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The Higher Education

George Trutnbull Ladd

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Sr. Strljarti I. ffintter

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Students Library

Santa Barbara, California



Copyright, 1899,



THE four essays which are now gathered into
this volume were originally written for different
audiences, and have already been published in
different magazines. The paper on " The Devel-
opment of the American University " was read
before the " Round Table " of Boston, and that on
"The Place of the Fitting-School in American
Education " before the New England Association
of Colleges and Preparatory Schools. A request
from the editors of the "Andover Review" to
reply to the presentation, made by a friend and
colleague, of another system of higher education
than that of which I was the chosen advocate, led
to the article on " Education, New and Old. " The
occasion of its production, therefore, accounts for
the more special and polemical character of the
third essay. The address on " The Essentials of
a Modern Liberal Education" was delivered be-
fore the Association of the Alumni of Western
Reserve University at the Commencement of 1895.
All four of these essays are here published with
very few and unimportant verbal changes.


Since the first three of these essays were written
at a period of more than ten years ago, they con-
tain many particulars of statement which would
need modification if revised in view of later facts,
and some particulars of opinion which I should
now express in a different way. It is gratifying
to find that certain suggestions made in them as
to possible remedies for then existing evils and
deficiencies have been adopted and more or less
successfully carried out. It is also a cause for
hope that some of the mists arising from the first
thawing of the fields congealed by long continued
customs and traditions have begun to clear away ;
so that a more judicious estimate of the path
which lies behind us in educational matters and
of the lines of educational progress in the nearer
future, can be more easily attained. But he cer-
tainly overestimates the assured and thoroughly
well proven value of much that is " new " in edu-
cation, and also underestimates the numerous
puzzling problems which remain to be solved, the
practical difficulties still to be overcome, who
regards the permanent courses of the more popular
or of the higher education in this country as by
any means clearly marked out.

The enthusiastic advocate of what is new in
educational ideas as to subjects, methods, cur-
ricula, organization, etc. regards it as highly
unfortunate that institutions are not so plastic, so


easy to change, as are ideas. The man who is
wise in practical affairs, and profound in his re-
flections upon the truths of history, knows that,
on the contrary, this abiding and relatively stable
character of the institutional expression of ideas
is the fortunate thing about educational, as about
other forms of progress. Most fortunate of all are
those institutions which change just fast and far
enough to conserve the priceless lessons of the
past, while unfolding constantly to receive the
suggestions of the better time coming.

It is not, then, because any of the details of
opinion expressed in these essays are regarded as
a finality that 1 have thought it possibly worth
while to publish them. As respects these very
details I should still be unwilling to commit my-
self unalterably to any of the current conflicting
opinions. And I have already indicated that the
events of the last decade have modified, in ways
which need not at present be discussed or even
noted, what was said upon various points before
the original hearers of these essays. But if they
possess any value sufficient to justify calling at-
tention to them again, collectively and in this
unobtrusive way, it is because they all intend to
emphasize the three following truths : First, there
are some settled and permanent principles which
belong to all educational systems, in all times;
and we may know what these principles are. But,


second, every age, and every country, has its own
problems which concern the actual application of
these unchanging principles, in an institutional
way, to its own demands and necessities. Every
age is "modern," in its own thought; but the
rapidity of the current changes, and the vastness
of the forces at work, create for us some especially
pressing demands and peculiarly hard necessities.
And, third, nothing but practical wisdom a com-
bination of knowledge of the values involved in
the different studies and disciplines with a gen-
erous and sympathetic spirit toward each, and tact
and patience in dealing with details will solve
for us, in this country and to-day, our educational



January, 1899.












NEITHER of the two most attractive and promis-
ing methods which ordinarily lie open for the dis-
cussion of a question like this, can in the present
instance be followed exclusively. These two
methods may be styled the descriptive, or histori-
cal, and the speculative, or ideal. By following
the first method one would be led to state what the
university has been and is in this country, and in
other parts of the world whose civilization most
nearly resembles our own; and then to show by
what modifications the institution, as it now exists,
might be made what it should be. Even in this
way, however, it is plain that one would have to
set up some ideal standard, in accordance with
which any proposed modifications should take
place. In following the second method one might
feel emboldened at once to state what the preva-


lent form of the university ought to be ; but one
would then have to show how our existing educa-
tional institutions may be changed in order to
bring them into conformity with such an ideal

