Hohn W[esley] 1831- Hoyt.

Address on university progress online

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universities at all. The character of the studies pur-
sued in them, and the degrees conferred,aie essentially
English ; although the more scientific tendencies now
characterizing the institutions of like grade in the

neighboring republic are discoverable.

v

In the United States, the case is somewhat, though
not very materially, different. The number of insti-



56 University Progress.

tutions wearing the title of university is much larger
than in any other country, and a less number of them
have really any sort of claim to it. But, on the other
hand, there are a few, the number of whose faculties
and the high quality of whose aims entitle them to
respectful consideration. The oldest of these, and the
oldest superior institution in America, Harvard Uni-
versity , at Cambridge, Massachusetts, may, with pro-
priety, be taken as the representative of the class.

The academical department in each of them occu-
pies the same general ground as the German gymna-
sium. In the mathematics, as well as in the belles-
lettres and the physical sciences, it carries the pupil a
little farther ; but on the other hand, in the ancient
and modern languages, the course of study is quite
inferior ; so that the most proficient bachelor of arts,
on leaving Harvard, would find some difficulty in
obtaining the certificate of maturity (maturitats-
zeugniss) were he to present himself before the proper
authorities at Berlin. It appears, therefore, that the
academical department of our best American univer-
sities is but a preparatory school, as compared with
a proper faculty of philosophy, such as constitutes the
nucleus of the German university.

This academical department, thus narrowly limited,
and which, at Harvard, enjoys the services of some
twenty-seven professors and teachers, is supplemented
in a certain way, it is true, by certain so-called scien-



Tlie Present. 57

tific schools. But this supplementation is more in
appearance than in fact, since in most cases, as at
Harvard, the school in rp:iestion has no essential con-
nection with the academical department, to which it
stands rather in the relation of a rival. It cannot be
denied that it provides instruction of a high order, nor
that its professors, in some cases, justly rank among
the ablest men of the country and times. And if the
terms of admission and period of study were at all in
keeping with the vastness and importance of the field
it assumes to represent, it might at least be placed in
the same category with the facolta delle scienze fisiche
matematiehe e naturali of the Italian universities, or
the faculte de$ sciences of the best French academies.
But, unhappily for the credit of the highest insti-
tutions of learning in America, this school of sci-
ence falls cpiiite below even the lowest of foreign
standards in these and other respects. This is
emphatically true of the Lawrence Scientific School,
at Cambridge ; whose term of study necessary to can-
didacy for the degree of " bachelor of science " is one
year, and yet whose chief condition for admission is
evidence of having received " a good English educa-
tion ! " The conditions prescribed for the School of
Mining and Practical Geology, opened in connection
with the Lawrence Scientific School — including
especially a four-years course of study — are more
worthy of the pretensions set up for it, and help its



58 University Progress.

distinguished teachers to save this somewhat noted
school of science from foreign contempt.

The " department of philosophy and the arts " of
Yale College is less obnoxious to severe criticism ; since
in the scientific section thereof, known as the Sheffield
Scientific School, the term of study is three years ; and
since, moreover, the two-years course in its section of
philosophy, philology and mathematics, completion of
which is requisite to the degree of " bachelor of phil-
osophy," is followed by certain higher two-years
courses of study and examinations, leading to the
degree of " doctor of philosophy."

Nor should I omit to state, as a further ground
of encouragement, that, very recently, "university
courses " of lectures, designed to occupy a range
above the ordinary academic and scientific courses
of study, and consciously aiming to supply a grow-
ing demand for the means of a higher degree of
culture, have very recently been opened, not only
at both Harvard and Yale, but also in several other
of our universities. But then it is, nevertheless,
beyond denial that, up to this moment, the very best
results attained, in the way of supplying this most
serious deficiency, fall painfully short of a realization
of that true faculty of philosophy which is the
pride and glory of the German university. And
if this be true of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and our
best state universities, what shall be said of that vast



The Present. 59

multitude of inferior grammar schools and colleges,
whose half-dozen professors are mainly occupied in
teaching their unlettered and undisciplined pupils the
rudiments of a barely decent English education, with a
smattering of the Latin and Greek languages, and
which, nevertheless, claim and ostentatiously wear that
high title of which the great universities of Berlin,
Paris, Vienna, and Turin are barely worthy ?

