"American Traits from the Point of View of a German," by Professor Hugo Munsterberg is a collection of five essays which have already been printed, the first three in the Atlantic Monthly and the other two in the International Monthly. Professor Munsterberg in these essays compares the American and the German people as one who knows them both, and tries to show his adopted countrymen what lessons they can learn from the institutions of the Old World. As he says in the preface to the book, the essays were not written to be read in Germany, and should not be compared with the essays of a similar character which Professor Munsterberg has written for German readers. All through the book the author's point of view is fearlessly critical, but always marked by a spirit of fairness and common sense.
The most interesting essay to Harvard men is the one on "Education," which was originally printed under the title of "School Reform," attracting much attention as an attack upon the elective system in our school. Professor Munsterberg compares the American and German systems of education, in search of a reason for the development of the average German student three years ahead of the average American. By entertaining references to his own school days, he shows a perfect knowledge of German schools, and by his comparisons, almost as complete an acquaintance with American conditions. His conclusion is that the backwardness of the American student is due to the introduction of the elective system into our schools, and to the incompetency of the average American teacher.
Another essay on "Scholarship," is an investigation into the admitted superiority of the German scholar over the American. Following it is a paper on "Women," with a delightful vein of humor running through it, the purpose of which is to show American women how much they can learn from their German sisters, upon whom they are too apt to look down. The remaining essays are on "The Americans and the Germans," and "Americans Democracy," and are of a more general character.
"American Traits," by Hugo Munsterberg. Houghton, Mifflin & Company.