World War I in Lawrence: War doesn’t stop German language classes at KU

In spite of the general anti-German policies common in Lawrence in 1918 and the reluctance to teach the language in the lower schools, there were still at least two reasons considered valid for German studies at the university level. A new three-hour course titled “German for the American soldier” was offered in the fall semester at the University of Kansas. According to a September news article in the Journal-World, “This course is especially for students who have already had some college German and aims to fit them for work with the Intelligence Department of the army…. The work will consist of the learning of war phrases and other current conversational terms rather than literary reading…. The need for men in the Intelligence Department is great and those who understand German are being kept at listening-posts at the front twenty-four hours on a stretch, so great is the demand.”

Dr. M. T. Sudler, associate dean of the university school of medicine, opined that German was also necessary for his students. “‘The most essential foreign language for the medical student is German,’ said Dr. Sudler, ‘and both the French and English governments recognize the extreme utility of having an additional weapon against the enemy by knowing his language.’ Dr. Sudler stated also that as the main part of the literature of medicine is in German, the discontinuance of the language would be a handicap to medical science. ‘Practically the entire development of pathology is in the journals that are published in German only,’ he said. ‘The investigator is almost compelled to know German in order to carry on his work.'”

Other wartime additions to the KU curriculum in 1918 included “a new two-year course in chemical warfare service and war engineering” added by order from the U.S. War Department, which was also providing the required syllabus.


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