George Trumbull Ladd.

Essays on the higher education online

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welcomed as existing in the place of something
better but as yet unrealizable. In so far as the
college can wisely admit into itself, for a time,
the elements of a university education, it may
have, and should have, so-called " optional "
courses. But the education which most American
colleges give is still chiefly of the secondary order
and kind. This is necessarily so, because the
opportunity for such an education as should already
be possessed by every candidate for matriculation
in university courses cannot be obtained in this
country outside of the colleges.


The chief part of the present college curriculum,
therefore, cannot wisely be made optional, for it
belongs on the other than the university side of
the college ; it belongs to the secondary education.
It is an indispensable part of that training which
enables the youth, where universities do exist,
to exercise such choice of subjects and teachers
(Lernfreiheit} as belongs to the university educa-
tion. To make this part of the college education
optional would not advance us one step toward
converting the college into the genuine university.
My objection and it is an objection which seems
to me unanswerable, except by raising greatly
the standard of secondary education outside the
college my objection to making the entire col-
lege curriculum elective is the necessary sequence
of the facts. The freshman in the best American
college, irrespective of his age and his wisdom,
whether in his own eyes or in the eyes of others,
has not had (except in rare instances) a secondary
education of sufficient extent or thoroughness to
fit him to enjoy the privileges of the university
idea. Place the average Harvard or Yale student
who has just passed his entrance examinations
beside the German student who has just gone
through with his Abiturienten-Ezamen, and com-
pare the two. The latter is greatly superior to the
former in respect of " general scientific culture ; "
he is even superior to the average Harvard or



Yale junior in this respect. However, we are
rapidly approaching the time when we may make
the secondary and relatively compulsory education
end earlier than it now does unless, alas ! we
lose our fast-ripening fruit by plucking it pre-

Into the question of the means by which to
secure and guide the pupils' choice, I shall not
attempt to enter. To permit the student who is
really in the secondary stage of education to make
up from term to term, or year to year, whatever
potpourri he will of elective courses, is perhaps of
all methods least likely to prove satisfactory. It
should also be noticed that the effort to secure
the right kind and amount of work in the second-
ary stage of education solely or chiefly by insisting
upon " pass " examinations results in making
" crammed " men instead of " formed " men. Per-
verse studet qui examinibus studet, Wolf used to
declare. " The country of examinations," says
M. Laboulaye, speaking of Austria, " is precisely
that in which they do not work hard." But the
remedy does not consist in abolishing all examina-
tions, but rather in stimulating thorough teaching
and in requiring from the pupil the preparation of
daily and organically ordered tasks.

The question as to the amount and kind of
knowledges and disciplines which are necessary
to a " liberal education " is, both in theory and in


fact, closely connected with the development of
the university. No one would think of claiming
that the university man ought not in all cases to
be a man liberally educated. But one essential
part of the idea and practice of a genuine univer-
sity education is freedom of choice, on the pupil's
part, as to the kind, if not the amount, of knowl-
edges and disciplines in which he will attain his
scientific culture. If, then, any particular knowl-
edges and disciplines are to be required as neces-
sary for a liberal education, the enforcement of
this requirement belongs to the secondary rather
than to the university stage of education. In
other words, if one hold that a "liberal educa-
tion " should comprise a certain knowledge of, and
training in, any branches of learning, one must
also hold that such branches of learning should be
rigidly required of the pupil in the preparatory
school and early years of his college course. For,
as we have seen, the preparatory school and the
early years of the college course have hitherto con-
stituted, and do still constitute, our means of sec-
ondary education in this country.

I have no hesitation in stating my conviction
that a goodly amount of certain kinds of knowl-
edges and disciplines is necessary for every educa-
tion worthy to enjoy the distinction of being called
"liberal." Therefore I am compelled, also, to
hold that both the main courses of secondary edu-


cation should require of all their pupils at least a
certain amount of particular kinds of mental
acquirement and culture, as a prerequisite to en-
trance upon university studies. This amount should
be notably greater than that now exacted for admis-
sion to our highest-class colleges. In my judgment,
it should be even somewhat greater than that now
attained by the average junior in such colleges.

