On the Future of our Educational Institutions

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 30

us only think of what takes place at such an age in the
production of such work. It is the first individual creation; the
still undeveloped powers tend for the first time to crystallise; the
staggering sensation produced by the demand for self-reliance imparts
a seductive charm to these early performances, which is not only quite
new, but which never returns. All the daring of nature is hauled out
of its depths; all vanities--no longer constrained by mighty
barriers--are allowed for the first time to assume a literary form:
the young man, from that time forward, feels as if he had reached his
consummation as a being not only able, but actually invited, to speak
and to converse. The subject he selects obliges him either to express
his judgment upon certain poetical works, to class historical persons
together in a description of character, to discuss serious ethical
problems quite independently, or even to turn the searchlight inwards,
to throw its rays upon his own development and to make a critical
report of himself: in short, a whole world of reflection is spread out
before the astonished young man who, until then, had been almost
unconscious, and is delivered up to him to be judged.

"Now let us try to picture the teacher's usual attitude towards these
first highly influential examples of original composition. What does
he hold to be most reprehensible in this class of work? What does he
call his pupil's attention to?--To all excess in form or thought--that
is to say, to all that which, at their age, is essentially
characteristic and individual. Their really independent traits which,
in response to this very premature excitation, can manifest themselves
only in awkwardness, crudeness, and grotesque features,--in short,
their individuality is reproved and rejected by the teacher in favour
of an unoriginal decent average. On the other hand, uniform mediocrity
gets peevish praise; for, as a rule, it is just the class of work
likely to bore the teacher thoroughly.

"There may still be men who recognise a most absurd and most dangerous
element of the public school curriculum in the whole farce of this
German composition. Originality is demanded here: but the only shape
in which it can manifest itself is rejected, and the 'formal'
education that the system takes for granted is attained to only by a
very limited number of men who complete it at a ripe age. Here
everybody without exception is regarded as gifted for literature and
considered as capable of holding opinions concerning the most
important questions and people, whereas the one aim which proper
education should most zealously strive to achieve would

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