George Trumbull Ladd.

Essays on the higher education online

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The secondary education is so unsatisfactory partly
because of the condition of that primary education
on which the secondary must be built. For, here
again, no one acquainted with the subject would
think of claiming that the public and private
schools which start the process of education are
in anything like a satisfactory condition. Probably
the average public school of the primary grade is,
on the whole, more effective than the average
private school of the same grade. But what is the
condition of the public schools of the primary
grade in this country ? To speak the truth plainly,



they are in many cases too much managed by
political powers that have no kind of fitness for
the work, and the instruction is too much given
by immature girls who have themselves received
no thorough education and who, far too frequently,
teach only as a makeshift until they can secure
release by way of marriage.

How, then, can the best and truly progressive
secondary education be built upon a foundation
laid by such hands under such circumstances ?
Substantially the same things are true, however,
of a considerable part of the secondary education
itself; only in this case the managing political
powers come into contact with certain subjects
which strike them with somewhat of the mysteri-
ous awe which belongs to all unknown subjects,
and with a few teachers who make themselves felt
as strong and thoroughly educated persons alone
can. But, even in those subjects which are more
especially selected as the knowledges and disci-
plines whose acquaintance must be made in a gen-
erous way before the youth can be ready for the
freer and higher scientific culture of the university,
the few really fit teachers must spend much of
their time in teaching the pupil what he should
have been taught long ago, but has not learned,
and in helping him to unlearn a large part of
what he has been taught. How can such a sec-
ondary education compare for a moment with that


given by teachers every one of whom has had a
thorough education, and arranged in courses intel-
ligently selected and organically united by the
highest learning and skill ?

The other section of the secondary education of
the country viz., that which lies within the curric-
ulum of the college, or the highest-class scientific
school is also as truly, if not as largely and
obviously, in an unsatisfactory condition. The
best fitting-schools, whether academies or high-
schools, are not infrequently better off, with respect
to the character of their teachers, pupils, courses
of study, and means for handling their courses,
than are the greater part of our so-called colleges.
Still, almost all the colleges are constantly making
important changes for the better. No doubt the
colleges of the first rank are, considering the mate-
rial from which their pupils must be made, on
account of the unsatisfactory condition of the early
part of the secondary education, doing excellent
work. I think it would not be extravagant to say
that the American colleges are now giving to the
average pupil a more thorough education than is
bestowed upon any but their honor-men by any of
the universities of Great Britain. But these col-
leges, too, are prevented, by certain conditions
which lie partly within and partly outside of them-
selves, from doing the best work in the way of
continuing the secondary education. Accordingly,


the best approach to a true university education
which they can make at present is by way of offer-
ing certain elective courses as a part of the later
years of the college curriculum, and by inducing a
few pupils to gather for the purpose of pursuing
so-called " post-graduate " courses. But in many
cases (at least, with the exception of three or four
institutions) these graduate (better so called than
" post-graduate ") courses are without satisfactory
beginning or ending.

It is obvious, then, that the progressive reorgan-
ization of our secondary education a subject full
of many difficult practical problems is an indis-
pensable prerequisite or, rather, accompaniment of
the development of the university. But since part
of this education now lies, and for a long time to
come must lie, within the college curriculum, the
reorganization of the secondary education is con-
nected with the fate of the college itself.

I will now briefly indicate the lines along which
the work of reorganization should proceed. The
entire secondary education should, as far as pos-
sible, be made into a connected and organic whole ;
and the aim should be to have it finished at the
end of what is now sophomore year in the colleges
of the first rank, or at the end of the entire required
curriculum of the scientific schools of the first
rank. It should be arranged in two great courses,
both of which should be, in respect of all their


studies what, how much, and what order care-
fully prescribed. Both of these great courses
should include all the four kinds of knowledges
and disciplines which are considered as indispen-
sable parts of a liberal education, and as necessary
preparation for the range and freedom of university
studies. But these knowledges and disciplines
should be taught in different proportions by the
two courses. The course which leans toward, or
places the emphasis upon, language and the human-
ities should comprise no less of mathematics, and
even more of the physical and natural sciences,
than it now contains. It should comprise more,
not less, of the classical languages, of both Latin
and Greek, and of the literature and antiquities
which belong to these languages. But these lan-
guages should be taught very differently from
either that petty but strict way or that pretentious
but loose way which have too much predominated

The other one of the two great courses in this
bifurcated secondary education should place the
emphasis upon mathematics and the physical and
natural sciences. As a condition of entering the
higher scientific school there should be required no
less of mathematics and the natural sciences than
is now required, but there should also be required
much more knowledge of literature and of at least
one of the classical languages. The thorough study


of at least one of the classical languages should
be an indispensable prerequisite of beginning the
university education, because the study of language
and literature is an indispensable requirement of
beginning such education ; and no other languages
than Latin and Greek offer anything like the same
advantages for the study of language as the medium
of the spirit, and for the study of the spirit that
moves in such written language as has escaped the
envy of time.