Our university professional schools are no less open
to grave charges. With the exception of some of the
schools of divinity, and two or three of the medical
faculties — notable among which are those connected
with Harvard University, and the state University of
Michigan — they are open to any decently moral
applicant, without regard to educational qualifications,
and they confer their degrees with a shameful disre-
gard, not only of those high standards of qualification
so universal in the most advanced European countries,
but of any really respectable standard whatever. It is
a sufficient substantiation of this charge that, in a
majority of such professional schools, the conditions
are such that the veriest ignoramus, if possessed of
fair intellectual endowments, may enter them, and, in
nine months or one year thereafter, go forth to the
world a regularly authorized bachelor of law, or doctor
of medicine !

On the side of practical education, it should be
remarked that many of our universities have followed



60 University Progress.

the examples set by some of those of Germany, Italy,
Denmark and Sweden — that of establishing; in or
connecting with them schools of agriculture, veterinary
science, engineering, forestry, and even proper poly-
technicums ; while at least one institution, by which
the university title has been assumed, was planned so
exclusively with reference to the practical pursuits as
to have been incorporated under the new name of
" industrial university."

The fine arts have also made an innovation upon the
ancient order of things, by establishing themselves as
distinct schools in some of our universities ; as, for
example, in Yale College, Michigan University, and
Washington University at St. Louis.

As to their means of support, but few of our Ameri-
can universities enjoy large permanent endowments.
Harvard is the best circumstanced of any of them, in
this respect, having an annual income of something
less than $200,000. But even there the deficiency is
seriously felt and bitterly complained of. The pro-
fessors are everywhere in America, not only inade-
quately paid, as a consequence, but, what is worse,
they are, of necessity, so few in number that they are
doomed to a perpetual drudgery of instruction, without
the possibility, in most cases, of accpiiring the most
complete mastery of the mnny branches taught, much
less of devoting any share of their time to those
researches and investigations by which the circle of
human knowledge is ever enlarged.



The Present. 61

This poverty of our universities, moreover, is only
less lamentable in that it gives rise to the temptation
to add to the number of their students by degrading
the standard of admission and graduation. Easy
access, short courses of study, and cheap degrees, are
the rule, therefore. Nor do they confine their honors
to those who pretend to earn them by completing their
superficial courses of study. On the contrary, they
are, too many of them, open to bids from almost any
quarter, and are in the almost yearly practice of con-
ferring the highest known degrees upon men dis-
tinguished neither for high attainments, high charac-
ter, nor eminent service in the cause of education. To
such absurd lengths, indeed, has this practice been
carried, that titles are no longer evidence of any defi-
nite amount of attainments ; and men of sufficient
learning and reputation to venture so severe a rebuke,
not unfrequently do themselves the honor to decline
them. On this head I repeat what I have said in
another place, namely, that it ought to be established
as a principle, to which all acts of incorporation should
of necessity conform, that no institution should have
authority to confer literary degrees representing a
higher degree of attainments and culture than are
actually represented by its own educational status.



62 University Progress.



Ill

From the foregoing account of the rise and present
condition of universities in all countries, three general
conclusions are deducible, to-wit : (1) that, in view of
the long period of centuries since its origin, university
education has made slow progress, and is still in a very
unsatisfactory condition ; (2) that the spirit of progress
has been exceedingly active in many quarters during
the past few years ; and (3) that educational leaders
are, nevertheless, still groping their way towards the
realization of a higher ideal, without the most definite
conception of what that ideal is.

