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Convocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras online

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failures, you have been able to secure the position you occupy for
the first time to-da,y, let that be to you a ground of hope that your
future achievements will be honourable to yourselves, beneficial
to your fellow-countrymen, and a source of pride to the Uni-
versity which this day receives you into its membership.

And this reminds me that I must put you on your guard

against the too common misconception that the

the^rowniuVof graduation ceremonial id the crowning of the edifice

the edifice of of knowledge and culture. Hitherto you have only

been laying the foundation, to-morrow you begin

272 U Hirer tit y of Madras.

to rear the superstructure. Your admission to the Univer-
sity to-day is merely the seal and token that, in the opinion
of the Senate, the foundation stone of learning and culture
has been well and truly laid. Do not deceive yourselves, there-
fore, by the thought that the years to come will be years of
mental indulgence, in which you will have nothing to do but
reap the reward of your past exertions. Your future may be a
life of ease if you deliberately will it to be so. But in that case
you must be prepared for the sure and certain penalty the loss
of that intellectual and moral power you now possess. The
only way to preserve the knowledge and culture you have
acquired is to endeavour to deepen, extend, and apply the one,
and to perfect the other. As the foundations of a palatial struc-
ture gradually crumble to ruin, unless by being built upon they
are protected from the disintegrating action of the elements ; so
the grasp of principles you have acquired and the studious
habits you have formed will slowly but surely decay, unless you
diligently cultivate and strengthen them. How often is the
bright promise of youth obscured long before middle age ! The
greatest happiness of the teacher is day by day to watch the
expansion of the faculties and capacities of his pupil, and to
forecast that brilliant future when those powers shall have
reached maturity. Sometimes, alas ! it is his most poignant
sorrow to see the eager questioning spirit settle down into sloth-
ful acquiescence, the keen edge of the subtle intellect become
blunted, the high aspirations of youth, with clipped wings, sink
into the stagnant waters of dreary commonplace. Let not your
teachers have any cause to say of you : " Surely we have labour-
ed in vain/' . If you have acquired any love for books, bear in
mind that that love will give place first to indifference, and then
to distaste, unless it be sedulously cultivated. If you have
gained any insight into the wonderful works of nature, do not
lull yourselves to sleep by the easy-going reflection that all you
have to do in future is to hold fast by what you now possess.
Unless you earnestly extend and cherish your acquaintance with
and love for nature, depend upon it she will in time become a
sealed book to you. If you have acquired any power of sustained
flight in the rarified atmosphere of speculative philosophy, do not
imagine that you will be able to maintain the power of living
in these higher regions of thought, unless ever and anon you
give yourselves up to lofty meditation, and leaving sordid cares
behind, live

" In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars."

In accordance with the regulations of the University, it is
my duty to exhort you to conduct yourselves suitably unto the

1891.I>r. Duncan. 273

position io which, by the degrees conferred upon you, you have
attained. This implies that you give due heed to the cultivation
of your intellectual and moral character for their own sakes,
Self-culture is, moreover, an indispensable pre-requisite for the
fulfilment of those other duties incumbent on you as graduates
of this University. You have now become members of a body
corporate, and can no longer as individuals live for yourselves.
Your aims and pursuits must henceforward be in harmony with
those of the society into which you have been admitted. And
what are those aims ? They are the advancement of learning,
and the promotion of morality and human welfare. Freely ye
have received of the gift of knowledge, freely give. Strive not
only to increase the stock of human knowledge, but also to
spread it among the ignorant. Be it your aim not only to
elevate and purify the ideal of duty, but also to encourage and
help your fellow-men in their endeavours to live a better life.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, what-
soever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report :
these things it must be your ceaseless endeavour to realize in
your own lives and in those of your fellow-men.