It should not be objected to this plan that it will
necessarily postpone too long the time at which the
secondary education may be finished. For, given
men of the highest cultivation to arrange and to
teach the studies of the earlier portion of the
secondary cultivation, and there will be no difficulty
whatever in bringing youth, at the average age of
seventeen, to the point where the college or scientific
school now receives them. This is none too early
for a boy to be as far advanced and as well trained
as our students now are at the close of freshman
year in the institutions of the highest rank. At
least two years within college, and at least three
years in the scientific school, will be required for a
long time to come in order worthily to complete the
secondary education. The aim and method of
these years should be precisely the same as the aim
and method of the preceding part of the secondary
education ; the studies, also, should be largely the


Into both of these great courses, whose primary
aim is to teach the pupil to know himself and the
world by enforcing " the general training and in-
vigoration of the mind," there must enter at some
time the other two of the four kinds of knowledge
and discipline which compose a liberal education.
These are, the knowledge of the individual human
mind, and the knowledge of the development of the
race in history. The former should include the
subjects of logic, psychology, and ethics ; the latter
should comprise an outline sketch of general history
and a more special study of one or more epochs or
nations, in order that the pupil may have some real
experience of the spirit and method of genuine
historical study. Both courses of the secondary
grade should include these subjects, though possibly
in different proportions. With the right arrange-
ment and better teaching of the entire secondary
education, there would be no insuperable difficulty
in accomplishing at the average age of nineteen or
twenty all that I have indicated as necessary in
preparation for the university education. Indeed,
the pupil thus trained should be quite as well fitted
for that freedom in research and learning which is
the way to the highest scientific culture as the
average graduate, at present, of our best scientific
schools and colleges.

During all these years of secondary training no
pretence should be encouraged in the pupil that he


is accumulating new and rare knowledge. Both
teacher and pupil should understand that the latter
is under the former as his pcedagogus, to lead him
to the higher freedom which is coming. Any
attempt prematurely to introduce the methods of
the university education, or to lower the standard
of the education preparatory to it, will be prejudicial
to the development of the true ideal of the uni-
versity. For example, to lower the standard of
minimum requirement for admission to college will
have the effect of degrading the high-schools and
academies which now fit youth for college, and of
either diminishing the whole amount of the second-
ary education or crowding more of it into the
college curriculum. It will doubtless, also, increase
the inefficiency and carelessness of both pupils and
teachers in reaching even this lowered standard.
The similar attempt at Oxford resulted so that, in
1863, Mr. 0. Ogle wrote to the vice-chancellor :
" The standard has been sensibly lowered, and
the proportion of plucks has sensibly increased."
Moreover, to convert the college into an imitation
of the university especially in its earlier years,
when its pupils and instruction are not, and cannot
be of the university order will secure only the
temporary satisfaction which the bestowal of titles
sometimes brings ; it will postpone rather than
hasten the realization of a worthy ideal.

The second difficult practical problem which


must be solved in order to the development of the
American university is the fate of the American
college. How this problem must be solved has al-
ready in part been indicated. Such of the educa-
tion now required by the college as can justify its
claims to be required at all in preparation for the
advanced and free scientific culture of the uni-
versity must be retained as a prescribed part of
the secondary education. Such of the college cur-
riculum as is now modelled after the university
idea must be withdrawn from this curriculum, re-
modelled, and united with the so-called " post-
graduate " courses ; and the whole thus formed
must be enlarged and raised to the standard of
this idea. It will at once be objected that this plan
will divide and alter the present constitution of the
American college. I reply, precisely so ; this is
what must come to pass in the development of the
university. But let it be observed that the destined
passing away of the present constitution of the
American college in no respect detracts from its
past services or alters the propriety of adhering
closely to its best elements in their present com-
bination until the better arrangement of both our
secondary and our higher education can be secured.
Nor is a change of the present constitution of the
college equivalent to an abandonment of the idea
of college education.

