Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- July 12, 1871[American Literacy]
Some decades ago the Frenchman Tocqueville, the famed author of the book Democracy in America said:"In no country of the world are there so few ignoramuses and so few scholars as in the United States, and in no country are there so many ignoramuses and so many scholars as in Germany. Even though in the formulation of this apothegm the ignorance of the French regarding everything German, and the French addiction to clever antithesis and sparkling paradox may have been active, yet it must be confessed that one might still find a kernel of truth in it. The American moves from early youth on in conditions that awaken the mind; he reads newspapers and many books; he listens to orators and public lectures. One has built here veritable altars to common sense.
Not so the Germans. The idealistic tendency that is, one might say, inborn to them, carries them all too often away from reality; their shying away from public life has been overcome only in the last few years; the German newspapers are mostly to be thanked for having brought that about. The growth of the latter(in this city particularly of the Staats Zeitung) bears witness to the fact that the German-Americans slowly begin to assimilate 2the good and beautiful things of the native Americans. One thing, however, of which the Americans have cause to be proud, the Germans in this country have not yet imitated...
The Germans in this city who count among their fellow citizens men who would do honor to the biggest and best educated cities in the German homeland, should take the initiative in the building of a big, German public library. It is true, essays in this direction have been made before; years and years ago a German reading association existed in this city, and the Workers Association had a library that though it contained only fiction, enjoyed a large and faithful circle of readers.
Perhaps, it was that the struggle for existence at that time-15 or 20 years ago- was not favorable for literary tendencies; or that the divisions among the Germans that now, happily, have largely been overcome, made a big united enterprise impossible, - at any rate the reading association had to auction off its books to pay its rent, (and the library of the Worker's Association that was burned some time ago has not yet been able to attain again its initial achievements.)3
A committee of eminent, energetic and well educated Germans should be formed...That the plan would succeed we do not doubt in view of the unity and intelligence of the Germans here. Such a library would not only have a splendid influence on the Germans but on the Americans, too. To mention only one thing, one could force the American libraries, to keep also Sundays open for the reading public. In that way more would be done to stop the loitering around, shooting and public disorder than is accomplished by the police...How many German youths who now sit on Sundays mostly in the beerhall would not be happy to spend this time instead in a library with studies and pleasure-reading...
(Footnote: This article is probably a reader's contribution).
II B 2 a, I C, II B 2 d 1, II B 2 d 3, V A 2
Secondary listingsGerman // Attitudes > Own and Other National or Language Groups (I C) ?
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