Jay's Reviews > On the Future of Our Educational Institutions

On the Future of Our Educational Institutions by Friedrich Nietzsche
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's review
Apr 22, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: history
Read in April, 2012

If Nietzsche thought things were bad with education in 19th century Germany, he would have loved 21st century America. This piece was not what I thought it would be and the reading was difficult (and monotonous) at times. Nevertheless, I completed the read and gained some insight. Nietzsche constantly praises culture and classical arts and I could not ignore the constant 'old school' versus 'new school' educational theme that was argued (in Nietzsche's probable fictional characters). I am all about education of the masses, and therefore disagree with several of Nietzsche's basic arguments and views. Overall, Nietzsche has a very leftist feel to his views on education and what really irritates me about him is his high views on the philosopher and his disdain toward the common man and worker. People have to work in order to subsist in society. People can not just roam the world writing poetry, philosophizing on matters and seeking Hellenistic culture.

Areas of the book that stuck in my mind:

1) Nietzsche illustrates a gross indifference towards education quite similar to the indifference that exists in the modern U.S. I found that this view is easily comparable to the modern United States.

"We knew this, that, thanks to our little society, no thought of embracing any particular career had ever entered our minds in those days."

"Our little society had sown the seeds of this happy indifference in our souls."

"We wished to attach no importance to anything, to have strong views about nothing, to aim for nothing; we wanted to take no thought for the morrow..."

"Institutions for teaching culture and institutions for teaching how to succeed in life. All our present institutions belong to the second class...."

These quotes remind me very much of our modern United States.

2) Nietzsche had an interesting look on education as a tool for the state. In today's era of capitalism, we not only see system higher education aimed toward the State....but more so toward the private sector.

"The purpose of education, according to this scheme, would be to rear the most 'current' men possible,-'current' being used here in the sense in which it is applied to the coins of the realm."

"According to the morality reigning here, the demands are quite different; what is required above all is 'rapid education' so that a money earning creature may be produced with all speed;"

"...of which they may again recognize the State as the highest goal, as the reward of all their strivings after education."

"And again, that this freedom may be broadened still more, the one may speak what he likes and the other may hear what he likes; except that, behind them both, at a modest distance, stands the State, with all the intentions of a supervisor, to remind the professors and students from time to time that it is the aim, the goal, the be-all and end-all."

3) Nietzsche had a very nationalistic view on things. He is very passionate about the German language and composition. While I can not share this view toward 19th century Germany, I do share it toward the 21st century United States. The only difference is that the U.S. has little rich history of culture compared to the ugliness of slavery and genocide. I believe American education should be aimed heavily on this subjects in order that our youth should be able to understand the economic, social, and political ramifications of those historical atrocities.

"What we should hope for the future is that schools may draw the real school of culture into this struggle, and kindle the flame of enthusiasm in the younger generation, more particularly in public schools, for that which is truly German."

4) A very strong point that Nietzsche makes, which can really be seen in the U.S. today, is the expansion of schools and the number of required teachers. This point is evident in education today just as it was apparently the case in Nietzsche's time and State. This is more than likely true in all areas of skilled occupation.

"Such a large number of higher educational establishments are now to be found everywhere that far more teachers will continue to be required for them than the nature of even a highly-gifted people can produce."

"....surplus of teachers who have really nothing at all to do with education, and who are called into existence and pursue this path solely because there is a demand for them."

"...large body of teachers who have not been endowed with a true gift for culture, and who set up as teachers merely to gain a livelihood from the profession, because there is a demand for them, because a superfluity of schools brings with it a superfluity of teachers?"

5) Nietzsche view on hierarchy and the masses needing a select few leaders and minds to follow was somewhat disturbing to me. The man was obviously disdainful toward the common people and was very arrogant. He also seems to not acknowledge corruption, oppression, and dishonesty in leadership and power. We know these things exist simply by looking at history and at modern political leadership today.

"They were born to serve and to obey...." "The Education of the masses cannot, therefore, be our aim; but rather the education of a few picked men for great and lasting works."

"For what, after all, do we know about the difficult task of governing man, i.e, to keep law, order, quietness, and peace among millions of boundlessly, envious, malignant, and hence very narrow-minded and perverse human beings; and thus to protect the few things that the State has conquered for itself against covetous neighbors and jealous robbers?"

"I now see more clearly than ever the necessity for an institution which will enable us to live and mix freely with the few men of true culture, so that we may have them as our leaders and guiding stars."

"...that great leaders are necessary, and that all culture begins with obedience."

"...with obedience, with subordination, with discipline, with subjection. And as leaders must have followers so also must followers have a leader-here a certain reciprocal predisposition prevails in the hierarchy of spirits: yea, a kind of pre-established harmony."

"...then you too will feel what a pre-established harmony there is between leader and followers, and how in the hierarchy of spirits everything impels us toward the establishment of a like organization."

6) Nietzsche seems to never tire of complaining about the pursuit of culture, but what he failed to understand was that people had to work to live. Life is not free. People must work to survive. Bread is not free now and it was not free it Nietzsche's time. Regardless, here are some of his ramblings against pursuing an education through the institution which he obviously views as conditioning.

"If you take this one, your age will receive you with open arms, you will not find it wanting in honors and decorations: you will form units of an enormous rank and file; and there will be as many people like-minded standing behind you as in front of you. And when the leader gives the word it will be re-echoed from rank to rank."

"There you are servants, retainers, tools, eclipsed by higher natures; your own peculiar characteristics never have free play; you are tied down, chained down, like slaves; yea, like automata...."

Overall, the reading was dry and tedious. Nietzsche makes a few valid points that I have listed, but I find that I hold different and conflicting opinions with him in many areas.
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Greg Nationalistic? Pardon me for saying you don't understand Nietzsche in the slightest if that is what you think...

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