If our graduates would earnestly strive to promote the
cause of morality and sound learning, and to advance the
welfare of their fellow-countrymen, there would, I am fain
to believe, be less of adverse public criticism at their expense.
The opinion is widespread that the manufacture of gradu-
ates for in this disparaging way is the course you have
gone through referred to that the manufacture of graduates is
both harmful in itself and far in excess of the requirements of
the country. This is a serious charge, and it is for you and
your fellow-graduates to enquire into the truth of it. On the
31st March last there were on the rolls of the Uni-
varsity 2,169 graduates in Arts, 351 graduates in
Law, 78 graduates in Medicine, and 47 graduates
in Engineering. Now, taking into account only the graduates
in Arts, I would ask whether 2,169 is an excessively large
number among a'population of some forty millions. Compared
with the audience assembled in this hall, you, the newly-admit-
ted graduates in Arts, may seem to be a large body ; and should
your names appear in to-morrow's newspapers, the list will not
be a short one. This year, as in former years, the question will
be asked : What is to become of you ? People forget that
before twenty-four hours are over you will have begun to
scatter yourselves over the enormous area embraced by Southern

274 University of Madras.

India. South Indian society must be in a hopeless condition
if useful work cannot be found for one graduate in every 18,441
of the population,

In order to account for the low estimation in which gradu-
ates are often held by the public, we must, I
tllin ^ tak int <> account other considerations than
their absolute or relative numbers. It is just
possible, for example, that it has its origin in the conviction
that the graduates admitted year by year are not of the right
kind. This is a matter deserving of the most earnest considera-
tion. For it implies either that the young men who receive a
University education are not of the right class, or that the
education given is defective, or that our graduates do not live
up to the expectations formed of them by others and the pro-
mises made by themselves. It must, I think, be admitted that
there is an element of truth in each of those implied charges.
It is to be regretted that the aristocracy of native society holds
itself aloof from University culture, notwithstanding the ex-
ample set by the Princes of some of the reigning families of
Southern India, who enter the arena of intellectual competition,
to have their ability and knowledge tested on equal terms with
the lowliest in the land. On political and social grounds it is
eminently desirable that those whom the masses of the people
have been accustomed to look up to as the leaders of the society
should be brought within the influence of the highest culture. The
tendency of modern society is to attach less and less value to
birth and wealth, unless accompanied by a cultivated mind.
The conservative instincts of the people of India are, probably,
still strong enough to cause the aristocracy of birth and wealth
to be looked up to, even though it be steeped in ignorance and
prejudice. But the democrative wave which is spreading over
the world will sooner or later change the aspect of affairs in
India also, and it is for the high-born and the wealthy to show
by superiority in knowledge and intelligence that they are
entitled to be regarded as men of light and leading. In all
this I do not for one moment mean to imply that opportunity
should not be given to the son of the poorest and humblest in
the land to receive the benefits of University education. It is
in the interests of society that intellectual ability and moral
worth, by whomsoever possessed, should be allowed every
opportunity of developing themselves. This the colleges of
South India have done and should continue to do, without,
however, leaving the other undone. As to the charge, so often
made, that our University education is defective, none will

1891. Dr. Duncan. 275

admit that more readily than those who are chiefly responsible
for it. But for these defects, whatever they are and whether
remediable, or irremediable, yon, ladies and gentlemen, cannot
be held responsible. But the opinion that graduates are too
numerous has, probably, its main support not in the considera-
tion that the right class of young men do not attend our colleges,
nor in a conviction that the system of the higher education is
defective, but in the fact that so many graduates fail to realize
the expectations formed of them, forgetting the promises they
made on graduation day to support and promote the cause of
morality and sound learning, to advance social order and the well-
being of their fellow-men. It is for you to help to remove this
reproach. In advising you how you will best justify before your
fellow-men the education you have received, it is impossible to lay
down hard and fast rules. Much will depend on your own peculiar
bent, much, on the circumstances in which you may be placed.