It is at once objected, to the proposal to enforce
a considerable amount of training in definite
branches of learning and culture upon every pupil,
that the number of modern sciences is far too
great to require even a smattering of them all in
the secondary education. And, it is added, a
smattering of many sciences is equivalent to no
science ; it is even positively injurious to the mind
of the learner, while the attempt to enforce it makes
a potpourri of education which is quite as unrea-
sonable as that composed for themselves by some
of those pupils who enjoy the freest exercise of
choice. All this and more is undoubtedly true in
objection to a certain way of working the principle
of compulsion through the whole of the secondary
education. But I have not urged that a certain
large number of particular sciences should be en-
forced in the secondary education of every pupil.
I have only spoken of an amount and number of
knowledges and disciplines which are requisite for
such a secondary education as will serve for a


foundation to a genuine university education. If
there is any such amount and number of studies,
then we cannot successfully develop the American
university without settling this basis of require-
ment upon which the development must rest. The
settlement of this question will not take place, in
fact and life, through the dictum of any one man
not even though that man be learned in the
theory of education or in a position favorable for
forcing his convictions upon others. The settle-
ment of this question will come only in time (and
perhaps in a long time), as a growing consensus
of the opinions of those most competent in such
matters. The opinion which I have to express
shall be modestly expressed ; at most, it is only
one man's opinion, except so far as it is in accord
with the consensus of opinion already formed on
the part of the most competent authorities.

A " liberal education " seems to me to include,
of necessity, a goodly amount of four great
branches of human knowledge and discipline ;
these are : language, including literature ; mathe-
matics and natural science ; the science of man as
an individual spirit who feels and thinks and acts
in relation to the world of nature and of his
fellows, and to God ; and the development of the
human race in history. All education preparatory
to the university should require these studies to
have been already pursued liberally ; but the edu-


cation of the university should leave every learner
free to follow any special examples of one or more
of them, according to his aptitude and choice.
At the same time, even in the secondary education,
a generous allowance should be made as I have
already said for differences in aptitudes, in view
of the twofold aim of all scientific culture. But
this allowance should not be made subject to the
choice of the pupil from term to term, or from
year to year, if for no other reason, still because
a real continuity or organic and vital connection
cannot be secured in this way for the different
parts of the secondary education. Nor should the
allowance be made in the form of a great variety
of parallel courses among which the pupil must
choose. This plan is open, though in less degree,
to the same objection as the foregoing. Moreover,
unless it is further limited, it does not secure thor-
ough training in the four great branches of learn-
ing and discipline of which I have spoken. And,
finally, it inevitably results in the repetition, in
the small, of the same attempt at compulsory im-
parting of a smattering of many knowledges, of
which the unrevised college curriculum in this
country has been accused. The secondary educa-
tion should, then, consist of required studies in
all these four branches ; but it should be arranged
in such a way as to be thorough in a very few ex-
amples under each, and it should be divided into


two great courses in which, by laying greater
emphasis upon some one or more of the four, a
generous allowance can be made for the pupil's
aptitude. Further as to some of the details of this
plan of a secondary education, which should be
required as a necessary preparation for university
studies, I shall speak later on.

Substantial agreement upon the points hitherto
discussed will insure a good measure of agreement
upon those which are now to follow. There need
be little dispute, since the subject has in late years
received so thorough an historical examination,
over the essential nature of a genuine university.
Since the American university must, in any event,
be a "university," although it may have certain
peculiar features which may be called American,
the noun will set limits to the adjective beyond which
the peculiar features cannot grow. What, then, is
the norm according to which, and the ideal toward
which, we must develop our higher education ? In
other words, what is the true university idea ?

Although intelligent persons need not dispute
over the true idea of the university, there is current
a great amount of unintelligent opinion on this
subject. One prevalent thought obviously is, that
a university is a school, or collection of schools,
where a great lot of subjects are taught and a great
crowd of pupils go. And there are elements of
truth in this opinion. A number of faculties and


free concourse of students, perhaps of many nations
and from many places, are intimately connected
with the university idea. But there are large
schools, in this country and elsewhere, that are
not universities ; and there have been great uni-
versities with a relatively small number of students.
The grade and method of the teaching, and the
spirit and previous training of the students, are
important factors in the university idea. Again,
the universality of the university has been thought
to consist in this, that the scope of its instruction
should include all subjects ; thus the idea toward
which the American institution should strive is
held to be that of a place where anybody can
come to learn anything that can be taught any-
where. Now, historically considered, this view is
absurd. The phrases in which the word universitas
occurs, if thus interpreted, would (it has been
pointed out) be equivalent to speaking of the uni-
versity as " an institution for studying everything
where they study nothing but law." Moreover,
this interpretation of the word misses the spirit of
the reality. For example, a school of veterinary
surgery, or a school for learning to sing and to play
the piano, may be a convenient adjunct or append-
age of a university. But certainly neither of these
schools can ever become an integral part of a
genuine university. The study and teaching of
comparative anatomy and physiology, or of zoology,


including the structure of those valuable domestic
animals, the horse and the cow, is a legitimate and
important part of a university. But such study
must constitute a part of general scientific culture,
and be conducted as such.