Now, in this country, up to the present time,
there has existed no form of an educational insti-
tution which we can call " the American university,"
if by this term we intend to designate something
other and higher than " the American college,"
with its possible attachment of one or more pro-
fessional schools. Any one possessed of the requi-
site information knows at once what is meant by the
university of France, the English universities, or a
German university; but no one can become so
conversant with facts as to tell what an American
university is. It would by no means be fair, how-
ever, to sum up the history of the development of
this institution with the curt sentence: "There
are no universities in America." To be sure, it
is hardly twenty years since the rector of Lincoln
College, Oxford (Mark Pattison), wrote: "In
America scientific culture has never been intro-
duced. It has no universities such as we under-
stand by the term." But the same writer speaks
of Yale University as "stated to be a poor and
hard-worked seminary," and marvels at the extent
and variety of its required curriculum. Since Mr.
Pattison's writing, a large number of schools have


sprung up in our West, some private and some
state institutions, most of which have but veiled
thinly over their deficiencies in scientific quality,
equipment, and force and aim in teaching, by put-
ting on the title of " university." Yale (and, to a
greater extent, Harvard) has changed rapidly in
the effort to validate this title. Johns Hopkins
has made a noble start toward the realization of a
high ideal, and various other institutions have
given notice of their claims to be, or intentions to
become, genuine universities. Still, it is scarcely
less true than it was a score of years ago that, al-
though there may be universities in America, no
one can tell what an American university is.

On the other hand, there is no lack of theory
and counsel as to the important inquiry, what the
American university should be. Perhaps it would
not be unfair to say that, as a rule, the less the
amount of study which a man has given to the
many difficult problems that enter into the devel-
opment of the highest-class educational institutions
in this country, the prompter and more certain is
his response to this inquiry. Men who have a
million or two of money, and who, from the train-
ing of their lives, have come to think all things
save heaven, and scarcely save that purchasable
with so goodly a sum, are peculiarly tempted to try
the experiment of founding and calling by their
name the one genuine and great American univer-


sity. If the general theory of the purchasableness
of all things which enter into a university were
true, it would still have to be said that the ordi-
nary estimate of the amount required is inadequate.
But surely, as long as the primary and indispens-
able prerequisite of a genuine and great university,
wherever under the sky it may be located, is a body
of teachers and pupils rightly trained, and united
and animated by the right spirit, the actual result
attainable by merely giving large sums of money
will not fulfil a worthy ideal.

The speculative method, when employed by per-
sons informed in the principles and practice of
education, is, of course, far safer and more valuable
than when employed by the ignorant. Yet I can
never forget that institutions, unlike systems of
abstract truth, are not wisely treated in the purely
speculative way. A university is, at most, an
institution; it is a complicated system of means
through which one set of persons operates upon
another set of persons for the accomplishment of
certain ends. But every means must afford an
answer to four inquiries : Out of what material can
it be constituted ? Who or what is to use it ?
Upon whom or upon what is it to be used ? For
what end is it to be used ? To inquire as to what
the American philosophy should be, savors of irra-
tionality ; and the inquiry would have the same
savor if it took the form, What should the Scottish,


or French, or German, or Sandwich-Islands phi-
losophy be ? For the only answer to all these
inquiries is that philosophy is not a matter for
adjustment, as a means, to national requirements,
but every nation and individual that cultivates
philosophy should aim at having a true philosophy.
On the contrary, the inquiry, " What should the
American university be ?" is not an irrational
inquiry, for it is an inquiry after the best means
to an end. For the same reason it cannot be raised
and answered as a purely speculative inquiry ;
since the nature of the material out of which the
American university must be constituted, if it is
constituted at all, imposes upon every ideal some
very hard and unavoidable limitations.

Accordingly, I shall abstain as carefully from
speculating about an unattainable ideal as from
describing a nonentity. Since neither the histori-
cal nor the speculative method can be pursued ex-
clusively to their final results, let us be content to
go only a little way into the subject by the use of
both methods. For although there is no history,
as yet, of the development of the American univer-
sity, there are colleges and professional schools and
other institutions of the so-called higher learning
in this country, and all these institutions have a
tolerably rich and instructive history. If we are
ever to attain a distinctive university education,
such as can be properly called " American," these


institutions, their existing and prospective structure
and work, must be chiefly taken into our account,
for they furnish the material from which, and the
conditions on which, the development of the univer-
sity must, for the most part, take place. If this
material and these conditions are dealt with ill,
no amount of talk and enthusiasm will save us
from pursuing an unattainable or an unworthy

