More than once during the recent discussion on the value of classical training have we wondered why the most important contribution in the defense of the cause of the ancient languages has been overlooked. Mr. Adams' speech last summer merely re-opened an old question which has been troubling the minds of the educators of all countries for some years past. This question will probably come up again and again in the future, as it has in the past. This will be particularly the case in this country. Where a people are so devoted to business pursuits as are the Americans, and in a country where the wealthy and hence the cultured class is as yet so small compared with the bulk of the population, the question of practical education will never rest. The main object looked at in a new country is the acquisition of wealth, and any education which will not aid in the gaining of that object is looked upon as worthless. The idea of education for its own sake, or for the culture which it brings with it, has not as yet gained a hold upon the American people, although this charge would be denied with great indignation. The institutions of learning in this country all to a greater or less degree reflect the feelings of the people, and although a few universities may offer opportunities for education of the higher class, in the case of the majority the instruction offered is always marked by a strong tendency toward what is called "practical" instruction.
Mr. Adams' address, unfortunately for the cause he represents, is calculated more to admit of sarcastic allusions to the education of himself and his family and to the poor instruction of years ago, than to open up a fair and thorough discussion of the whole subject. But among the numerous replies which that speech has called forth, none are so valuable or of so much importance as the one just published under the direction of a professor in our own university, John Williams White. Although Prof. White does not in any way either in his title or preface intimate that the book he has given us is especially intended for the benefit of Mr. Adams, still the character of the pamphlet is such that it can be taken as nothing else but a quiet reply to the Phi Beta Kappa speech. The pamphlet in question is called "The Question of a Division of the Philosophical Faculty," and is made up of the inaugural address of Prof. Hofmann on the occasion of his assuming the rectorship of the University of Berlin, and of the two opinions of the Philosophical Faculty of that university on the question of admitting to the university graduates of Realschulen on the same footing as graduates of a Gymnasium. It is very fortunate that in this discussion we have the positive testimony of men who are as capable of speaking with authority on the subject as are the professors of the leading university of Germany. It has been the policy of the Prussian government, in the last few years, to use every means in their power to make the Royal Frederick-William University in Berlin the National University, and such encouragements have been offered to professors of other universities that the faculty of the Berlin university is probably the most representative of the educational system of Germany. Germany, of late years, has gradually assumed a position at the head of the world in all matters of education, and today her university and school system are looked upon as the best result of the experience and labor of the world's educators. So that testimony from Germany on any question of education is of especial value and interest.
Prof. White, in his preface, explains the contents of the book and gives a history of the events which gave rise to the controversy. Although Prof. Hofmann's address is mainly taken up with a question which touches but lightly upon the topic of most interest to us at present, in conclusion he discusses the principal subject-"that of admitting students to the Universities without the literary training which a German Gymnasium affords, and especially without a knowledge of Greek."