It is the scientific spirit to which the university
education primarily appeals, and which it encour-
ages ; it is the large and free pursuit of science,
as science, which it is bound to yield. This is
true even of its professional schools. Even the
study of surgery and medicine, or of theology, is
primarily and pre-eminently scientific in the gen-
uine university. For the same reason the call for
chairs of " journalism," " telegraphy," etc., in the
American university, and the complaint that our
university instruction does not teach men to speak
French and Italian, are both quite out of place.
Journalism and telegraphy can never properly
enter into the instruction of the faculties of the
university, for they can never be regarded as
broadly inductive or speculative sciences. The
modern languages have no place in university in-
struction, except as they are used for the study
of language and of literature, or are made the
means of getting at other sciences through the
works written in these languages.

The history of the word " university " has now
been very thoroughly investigated. This history
throws no little light on the meaning of the word,


the content of the idea. It is connected with the
history of the term studium generate, which the
word universitas came to supplant. " The name
studium generate" says Savigny, " has been inter-
preted to intend the whole collective body of the
sciences, but incorrectly. . . . The name rather
refers to the extent of the scope of operation of
these institutions, which were intended for pupils
of all countries." " It meant," says Professor
Laurie, " a place where one or more of the liberal
arts might be prosecuted, and which was open to
all who chose to go there and study, free from the
canonical or monastic obligations and control."
It was, therefore, a school of high grade, where
the spirit of freedom, in both teacher and pupil,
prevailed. It afterward came to mean "both a
school for liberal studies and a school open to all."
The word universitas, on the other hand, was
originally applied to any association of persons
acting somewhat permanently together. It has
been said that, in a papal rescript, vestra univer-
sitas often means scarcely more than " all of you."
As applied to a studium it came to mean a literary
and incorporated community. But when these
schools began to act under some express grant or
character the two terms tended to become iden-
tical ; and, finally, the word " university " came
to take the other's place and to be exclusively


It appears, therefore, that the primary thing
in the university idea, both in time and in thought,
is the association in a certain way of the teacher
and his pupils. "Universities," says Dr. Db'llin-
ger, " originated as free associations of respected
teachers and eager scholars." This does not, in-
deed, sufficiently define the modern university, but
it describes an essential and indestructible factor
of it. Now, if we attempt further to describe the
modern university in the light of the ancient idea,
we find that it differs from the university of the
Middle Ages chiefly with respect to the extent
and variety of means in command for the reali-
zation of this idea. The idea to be realized, and
the general conception of the method necessary
for its realization, remain the same. The idea to
be realized is the highest scientific culture of the
individual, and the method deemed necessary for
its realization is the right association of the teacher
and pupil. The one word which, beyond all others,
describes this method is " freedom."

The university teacher must have freedom in
investigating and teaching; the pupil must have
freedom in investigating and learning (Lehrfreiheit
and Lernfreiheif). But freedom that does not
degenerate into license is secured in the teacher
by selecting a man of formed character, who has
himself gone over the same path of patient, con-
scientious, wide, and deep research by which he


offers to lead the pupil. He still travels daily in
this same path. The pupil, on his part, is free to
choose his teacher and his subjects of research ;
and his freedom is secured, as much as possible,
against license by his having been prepared for
freedom through the rigorous training, under law,
of the secondary education, and through the ex-
ample and inspiration of his teacher and of the
entire community of which he forms a part. He
must learn to "know from experience," as says
Professor von Sybel, " what is the meaning of
emancipation of the individual mind, scientific
thoroughness, and free depth of thought."

Such freedom in scientific research and teaching
as the university uses to attain its end of the
highest scientific culture is not, however, to be
considered as separable from character. For, in
the words of another German professor, " genuine
science is the foundation of genuine freedom of
spirit. Universities are, therefore, places for the
formation of genuine freedom of spirit. They could
not be this if they were directed in a one-sided
way to the setting free and forming of intelligence.
Freedom of spirit without the formation of char-
acter is not conceivable. Only the unity of the
formation of intelligence and character is genuine
freedom of spirit."

