Friday, January 23, 2009

The school's the same / The terms are changing

"It is worth recognizing that education is the epitome of what one has forgotten. Beyond this it is a disease, a burden on the educated person's environment. It is ridiculous to reform the dead languages out of the schools on the grounds that no one needs them in practical life. The day to abolish them would be the day they become practical. Certainly they do not help you to quiz your way through the tourist sites of Rome and Athens. But they sow in us the ability to imagine them. School is a poor place to amass practical knowledge. But mathematics cleanses the neural pathways, and even when one must swot up on dates one promptly forgets after graduation, one is not doing something useless. The only misguided thing is German language class. But in exchange one learns Latin, which still has a special value. Do well in German and you become a German military man. Do badly in German but well in Latin and you might become a German author. What school can do is create that vapor of living things that draws an individuality out of its shell. If a pupil still knows years later exactly which act of which classical drama a quote comes from, the school has failed. If he knows where it might have come from, he is truly educated and the school has achieved its goal perfectly."

— Karl Kraus, Dicta and Contradicta, 56-57