Contemporary High School Reform

Unzeitgemässes Zur Gymnasialreform 
Magazine for Literature, 67th Y., No. 9, March 5, 1898
Google translate: German to English


There is much talk of high school reform now. When you read the reports of negotiations that are being conducted on this matter, you get a strange impression. There is talk about everything possible, but little about the main thing. There are endless debates about whether a few hours should be more or less used for Latin and Greek instruction or not, whether the German essay should be maintained in one way or another. And yet these things are of least concern. The main lack of our high school is apparent. It does not do anything to get the pupils to the point where they are able to grasp the modern spiritual life.

Or is it not correct that the high school graduate of today is at a loss when faced with the very basis of our view of the world and life, the modern scientific conception? What Socrates, what Plato taught, what Caesar wrote, is not a living part of our spiritual life. What Darwin revealed, what modern physiology, physics, and biology reveal, should be.

It does not occur to me to underestimate the educational value of the Greeks and Romans. But I believe that the past is only given the right value for the formation of our time when seen from the point of view of the present. Whoever does not know the content from our cultural period can only get into a skewed relationship with Socrates and Plato.

Everything taught at the high school should be fulfilled with the spirit of the present. People steeped in this spirit should be teachers alone. It matters whether the teacher of Greek or Latin understands modern science or not. Everything is connected in the spiritual life. Thousands of details will be taught by a modern mind in a different way than one rooted in classical philology who knows nothing but his "subject."

It would have incalculable consequences for our entire intellectual life if our high school students were educated in the sense of the scientific worldview of our time. Our entire public life would have to take on a different form. Numerous discussions about the relationship between religion and science, of faith and knowledge, etc., would be spared us. It would no longer be possible to put forward things that have long been dismissed from the point of view of modern thought.

One does not object that the views of the scientific worldview are for the most part still hypotheses that still need to be tested. You are entitled to any doubt. But I would have to reply that this is true of every opinion, of the old no less than the new one. But we do not have the task to convey convictions to our growing generation. We should make them use their own judgment, their own perception. You should learn to look into the world with open eyes.

Whether we doubt the truth of what we convey to youth or not, that is not important. Our beliefs apply only to us. Teach the youth by saying: this is how we look at the world; watch how it presents itself to you. We should awaken abilities, not deliver beliefs.

The youth should not believe in our "truths" but in our personality. The adolescents should notice that we are seekers. And we should bring them to the ways of the seekers. We tell the next generation how we got on with things and leave it up to them on how to succeed.

Therefore, we should not withhold from the students what we have gained that has replaced the religious ideas we have overcome. They should not grow up with feelings that contradict modern thought.

Many will regard what I have said as a figment of the imagination of a man who is so absorbed in the ideas of the scientific worldview that he does not realize how much he overlooks the opposite feelings of others. That does not matter. Those others emphasize their demands. We want to do the same with ours. No Catholic bishop will shy away from reforming the school in his favor. We also want to express our opinion about the path that must lead to where we want the world to be. Moderation dulls the weapons.