The true end of the university is, then, the high-
est scientific culture of the individual, and its peculiar


method is the most intelligent and highly trained
freedom in research, in teaching, and in learning.
This end and this method served at the beginning
to distinguish the schools of the university order
from the monastic and ecclesiastical schools ; they
may fitly serve still as setting the ideal to which
the American university must conform itself.
Writers so widely divergent in their views and
ways of thought as Matthew Arnold and Cardinal
Newman are in substantial agreement as to the
end at which the genuine university aims. This
end is not, then, primarily the preparation of the
pupil for any particular employment or profession,
or even for being a good and useful citizen in
general. University culture, does, indeed, tend
strongly to produce good and useful service of
every kind, and good and useful citizenship ; but
this is its indirect tendency rather than its direct
primary aim. For example, Professor Payne, in
pleading for a science of education, reminds Eng-
lishmen of Sir Bartle Frere's conviction that " the
acknowledged and growing power of Germany is
intimately connected with the admirable education
which the great body of the German nation are
in the habit of receiving ; " as well as of the
declaration of a writer in the " Times " : "I think
the maintenance of our commercial superiority is
very much of a schoolmaster's question ; " and of
the statement of another writer that "the Ger-


mans are outstripping us in the race for commer-
cial superiority in the far East." These advantages
of a liberal and university education, widely dif-
fused, are not to be directly aimed at, for, like
happiness, they are likely thus to be lost. They
are to be secured as the indirect but sure result,
so far as the university is concerned, of the at-
tainment of its direct aim in the highest scientific
culture of the greatest number possible, and espe-
cially of all those placed in positions where they
are trusted and followed by the people.

Choice by the pupil as to what he will study,
and as to where and of whom and how far he will
study it, belongs of right to the university idea.
The university itself, however, must decide how
much of secondary education the pupil shall have
in order to admission to its freedom, and also how
much of the highest scientific culture he must
attain to win the mark of its approval as his alma
mater. Beyond these restrictions, the more gen-
erous the freedom permitted and encouraged the
more worthy the compliance of the university with
its own ideal. In so far as professional studies
constitute an integral part of the instruction of
the university, since the degree conferred upon
the student of them is a guarantee of a certain
amount of scientific culture of a particular kind,
such studies may be prescribed. Yet even in these
cases the same end and method must be adhered


to with the utmost possible strictness. A theologi-
cal seminary or medical school where freedom of
instruction and learning is not regnant cannot
become a proper part of a genuine university; it
must remain of the nature of a sectional, or
monastic and ecclesiastical, school.

It is chiefly because the German universities
most worthily realize the ideal of the highest free
and scientific culture that they are confessedly
superior to all others, confessedly, on the part of
the most thoughtful and well-informed educators
under rival systems. "The danger of France,"
says M. Kenan of its university, " consists in this :
we are becoming a nation of brilliant lecturers
and fine writers." " It is," says Professor Patti-
son, of England, " as if our universities were
destined only to teach in perfection the art of
writing leading articles." No one, however, would
for a moment think of implying what is involved
in remarks like these with reference to the poorest
German university; for every university in Ger-
many, by its theory and custom alike, undertakes
worthily to realize this admirable ideal.

Supposing that those upon whom falls the task
of developing the American university have grasped
the right conception, the actual attainment of the
ideal will inevitably encounter many difficulties.
They have certain problems before them which
are embodied in hard matter-of-fact. No amount


of fine writing or generous planning will do away
with the necessity of encountering these problems
one by one, and of giving them a progressively
better and better practical solution. The whole
condition of education in this country, as it stands
in the minds of the people and in the existing
educational institutions, from highest to lowest, is
concerned in the development of the university. I
shall treat of only two of these problems. But
these two are perhaps the most difficult, and they
are so closely related to each other as to constitute
in some respects one and the same problem. They
are, the present condition and future development
of the secondary education of the country, and the
constitution and fate of the American college.

No one would contend that the secondary edu-
cation in this country is in a satisfactory condition.
It is undoubtedly lacking in thoroughness, in bal-
ance, in organic unity, and progressive character.
By the " secondary " education I now mean such
education, in addition to that primary education
required of every one by the State, as the university
must require for admission to its privileges. But
as has already been pointed out the whole
circuit of secondary education is at present, in this
country, divided into two sections, one of which
lies in courses preparatory for college or for the
highest-class scientific school, and the other in the
curriculum of the college or of the scientific school.


This latter section is supposed to constitute the
" higher " or highest education. Neither of these
two sections of what, in its entirety, virtually
represents the secondary education of the country
the education which must be required in prepa-
ration for the university is in a satisfactory

No one who is acquainted with the subject would
think of claiming that (with a few exceptions) the
high-schools and academies and other places for
fitting youth for college are doing their work in a
satisfactory way. This fact, however, is by no
means wholly due to fault or deficiency on their
part ; indeed, education is so much of an organic
unity that, if any of the stages or elements of it
be defective, the deficiency is felt throughout all
the subsequent growth of the entire organism.

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Online LibraryGeorge Trumbull LaddEssays on the higher education → online text (page 2 of 9)