Individual Training in Our Colleges

By Clarence F. Birdseye | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE GERMAN MOVEMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION

ABOUT one hundred years ago many Americans, afterwards distinguished, became students at the German universities, especially at Göttingen, and the number has increased till it was over two hundred each year at the beginning of the present century.

American students in German universities.

Up to the seventh or eighth decade of the nineteenth century our post-graduate courses and professional schools were comparatively poor. Hence a constantly increasing number of our college graduates went abroad each year to complete their studies in medicine, or to take courses in history and the natural sciences, in which we were notably weak, and the German universities were correspondingly strong. We soon felt that it was a reflection upon us, that any of our children must go abroad to complete their professional studies, and that we must provide the best that there was in the world in all forms of higher education. Hence we sent our best men abroad to study while we built up at home. It was, to a lesser degree, the plan that the Japanese tried later. Our cities and states are doing a similar thing now. They mean that their local systems shall be crowned by great universities so that their children may get the best education without leaving home.

Improvement of our higher education.

But the German higher education was coupled with a personal freedom and license in the student's life in striking contrast with our Puritanical strictness in that regard. Our strictness had been an expression of our national and family life, as the freedom of the German universities was an expression of their life and customs. The educational system of the two countries differed no more than their social, business and other habits. We were going through the momentous changes caused by the Civil War and our enormous alien immigration. Distracted by these, less thought than

Increased personal liberty of students.

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