As regards the support and promotion of sound learning,
each of you will probably best achieve that end by continuing to
prosecute the particular branch of study to which you have
mainly devoted yourselves during your University career. It is
not unusual on occasions like the one which has called us together
this afternoon, for the speaker to take the opportunity of press-
ing upon young graduates the claims of the science to which he
is himself devoted. And there is much to be said in favour of
the practice. Were 1 to follow it, I would remind you that the
proper study of mankind is man, and I would strive to impress
on you the paramount claims of Psychology and the cognate
sciences. But I shall not abuse the position I occupy to-day to
advertize my own wares to the prejudice of those of others. On
the contrary my advice to you is : Follow the line of study you

have been pursuing during the past years. If your

Follow your collegiate training is worth anything, that is the

study. lu sphere in which, other things equal, you will be

most likely to succeed. It may be your happy lot
to extend the boundaries of your science ever so little into the
illimitable region of the unknown. If you cannot accomplish
this, the crowning achievement of the man of science, the effort
put forth will, nevertheless, strengthen your reasoning powers,
will give you a firmer grasp of known principles, and will thus
render you better fitted to help your fellow-men to participate in
the treasures of wisdom which, unlike other treasures, are not
diminished to the individual by any increase, however great, in
the number of those who share them.

But, while counselling you to pursue, with all the earnestness

276 University of Madras,

and assiduity of which you are capable, the particular branch of
knowledge which natural inclination and aptitude, strengthened
and methodized by academic discipline, may urge you to follow,, and
which the circumstances of your future life may render practicable,
I should fail in rny duty were I to abstain from inviting your special
attention to the claims of one department of thought. It may not be
the fashion now-a-days to profess a high regard for speculative
philosophy and metaphysics. Metaphysics may have deservedly
become a by-word and a reproach, and Michelet
Michelet's de- may have rightly defined it as the art of bewil-

fimtion of meta- , J . . & , J ,, ,. ,, T ,

physics. dermg one s sell methodically. 1 am not concerned

with defending the speculations which under the
name of metaphysics, or ontology, or theology, have engrossed
the minds of men since the dawn of reflection. But I am
deeply interested in getting you to understand and appreciate
the spirit of enquiry, of which metaphysical speculations, how-
ever erroneous they may be, are the outward expressions. The
ever-increasing volume and the ever-multiplying ramifications of
knowledge render specialization a more and more pressing neces-
sity for each succeeding generation. To few men is it permitted
to gain a minute acquaintance with more than one science. And
what is true of the man of science is true also of the college
student. The tendency of modern academic regulations is to
Disadvantages confine the student to a comparatively small num-
of specializa- ber of subjects. But this specialization, necessary
though it be, has its disadvantages both in respect
to the training of the faculties and in its bearing on that adequate
knowledge of the universe which is the aim of the highest scien-
tific thought. Each science professes to give the last word that
can for the time being be said, not on the universe as a whole,
but on that particular part of it with which it is concerned.
Chemistry gives us the final conclusions of the chemist with
regard to the phenomena and laws of chemical combination.
Biology systematizes the latest conclusions with respect to the
phenomena and laws of life. Psychology confines itself to the
domain of consciousness. Each science presents, therefore, only
a partial view of nature ; and this fact should never be lost sight
of. For partial or one-sided views become harmful when, for-
getting their real character, we treat them as complete and
all-sided. Now, this is precisely what the specialist is in danger
of doing. The more the mind is engrossed with a particular
branch of knowledge, the greater is the tendency to treat all
other branches as of less importance and, therefore, as less
deserving of study. This scientific bias,, if unchecked, may lead
to the other sciences being ignored altogether, the favourite

