Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- January 04, 1893Senior Prof. Hermann Von Holst.
Prof. Holst, whose scientific achievements and personal history are well known to our readers through previous articles in this publication, gave a public lecture at the Central Music Hall. It was his first appearance, held in connection with the Chicago University's celebration.
The famous German author of historical works, notably the American History of Democracy, spoke about the necessity for a "real university in this country" and proved himself to be an excellent English speaker. With a sympathetic, and exceedingly sonorous voice he expressed his opinions in an animated, compelling manner; he showed manly independence and conviction. He is not blind to the present woeful insufficiencies of our American institutions of higher learning, as well as the general educational system. He was absolutely fearless in his exposures of these short-comings.2
We gave a synopsis of his address yesterday, in our local column but the main issue deserves to be emphasized on our Editorial page. Prof. Von Holst does not deny his intense admiration for the tremendous development of the American people and its popular form of Government, an insight derived from a twenty-five year analytical study, neither is he silent about the great problems which this nation must solve - no annihilating wars like the fight for Independence or the Rebellion, but the solution of eventual colossal inner difficulties. He considers these to bet the unprecedented increase in population, and the chase for huge wealth. He feels convinced, that if a free government is to endure, then a large part of the masses must be placed on a higher plane, both mentally and morally, all in all, a more ideal public spirit is a national necessity.3
Human nature amongst American men and women - according to Holst - is identical with the characteristics of other nations and therefore dominated by the same eternal, moral principles; history will not make exceptions in their favor. The inference is, that the rapid materialistic improvements are no definite safeguards for the future of the United States; on the contrary, it must lead to a gradual disintegration, if we cannot add a measure of loftier sentiments and elevating emotions to it.
From this confusing medley of ever improving materialistic accomplishments, grow a variety of increasing difficulties and in order to solve them, it is paramount that we first raise the mental and moral life of the people into a lofty realm.4
Even today, we have no university in the United States which conforms to the European definition of that word. All American schools, under the name "University," are either a combination of a "College" and "University," where the university forms an appendage or becomes the outgrowth of the lower classes; or it is a cross between a college and university. We find a university which conforms to the fundamentals, an entirely separate hall of learning, independent of college work, a true university organically comprising all the four faculties, is non-existent in the United States at present.
Through observations in varuous countries he noted that on the average, the American student does not compare in knowledge with others but in his earnest, persistent and enthusiastic guest for wisdom, he is indeed the 5highest type, and nature, in fashioning the convolutions of his brain has not shown any parsimonious tendencies. Give the American student adequate opportunities and he will be on a par with the scientists of the cultured European countries. But at present we have neglected him in a most abominable manner.
The best method to realize a higher cultural level for the masses, consists in doing everything possible, so that an ever growing minority is enabled to reach higher mental and moral standards. This makes universities of the first rank an increasingly necessary adjunct for the maintenance, growth and vitality of the American Democracy.6
The university must not only teach, in conformity to college procedure, it must demonstrate how the treasure of knowledge may be increased by the individual, by his own independent effort. That teacher and student is indeed puerile - at best suitable only as an intellectual hireling - whose studies do not create an all-consuming, encompassing zeal to ennoble and illume his earthly existence. These lofty aims can only be realized if we apply the true and fundamental principles of university teaching. No drilling, no training, but education by direction which tends to create independence not only in the diverse branches, but above all in thinking. To become dry as dust" professors by infiltrated knowledge....to be experts only on specific subjects does not suffice....we must be citizens of such character....that it is felt in palace and log house......A large, erudite and also critical assembly accepted his diction with great applause.
II B 2 g, I A 1 a
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