One word more should be premised upon this
point. The American university must be developed
on its own soil, and out of the existing materials,
and under the existing conditions. It cannot be
imported, or constructed de novo, as it were, from
the brain and purse of any one man, or of any small
number of men. " The University of Oxford," says
Mr. Maxwell Lyte, " did not spring into being in
any particular year, or at the bidding of any par-
ticular founder ; it was not established by any
formal charter of incorporation." Particular insti-
tutions bearing the name of universities may, of
course, be founded in this country in a particular
year, and at the bidding of a particular founder.
But these will not give us the true norm or type.
This will come only as the result of a living de-

Nor can I believe that it will be possible to create
our university by using large importations of fin-
ished foreign goods. Would that the German


model might furnish us certain of the more impor-
tant and vital factors of the ideal toward which we
resolve to grow ! Yet the proposal at once to im-
port largely from the methods and constitution of
the German university would be likely to result in
failure. There are many features of the University
as already established in Germany which we should
not wish to imitate if we could. The more impor-
tant commendable factors the thorough second-
ary education of those who matriculate, the scientific
character of the teachers and the scientific and free
quality of their teaching, the relative disregard for
what we incline so much to overestimate, namely,
the pursuits that fit directly for some form of prac-
tical life (Brodsludieii) we can gain only in time
and by paying the price for them. Many things in
the French university system, also, and especially
what Matthew Arnold calls "too much requiring
of authorizations before a man may stir," unfit it
to be our model. Nor can we think of taking very
freely and directly from those great English insti-
tutions of Oxford and Cambridge, to which we
should most naturally look for our models. The
expensive character of the education they impart,
the dominance of the tutorial system in their col-
leges to the detriment of the university, the large
amount of sinecurism which they permit and en-
courage, the distinction between " pass " and
" honor " examinations, and between the one-


quarter who come to study and win prizes and the
three-quarters who come chiefly to gain the social
distinction of a degree, prevent our imitating
them. As to the Scotch universities, I cannot
avoid thinking that following them is most of all to
be deprecated. For this reason it should not escape
our notice that certain modifications now taking
place in the constitution and working of the Amer-
ican college are liable to encourage in this country
some of the worst features of the Scotch universi-
ties. At present, however, it is safely within the
limits of truth to say that the degree of M.A. in a
Scotch university does not necessarily signify (with
the exception of logic and metaphysics) so much
of training or acquisition as is required for admis-
sion to a first-rate American college. To model
after the Scotch universities would accordingly be
to lower the college as we already have it, and not
to develop the university as we should desire to
have it.

The development of the American university
involves the progressive settlement of two questions
concerning the best general method of education,
which have been of late much discussed both here
and in Europe. These are, the nature and amount
of choice which the person under education shall
exercise as to the subjects and method of his edu-
cation, and the kind and proportion of knowledges
and disciplines which ought to enter into a so-called


"liberal" education. In this country both these
questions have generally been debated in a rather
narrow way. The first has ordinarily been pro-
posed as follows : How much of the college cur-
riculum should be required, how much optional ?
The second has ordinarily been reduced to a strife
over the point, whether Greek is necessary to be
studied by every one who shall be entitled B.A.
The limits of this paper do not, of course, permit
me to elaborate and argue my opinion on either of
these two questions. Nothing more than an intelli-
gent and defensible opinion, appealing to probabili-
ties in the light of past experience, can be gained
upon such subjects of discussion. The purpose
before me, however, makes it desirable that I should
briefly state my opinion upon both these subjects.

The question as to the choice which the person
under education shall have in the material and
form of his education is one both of degrees and
of expedients, that is to say, it is a question as
to how much such choice shall be allowed, and at
what time it shall begin, as well as a question con-
cerning the best means for guiding the choice and
for taking the expression of it.

For the sake of convenience I will speak of the
grades of education which may be secured at pres-
ent in this country as four in number ; these are,
the primary, the secondary, the higher, and the
university education, the last being understood to


be in a very inchoate and unformed condition. By
the primary education we will understand such as,
whether gained in public or private schools, deals
with the most common and elementary subjects,
and is not designed in itself to fit the pupil for the
higher education. By the secondary education we
will understand such as is expressly designed in
preparation of the higher education; this will
include those courses in the best high-schools and
academies which fit pupils to enter the colleges
and first-rate scientific schools of the country.
These latter (excluding all merely technical schools)
give what is entitled to be called the "higher"
education. Beyond all this lies so much of the
more strictly university education as is mingled
with the later years of the higher education, or is
taught in so-called " graduate " courses or in pro-
fessional schools, so far as the latter are conformed
to the university idea. It will appear in the sequel
that one difficult problem connected with the devel-
opment of the American university concerns the
right separation of the higher education into the
two parts of which it has actually come to consist,
so that, by combining one of these parts with the
secondary education as it now exists, we may gain
a broad and solid foundation upon which to build
the university education. The university part of
the higher education as it now exists will, of
course, then have to be joined with the other kin-