1891. Dr. Duncan. 277

science being looked upon as affording a complete account of tlie
universe as embracing the alpha and the omega of knowledge.
Against this tendency a tendency favoured by the training
you have received you must ever be on your guard. If the
several sciences give only the final deliverances that can be made
for the time being in their respective spheres, something more
is needed before we can be said to possess a genuine and com-
prehensive conception of the universe. What is that something
The ' First more ? ^ ^ s included in what Aristotle calls the
Philosophy ' of f First Philosophy/ it is the undercurrent in all
Aristotle. metaphysical speculation, it finds its highest expres-

sion in theology. Each science, in its search after unity of cause
and law, ultimately arrives at certain laws of the highest gener-
ality as far as that science goes. It is the business of the First
Philosophy to gather together these general laws, with a view to
their being combined into a few still more general principles.
And it is only when the final utterances of all the sciences have
been thus co-ordinated and, if possible, subordinated to higher
generalizations, that we can be said to have an adequate concep-
tion of the universe as a whole. To reach this lofty point of
view, a minute acquaintance with all the special sciences is
not necessary. The branches of knowledge are many, but the
intellectual faculties employed and the operations carried on
in scientific investigation are comparatively few. A mind
thoroughly trained in habits of observation, experiment, com-
parison, abstraction, generalization, and inference, possesses all
the fundamental qualifications for undertaking the task of dis-
covering those higher generalizations which unite the different and
often seemingly-conflicting conclusions of the several sciences.
Cultivate, therefore, this habit of bringing the conclusions of the
special sciences face to face, of comparing them one with another,
of seeking for some higher or more general principle or law of
which they are the specialized forms. This is the genuine
breadth of culture. This it is that shows us the special sciences
in their true proportions, as parts of one stupendous whole, and
gives us a conception of the universe at once comprehensive and
satisfying. It is doubtless true that in striving after this com-
prehensive view of the universe, men have often ignored
altogether what the special sciences have had to say, and thus
have been led into the wildest extravagances, peopling the uni-
verse with meaningless abstractions. But if you follow the
course I am recommending, you will not fall into this snare, for
in every step you take you will tread on the solid ground of
nature as presented to you by the respective sciences. Nor will
this habit of mind, which seeks to co-ordinate and unify the

278 University of Madras.

manifold results of human experience by means of higher laws,
prove in any way antagonistic to successful investigation in some
one of the special departments of enquiry. Let it be your
endeavour, therefore, to combine devotion to one branch of study
with that more general outlook on the wide domain of knowledge,
which enables oue to see things in their true proportions and
relations, instead of looking at them through a distorting medium,
in which their intrinsic harmony too often appears a discord.

Let the spread of knowledge among your ignorant fellow-
countrymen be also an object of constant solicitude

feliows CateyOU to y u - Wnen 7 u leave this hall to go to your
appointed labours in different parts of the country,
carry with you the firm resolve that in whatever sphere of life
you are placed, you will regard it as your bounden duty to help
to dissipate the gloom of ignorance and superstition which
prevents your fellow-countrymen from entering into full posses-
sion of " man's beautiful heritage, the earth." Each of you can
do a little, some of you may do much, to spread the light of
knowledge. There is, I fear, too much truth in the popular
verdict that, with the exception of those who have adopted
teaching as a profession, the graduates of this University have
hitherto done little towards the spread of education. The neg-
lect of this duty is, I doubt not, one of the reasons for the small
esteem in which they are held by the public.

There is one aspect of this duty to which I would draw your
special and earnest attention. And here I address myself to
Hindus and Mahomedans. It is now three and thirty years
since this University was founded. During that .period the
advance in the education of the male population has been
remarkable. Not less remarkable has been the slow progress in
the education of the female population. Intense eagerness to

educate your boys, and almost complete indiffer-

Educate your ence towards the education of your girls, this is a

women. phenomenon of Indian society which strikes the

foreigner with amazement. I am not unmind-
ful of the steady increase that has taken place in recent years
in the number of girls attending school. In one respect this
increase is the most melancholy part of the business. During
the year ending 31st March 1890 the number of girls
attending school in this Presidency increased from 69,873 to
78,344, or by 12*1 per cent. The increase in the year previous
had been. 6*6 per cent. This you will think belies my assertion
that there has been little progress, and you will wonder how
such a goodly increase can in any aspect be regarded as a cause

