in critical insight. Only a degenerate community refuses to give an account of itself, because it fears that it may have to face a deficit. A sound and progressive people will welcome the admonisher, because it wishes to learn how to overcome its weakness; but a dying nation destroys the unwelcome prophet. The example of Socrates will illustrate this. He might have escaped death, if he had promised to be silent. But he met this possibility with the proud words: "My love for you, oh Athenians! is great; but more than you do I obey God." And a similar word echoes from the Gospels: "We ought to obey God rather than man." The death of Socrates and the death
of Jesus are points in human history whose very value consists in the fact that they are not mere epochs of history.
Such points as these put mere external points like the beginning of a new century in the shade. The beginning of a new century need therefore, however, not be regarded as being unimportant. And for this reason, that it gives the individual just as much as the nation an opportunity to turn their attention inward, and—so to speak-make up the accounts of the period gone by philosophically, fairly and truthfully.
Looking backward in this way, the question arises involuntarily What will the new century bring us? Full of presentiment we try to look into futurity. We endeavour to throw light upon the dark future by means of our knowledge of the intellectual tendencies of the past decades. We even see those things realised in the future, which the present has not yet fulfilled. The value we place upon the past and the present determines our considerations of the future.
A hundred years! A long interval of time, if we count each single step. But if we consider the chief tendencies and turning-points, the long distance is traversed very rapidly. We can master the past by omitting all the inessentials. Penetrating deeper and deeper into the connection of things, our mind looks for the chief points which form the contents of the century. And these also may be unified, reduced to a formula, so to speak, for the purpose of seizing hold of the characteristic feature of the century. This was done with the eighteenth century, which has generally been called the Century of Rationalism, sometimes also that of Pedagogy. Attempts have already been made to find a formula for our century. Schopenhauer called it a philosophical century, because he considered that it was ripe for philosophy, and therefore needed it. Heinr. von Treitschke indicated it as the richest century of modern history, because it reaped the crop of the Reformation. Kuno Fisher sees in it the century of criticism, because it destroyed myths, though it also created some. To some it is the century of the 16
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natural sciences and technology; to others again, it appears as the national era, which has witnessed the resurrection of a series of national states, both great and small, which have not only changed the political map, but have produced a peculiar shifting about in the life of nations.
All these formulæ contain a certain amount of truth; but it may well be questioned if they have struck the fundamental note of the whole. It is very doubtful if we can at the present time sum up in a formula the infinite variety and wealth of the mental life of three generations. And for this reason, because a feeling prevails, negative in kind but common to all, which owes its origin to the struggle of conflicting views--the feeling that we live in a period of transition. Certain indications point to it: a want of completeness and adjustment. We feel that we are in the midst of a development not far from its beginning, and presumably far from its end.
Our time is neither fish nor flesh. It wavers between empiricism and spiritualism, between the liberalism "vulgaris" and the weak attempts of senile reactionary movements, between autocracy and anarchism, between declarations of infallibility and desolate materialism, between the adoration of the Jews and, Anti-Semitism, between artistic idealism and naturalism, between the cultivation of exquisite operatic music and naïve popular melody, between the political economy of millionaires and the politics of the proletariat.
Our time is consequently incomplete and immature. It were certain of condemnation, if it were at all permitted to separate a period of time from its historical connection. Whoever wishes to understand the essence of the nineteenth century must endeavour to understand it from the intellectual development of the past.
A period of transition is not an epoch of truth, but rather one of dark striving. It is in connection with this fact that our age has also been called a time of great yearning, the yearning for something new. But no one knows what this new
is to be. And whoever undertakes to describe it, learns, as soon as he tries to fill in the details of his description, that his outlines become confused, and his colours faint. The picture of the future, shrouded in mist, vanishes, as soon as one imagines oneself near enough to touch it. Let us therefore endeavour to grasp the chief features of the 19th century with reference to its educational ideas.
The life of a nation is a connected whole, made up of forces developing from within itself and ripening organically. These forces support and at the same time oppose one another. Progress arises out of this support and opposition.
Nowhere does this appear more clearly than in the realm of education and instruction which forms an essential part of the whole life of a nation. For we find the vital ideas of an age focussed in this realm, namely the practical-scientific ideas, the scientific, the moral, and the religious ideas. All these ideas desire to help, to promote, and to advance education. But as they neither agree nor harmonise with one another, a struggle arises, and education, standing right in the midst of life, is drawn into this struggle which arises from the contest of conflicting opinions.
We may both welcome and regret this; welcome it, because educational matters are a part of the mental development of the people; regret it, because they are dragged into religious, political and economic controversies.
Education and instruction require a certain calmness for their work. The waves of life come up to the threshold of the school, but they must not pass the threshold lest the-work of the school be disturbed and injured. How are we to escape from this dilemma? Education and instruction forming an important part of the life of our people and sharing in all that agitates the world, and yet demanding peace apart from the turmoil of the world so that it may thrive.
A solution may be found in this formula: Whatever agitates the adult world, penetrates the realm of education and
instruction, nay, must penetrate it, or education becomes antiquated and fossilised. But it must not penetrate directly and immediately, but at a certain interval of time, and by means of the various school-organisations. This will give protection against undue haste. Education and instruction will partake of progress without surrendering themselves immediately to every impression which fashion or a transitory mood drives. like a bubble to the surface. The ideas of the adult world must become clarified before they may be allowed to influence the education of the young; the truth of the vital ideas must become recognised, before these may be allowed to determine the younger generation. Thus calmness and continuity of development will be secured; development will not take place by fits and starts, but will proceed quietly and steadily; the threads connecting us with the past will not wantonly be torn, but will be woven into a web containing no useless material.
Such are the thoughts that occur to us as we survey the development of education and instruction in Germany during the nineteenth century. We do not survey this development, however, merely for the purpose of understanding it and of enriching our store of knowledge, but sub specie aeterni, that is to say, so that we may learn and obtain permanent principles from it. History is the instructor of mankind, and education also can learn valuable lessons from it, if it endeavours to penetrate into the spirit of the development. And though the latter is chiefly determined by factors not controlled by man, there can yet be no doubt that the resolute and persistent will of man can influence the destiny of a people.
We will therefore to-day survey the development of those intellectual tendencies that have swayed the German nation during the nineteenth century in order to obtain from this retrospect a guide for the future organisation of educational work and systems. Other countries besides Germany may also, from a comparative consideration of native develop