dred elements in so-called " post-graduate " courses,
so as to furnish a genuine university education in
the greatest possible wealth and solidity. When
this problem is practically solved, therefore, we
shall have three instead of four grades of education ;
these will be, the primary, the secondary, and the
higher or university education, but the two latter
will probably have far more of significance than
they now have.

Looked at in the light of the foregoing distinc-
tions, the question of the place and amount of the
pupil's choice which should enter into his educa-
tion appears to me not so difficult of solution. With
regard to the strictly primary education no choice
whatever should be permitted, either to the pupil
or to his guardian, that is to say, I would have
each youth compelled by the state to go to a
certain distance along paths common to all, with-
out permission to decide whether he will go at all,
or whether, if he go, he will go by just such paths
rather than others. Of course, the guardian of the
pupil should have the exercise of discretion as to
the mode of teaching, whether public or private,
and perhaps as to the age at which the primary
education shall have been accomplished. Oppor-
tunity for exceptions in the cases of the incapable
or sickly should also be given. But the State
should compel so much of education as seems
necessary for the safe and intelligent exercise


of the citizen's rights, and for his decent inter-
course with his fellows. No doubt opinions will
differ as to the amount and kinds of subjects
which should be included in the primary educa-
tion, and as to its methods, text-books, etc. But
the settlement of such questions should not be
left to the dull or dishonest wits of the successful
politician of the ward or district; they should
rather be settled by commission of the most no-
table experts in education, appointed for that pur-
pose by the highest authority of the state.

The element of the pupil's choice should enter
somewhat largely into the secondary education,
but even here by no means in an unlimited way.
In the first place, liberty of choice should be
allowed in deciding whether the secondary educa-
tion will be entered upon at all or not, and also,
if entered upon, to what extent it will be pursued.
In my opinion, also, near the beginning of the
secondary education there should be given that
opportunity for " bifurcation " which must cer-
tainly come at some time in the course of mental
training. The principle of this bifurcation is now
tolerably plain and pretty generally acknowledged.
In the words of Matthew Arnold, the prime, direct
aim of education is " to enable a man to know him-
self and the world" Corresponding to this two-
fold aim of education there is in most men, dormant
or already dominant, one or the other of two great


" aptitudes ; " these are, the aptitude for the more
subjective and reflective studies, and the aptitude
for the studies of external observation. In other
words, among youths who take to anything in the
way of study, some take more naturally to letters
and philosophy, and some take more naturally to
physical and natural sciences. The secondary
education should recognize this difference in apti-
tudes for one or the other part of the prime two-
fold aim of education. Such recognition should
provide for two main courses of study, in one of
which letters and the so-called humanities should
predominate, and in the other mathematics and
the physical and natural sciences. These courses
should themselves, however, be fixed without
making a frequent appeal to the choice of the
pupil; they should be fixed in accordance with
the world's accumulated wisdom as to the best
way to teach a man "to know himself and the
world," in harmony with his particular aptitude.
The secondary education, in all cases where it is
to lead up to a university education, should be
long and thorough enough to secure what the
Germans strive to secure as a preparation for
their universities, namely, the general scientific
culture, or formation (allgemeine wissenschaftlicJie
Bildung), of the pupil.

The higher or university education should per-
mit and encourage the greatest possible freedom


of choice on the pupil's part ; but it should not
be open (except as a matter of courtesy or privi-
lege of visitation) to those who have not satisfac-
torily finished the secondary stage. To this
subject, however, I shall return later.

A word is pertinent in this connection as to the
much-debated question of the amount of optional
courses to be allowed in the present college cur-
riculum. The American college was formerly a
secondary school, pure and simple, and properly,
therefore, did not admit the university method and
the university idea. The American college has
now developed out of the stage in which it was
strictly a means for secondary education, without
having yet developed into the higher or university
stage. It contains, however, certain elements of
the university idea. These elements are to be

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Online LibraryGeorge Trumbull LaddEssays on the higher education → online text (page 1 of 9)