On the Future of our Educational Institutions

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 36

For the public school boy of to-day,
the Hellenes as Hellenes are dead: yes, he gets some enjoyment out of
Homer, but a novel by Spielhagen interests him much more: yes, he
swallows Greek tragedy and comedy with a certain relish, but a
thoroughly modern drama, like Freitag's 'Journalists,' moves him in
quite another fashion. In regard to all ancient authors he is rather
inclined to speak after the manner of the aesthete, Hermann Grimm, who,
on one occasion, at the end of a tortuous essay on the Venus of Milo,
asks himself: 'What does this goddess's form mean to me? Of what use
are the thoughts she suggests to me? Orestes and OEdipus, Iphigenia
and Antigone, what have they in common with my heart?'--No, my dear
public school boy, the Venus of Milo does not concern you in any way,
and concerns your teacher just as little--and that is the misfortune,
that is the secret of the modern public school. Who will conduct you
to the land of culture, if your leaders are blind and assume the
position of seers notwithstanding? Which of you will ever attain to a
true feeling for the sacred seriousness of art, if you are
systematically spoiled, and taught to stutter independently instead of
being taught to speak; to aestheticise on your own account, when you
ought to be taught to approach works of art almost piously; to
philosophise without assistance, while you ought to be compelled to
_listen_ to great thinkers. All this with the result that you remain
eternally at a distance from antiquity and become the servants of the
day.

"At all events, the most wholesome feature of our modern institutions
is to be found in the earnestness with which the Latin and Greek
languages are studied over a long course of years. In this way boys
learn to respect a grammar, lexicons, and a language that conforms to
fixed rules; in this department of public school work there is an
exact knowledge of what constitutes a fault, and no one is troubled
with any thought of justifying himself every minute by appealing (as
in the case of modern German) to various grammatical and
orthographical vagaries and vicious forms. If only this respect for
language did not hang in the air so, like a theoretical burden which
one is pleased to throw off the moment one turns to one's
mother-tongue! More often than not, the classical master makes pretty
short work of the mother-tongue; from the outset he treats it as a
department of knowledge in which one is allowed that indolent ease
with which the German treats everything

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