There can be no doubt that the curriculum of


the American college is to-day in a condition of
exceedingly unstable equilibrium. Such a con-
dition is by no means wholly due to intelligent ob-
jections to this curriculum ; but neither is it due to
wholly irrational objections. The amount and kind
of studies now required by this institution can by
no means be clearly justified. The permission to
elect, with respect to the amount and kind of
studies to which it applies, is plainly given in many
cases as a matter of accident or of temporary con-
venience rather than as a conclusion based on
reason and experience. The result is that the
present position of the curriculum of the American
college is anomalous ; and the higher the grade of
the college whose curriculum we examine, the more
anomalous is its character. Such a condition can-
not be regarded as anything better than the best
temporary expedient, a creditable makeshift de-
vised in the effort to advance, but not to advance too
fast or in the wrong direction. Inevitably, those
institutions which have admitted most of the
university principle into their college courses have
obtained the largest mixture of the secondary and
the truly higher education.

At the same time that a variety of elective courses
has been introduced into the college curriculum of
our institutions of the first rank, the same institu-
tions have been making the effort to develop a true
university education outside of and farther up than


the college curriculum. In other words, they have
instituted graduate courses open only to those who
have the requisite amount of secondary education.
The development of these graduate courses has
encountered several almost insuperable obstacles.
The most hard and obstinate of these obstacles are
the following : the prevalent low esteem of the
highest truly scientific culture ; the excessive
estimate of what is called " practical " in education
of bread-and-butter studies (^Brodstudien) ; the
poor condition of the secondary education, and so
the impossibility of offering the best to even the
graduates of most of our colleges ; the impatience
of our American youth and of their guardians, that
is quite opposed to that quiet continuous growth
which the noblest learning and mental discipline
must undergo, etc.

It appears that those colleges which have found
themselves in condition to enlarge greatly the
university part of the college curriculum are, as
a rule, the ones which have also done most to pro-
vide graduate instruction. But thus far even these
institutions have been obliged to leave the two
halves, as it were, of a possible university instruc-
tion, separated by the graduation from all study of
most of their pupils at the close of the college
senior year. These institutions must as rapidly
and completely as possible unite the two thus far
separate halves into a unity of the university

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kind ; for it is to these institutions that the country
should look for the development of the genuine

The methods by which the accomplishment of
this combination of the post- and the awie-graduate
elements of the university shall be brought about
cannot, of course, be described speculatively in de-
tail ; but some hints concerning them, and concern-
ing their probable working, are clearly in place here.
I wish, in the first place, then, to call attention again
to the inseparable connection which exists between
the development of the secondary education, both
within and without the college curriculum, and the
management of that curriculum so as to develop
the university education. And now let us suppose
that the earlier part of the secondary education
has been rearranged and thoroughly well taught ;
it will thus become perfectly feasible to put into
the last two years of this secondary education
the two years corresponding to the freshman and
sophomore in our colleges of the first rank all
the required work in physics and natural science,
in history and literature, in logic, psychology, and
ethics, which constitutes the staple of the instruc-
tion at present given in the junior and senior years
of the college curriculum. Let the first five or
six years of the secondary education be well ar-
ranged and well taught, upon the basis of a sound
primary education, and let the last two or three


years of this education comprise subjects now
reasonably required in our college curriculum, and
let these last years be organically connected with
the preceding five or six years, and then it will
be perfectly feasible to prepare the average Ameri-
can youth at nineteen or twenty for beginning
a true university education. Indeed, let the sec-
ondary education be properly reformed and duly
elevated, and then the youth who has well accom-
plished it will be better fitted to enter upon a uni-
versity education than is, at present, the average
youth of twenty-two who has just graduated from
a first-class American college. And the youth of
twenty, thus well educated in the secondary stage,
will be more likely to desire to have a university
education. If he sees before him the offer of three
or four more years of training and research, in
subjects and under teachers that he may select
with perfect freedom, he will probably wish to
accept that offer. If he or his guardians have
wealth or a competency, he and they will certainly
be more ready to spend the money as well as the
time upon his higher education, when it becomes
clearer in this country what the best scientific cul-
ture means for the individual and for society.
If he and his friends be poor, he will be more
likely to be willing to struggle hard and to deny
himself, somewhat as large numbers of German
students do, in order to enjoy this highest scien-


tific culture. The choicest and most promising
of these youths thus engaged in a university edu-
cation may also be expected to do creditable origi-
nal work, and thus enrich the scientific knowledge
and literature of the country; and to institute
valuable courses of instruction, and thus enrich
the teaching of the university. And, in my judg-
ment, it will be far worthier and more profitable
for the country to raise at first a few, and then
a larger and larger number, by the steps of a
thorough, enforced secondary education, to the level
of a genuine university culture than to bring the
name of university culture to the level of those who
are really only low down in the secondary stage of

