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Public Education in Germany.
BY NATHANIEL T. ALLEN.
The opportunities afforded me in the character of Agent of the Department of Education at Washington, have been unlimited. It would have been quite impossible to gain admittance to many Educational Institutions simply as a private citizen of the United States, -as a teacher, or even as an agent of a City or State government.
Through my friend, Hon. Henry Barnard, late United States Commissioner of Public Instruction, also through the present able Commissioner, General John Eaton, I was furnished with credentials, and was at all times, and in all places, throughout Germany, treated with the greatest courtesy, and every facility was granted to examine, see and hear for myself.*
* It affords me great pleasure to acknowledge my deep indebtedness to Mr. Privy Counsellor of Government, Dr. Wiese, Prof. Dr. Fr. Von Holtzendorff and Baroness Marenholtz Bulow of Berlin, Profs. Drs. H. A. Manitius and Fr. Krause of Dresden, and especially to Prof. Dr. J. W. Schinn of Wiesbaden, and others for their invaluable aid in making these investigations.
If these facts and experiences, with such criticisms and suggestions as I may make, can in any way serve the cause of education, my object will be attained.
The system, usually denominated Prussian, cannot be justly so called, for I found an equally perfect system, and not copied from the Prussian, in Saxony, Nassau, and in other parts of Germany; in fact, in certain particulars, those of the two mentioned are superior to that of Prussia, as is claimed by their teachers and professors, and shown by the smaller percentage of illiteracy in Saxony and Nassau, than in Prussia.
At the public examinations for entrance to the University and Military School in Berlin, it was shown that the students from Saxony were intellectually superior to those of Prussia, as I was informed by one of the Professors in the Berlin Military Academy. This shows that not only are their systems more universally applied, but carried out with greater efficiency. I am confident that in Saxe Weimer, Hamburg, Baden, and other portions of Germany, the systems are equally good; as a whole, therefore, I call it the “ German System.” As it is from this German System of Public Instruction, we of the United States can derive most information and advantage, and being more familiar with it from a year's observation and study than with that of any other in Europe, I propose to consider it under the several heads of,
I. Consideration of the System itself. II. Names of the different grades of school, included in the sys
tem, with the special work assigned them, as seen in their study-plan, etc. III. Schools for Girls,-followed by such IV. Criticisms and Suggestions as the limited time will allow, omitting other important matters of consideration connected with the subject, such as, School buildings, furniture, apparatus, textbooks, etc;—the Teacher's profession, character, preparation and social position ; -Character and quality of the instruction given and manner of imparting it;
- Examinations, how conducted ;-Discipline of the schools, how enforced, etc. A word upon the general character of the system.
. It seems to me absolutely indispensable that an American, before considering this system in detail, and in order to understand and appreciate it at its true value, should fully comprehend the condition of the people, form and spirit of the Government in Germany, etc., as compared with our own.
The idea pervading the minds of those Germans who originated, as also those who persist in retaining the system unmodified in Prussia, is irreconcilably antagonistic with the thought of Horace Mann, and those kindred spirits in our country, who have labored, and are now laboring so nobly to develope and establish a system of public instruction which shall elevate and ennoble all our youth, so that they may becoine intelligent, virtuous, freedom-loving citizens, from whom all power in government emanates.
In Germany all power and even liberty to express thought is vested in the Sovereign, nor is this idea a “glittering generality,” but absolute
fact and carried into practice to an alarming extent to-day.
The Sovereign looks upon the people as his children, to be cared for, trained, and provided with employments, which shall, while ministering to their general comfort, at the same time add to his own aggrandizement. He therefore presents the problem to his Minister of Education, viz:-“ Considering the whole population as one family of children, with no free adults as in the United States, but as young and old children and wards, to arrange a system of schools for, and studies adapted to develope these creatures of mine, so that they may be the best prepared to fill each of the various positions and avocations in the great family or community assigned them."
The design of the Government of Germany is, so to economize all the active talent and ability of its citizens, that every department in the body politic shall be filled not only with men specially trained and educated for it, but by those having natural gifts and talents therefor; and, with the absolute form of government, they are able to carry this into execution.
So searching and all-embracing is this system of Government Instruction, that when any lad in either of the different classes of school, especially the three lower, gives evidence of possessing marked talent in any particular department of science, literature or the fine arts, he is reported to the proper authorities, when arrangements are generally made by which he is encouraged to develope his special gifts, thus en
abling him to benefit himself, his country and perhaps the world, to a greater extent than would have been possible if left to his own or parents' guidance. This is accomplished by means of a system well adapted to its purpose and with special reference to the fact that none of these children are ever to come into possession of manhood as we understand true manhood to be, with its broad and intelligent freedom restrained only by those laws of their country which are in accordance with the laws of God. It is by bearing constantly in mind the radical difference underlying the systems adapted to perpetuate the free democratic of the United States and the despotic government of Prussia and now of Germany, that we can understand and appreciate the German system as compared with what we desire for ourselves—for they are simply and purely Government schools, not public or common as we understand those terms.
When, in the sixteenth century, Luther inaugurated and laid the foundation of this system, also at the beginning of the present century, 1818 and 19, when it was more thoroughly developed and put in successful operation, the German principalities were even far more despotic in their character than now, while at present they are so, to a very burdensome extent.
It is not my intention to give more than a general statement concerning the principles underlying the whole, from which the very complex system has been developed, written out and put in practice with