1891 .Dr. Duncan. 279

of dissatisfaction. But, look at the state of things a little more
closely. Almost all the Hindu and Muhammadan girls attend-
ing school are in Primary schools, and most of them in the
lower standards of these schools. In Upper Secondary schools
for girls there was, on the 31st March last, not a single Muham-
madan pupil. Brahmans and Sudras were also entirely absent ;
and the whole Hindu community throughout the Presidency was
represented by five girls ! Is this as it should be ? In Lower
Secondary schools for girls there were 23 Muhammadans, 53
Brahmans, 32 Vaisyas, 338 Sudras, and 16 belonging to other
classes. Out of 2,113 girls reading in these schools, 1,651 were
Europeans, Eurasians, or Native Christians ; while only 462 were
Muhammadans or Hindus. Again I ask, is this as it should be !

A few months ago the attention of the public was directed

by one who is now a Fellow of the University to

Withdrawing the evils consequent on early marriage. On that

Seariy^e occasion Dr. Smyth dwelt more on the bodily than

on the mental aspect of the question. But in
whichever of these aspects it is viewed, it is closely connected
with the subject I am now considering, namely, the early
withdrawal of girls from school. I am not here as a censor of
your time-honoured customs, which, if changed at all, must be
changed of your own deliberate choice. But it is my duty to
impress on you two truths : firstly, the absolute necessity of
educating your women, if you are to hold your own among the
nations of the earth ; and, secondly, the utter impossibility of
this being done so long as custom withdraws girls from school
soon after they have passed beyond the age of infancy. As I
have said elsewhere : " Hindu and Mnhammadan parents must
be brought to face the vital issues that are bound up with this
question. If Native society, in full view of all the circum-
stances, deliberately allows itself to fall behind in the march of
progress, there is not another word to be said. But if it desires
to take its place among the foremost peoples of the earth to be
a progressive instead of a stagnating or decaying society it
must gird up its loins and resolve at whatever cost to emanci-
pate its women from the thraldom of ignorance. A society
composed of educated men and uneducated women can never be

a progressive society." Do you regard knowledge
posed^c/ Tdu- as a priceless possession for yourselves, but a use-
cated men and less encumbrance or a curse to your mothers and
Sen dU cau ed neve; jour wives, your sisters and your daughters ?
be aprogressire You are prepared to make many sacrifices for

the education of your boys, is that of your girls

280 University of Madras.

not worthy of equal sacrifices ? Are you doing your duty by
your daughters in sending them to school only during infancy and
the two or three years that follow it, removing them from instruc-
tion when their minds are just beginning to find pleasure in the
acquisition of knowledge ? The evil is not merely that their
education makes no further advance, but that the very little they
learnt at school rapidly fades away, and along with it there
vanishes the taste for reading and culture, the seeds of which
had begun to germinate when they were withdrawn by social
custom to the comparative seclusion of the domestic circle. The
male members of the family, if they happen themselves to be
educated, do occasionally strive to keep the last traces of school
life from being effaced from the minds of the girls of the house-
hold. But even this is rare ; and I believe I am correct in saying
that in the majority of households no attempt is made to con-
tinue the education of girls after they leave school, and that,
consequently, within a few years their minds are in much the
same condition as are those of girls who have not been to
school at all. You profess to have received pleasure and profit
from the education you yourselves have received. Try to imagine
the knowledge you have gained, and the tastes you have
acquired, during your school and college life, obliterated. Would
life appear in such circumstance to be worth living ? Would it
not, to say the least, have lost one of its greatest charms ? Yet this
is the condition to which social custom condemns the majority of
your women. I do not say that their lives are joyless lives, but
I do say that they are denied the means of experiencing some of
the keenest and purest enjoyments a human being is capable of.
This selfishness, which practically shuts out one-half of society
from the pleasure-giving and refining influences of literature,

Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 61 of 66)