This department of more general philosophical
and scientific studies, to which the educated youth
of twenty is invited, should be placed parallel with
the courses in the professional schools in order to
form the whole circuit of university education.
Such relations should be instituted and maintained
between it and the more strictly professional
schools of the university as that each shall assist
and enrich the other. In this way, on the basis
of a secondary education attained at the close of
what corresponds to the present sophomore year,
the young man in the advanced academical courses
should have the privilege, not only of selecting
such of these courses as are most nearly akin to


his future professional life, but also of beginning
the professional courses themselves. The young
man in the professional school should also have
the opportunity of enlarging the scope of his pro-
fessional studies by free access to all the more
strictly academical, the philosophical and scien-
tific, courses.

But the question must be answered : What of
the youth who has chosen to gratify his supposed
aptitude for the knowledges and disciplines that
deal with external nature, and who has therefore
chosen the other one of the two courses into which
the secondary education was supposed to become
bifurcated ? Is he to meet in the university
courses on an equality his fellow-student who has
gone by the other path and passed through the
college curriculum ? Yes ; but only in case he
and his teachers have complied with certain con-
ditions. In other words, the secondary education
now given by the scientific courses in the high-
schools and academies, and by the succeeding
courses in the scientific schools of the first rank,
like those connected with Yale and Harvard uni-
versities, must enlarge and strengthen and amend
its curriculum in order to fit its graduates for a
true university education. It must enlarge and
strengthen itself by requiring of its pupils much
more of literary, linguistic, historical, and philo-
sophical study, without diminishing at all its re-


quirements in mathematics and in the physical
and natural sciences. It must amend the spirit
of its instruction by putting away all contempt for
classical and historical and philosophical learning,
and all that pride which leads men to refuse the
name of "science" to any knowledge but their
own. Here, again, it appears that the problem of
the development of the university in this country is
largely the problem of securing a satisfactory sec-
ondary education.

Finally, it is plain that the development of the
university in this country involves a marked and
permanent differentiation into two classes of the
higher educational institutions now in existence.
The vast majority of the " colleges," so called, in
this country should be content to remain colleges
that is, places which make no pretence to carry
men beyond such secondary education as is pre-
paratory to a genuine university education. To
improve the secondary education which they im-
part, and to make it somewhat worthy of the idea
connected in the minds of our people with the
word " collegiate," may well satisfy their highest
ambition. On the other hand, there can be no
doubt that the great majority of the institutions
now called " universities " should renounce both
the name and the pretence of the thing. Only
those few institutions that have already acquired
large resources of famous men and established


courses and equipment for the highest instruction,
and that can hope to draw from their own and
from other colleges a sufficient constituency of
pupils already trained in a thorough secondary
education, should strive to develop themselves
into universities. Large means for scientific re-
search libraries, museums, observatories, etc.
are indispensable for this development. A com-
plement of professional schools, with their facul-
ties, is also, if not indispensable, at least highly
important. I venture to assert that not more than
a half-dozen (?) universities should be developed
in the entire country during the next generation,
and that no new institutions to bear that name
should, on any grounds whatever, be founded.

It is within lines such as I have drawn above,
and by keeping in view the right high ideal while
also grasping with a firm hand the hard practical
conditions and limitations of the ideal, that the
American university should be developed. All the
details no man need undertake to arrange before-
hand with authority. But every effort may guard
against certain errors. And on this point let us
recall the significant saying of Lotze : " There are
no errors which take such firm hold of men's minds
as those in which inexactness of thought and lofty
feeling combine to produce a condition of enthusi-
astic exaltation."



THERE can be no doubt that the present gener-
ation is experiencing a marked disturbance of
opinion and practice in the matter of education.
Other periods of sharp and sudden revolutionary
action have occurred in this, as in all human
affairs. But the reasons for the marked character
of the present disturbance are not difficult of state-
ment. We must indeed recognize a current wide-
spreading dissatisfaction with everything belonging
to the existing order, which, since its sources are
somewhat hidden, we may attribute to the Zeitgeist
the inexplicable or unexplained mental drift of
the age. But the enormous recent growths of all
the sciences, the strong practical tendencies which
urge the cry for what bears visible fruit in educa-

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Online LibraryGeorge Trumbull LaddEssays on the higher education → online text (page 3 of 9)