In Italy, the dominant idea for some time possessing
the minds of reformers has been, that the government
is attempting to maintain too many universities, and
should at once proceed to the suppression of at least
half of them and the concentration of all the means
and forces available for education upon the remainder.
" It is only in this way," the distinguished Senator
Matteucci, late minister of public instruction, said to
me in 1867, " that Italy can hope to make her uni-
versities worthy of their great beginnings, of her re-
established unity, and of her yet more glorious
future." More definitely stated, it was the purpose



The Faturj. 03

of tlie Italian government, at the date of tlie late war,
which restored Venetia to the kingdom, to maintain
but two full universities, one at Turin, and the other
at Naples ; the faculty of letters in which was also to
serve the purpose of, or to have connected therewith, a
superior normal school, for the training of teachers for
the giiinasi and licei of the kingdom. The university
of Pisa was also to be complete, minus the faculty of
the mathematical and physical sciences, which, for this
portion of the country, was to be located at Florence,
in connection with the museum. These three univer-
sities, alone in all the kingdom, were to have power
to confer degrees in letters, and the first two, together
with the faculty of Florence, alone to confer degrees
in the sciences, and, through their normal schools, to
train teachers for the scuole tecniche. Law and medi-
cine were to have faculties at Turin, Pavia, Genoa,
Catania, Modena, Parma, Pisa, Naples, Palermo, and
Bologna ; besides which, there was to be a faculty of
law at Sassari, and one of medicine at Cagliari. It
was the half-formed purpose, moreover, that only the
dogmatic part of theology should be left to the church
seminaries ; everything else requisite being taught in
the universities, whose degrees were to be essential to
full orders in the clerical profession.

What changes in this plan, if any, have been occa-
sioned by the restoration of the university of Padua
— and 1 am pained to add, by the recent death of



64 University Progtess.

Senator Matteucci, who was the moving and directing
spirit of the reforms — it has not yet transpired; but
the evidences are gratifying that the Italian university
is not only to recover its long-lost distinction and glory,
but even to surpass its former self as an educating
power.

Great Britian is drifting slowly towards the recon-
struction of her lost faculties and the creation of new
ones, embracing the important departments of physical
and natural sciences, philosophy, and art — towards
the total abolishment of those odious religious tests,
which have for centuries prevented the growth of her
ancient universities by the practical suppression of
that freedom of the intellect and conscience, without
which a true university is impossible — and towards
the opening wide of the portals of the university to
whomsoever may approach with due preparation.

Germany, so long in the vanguard, and so in
advance of all other countries that she has been
thought by some to have reached the ultima tliule
of university education, has broken the iron mold of
the middle ages, in which were cast the inevitable four
faculties, and now gives signs of an early opening of
the field of the university, with impartial conditions,
to every class of studies belonging to the domain of
the higher education, and to every profession, suitable



The Future. G5

preparation for which demands not only the training
of the gymnasium or the real school, — which is the
need of every man, regardless of condition or occu-
pation in life,— but also a profound, thorough and
special study of any of that multitude of subjects
which, in a more general way, are properly included
in a faculty of philosophy. By force of this new idea,
that law, medicine and theology are no longer the
only "learned professions," political philosophy, as
heretofore stated, has already set up its own faculty ;
and pharmacy, veterinary science, agriculture, for-
estry, etc., have found secondary positions within the
pale of the university, or at least under the shadow
of its walls.

In view of all this activity, — this evident purpose,
on the part of many countries, to make the university
something larger and better than at present, — it is a
pity that there should not have been formed some
more definite and generally accepted idea of wherein
the present universities are most at fault, and of the
means, and order of means, necessary to make them
fulfill their real office in the world. Such a settlement
of the main question — the question of what a univer-
sity ought to be — seems to me practicable, if they
who discuss it will come to its consideration in the
right spirit. And I will not conceal the fact that the
actuating motive in the preparation of this address has

5



66 University Progress.

been a strong desire, not unmixed with hope, that,
after a careful study of the universities of the past and
present, and a due consideration of the new condi-
tions to be met, I might succeed in throwing some
additional light upon the now misty and painfully
uncertain way.

Whatever the origin of the term university, and
how wide soever the difference in actual character and
condition of the institutions that have assumed it, this
one proposition is undeniable, viz. : that, since its first
educational use, it has ever sought to represent culture
of the highest ki?id, to whatever age or country the
particular institution has belonged. This, whether
we refer to the ancient universities of Italy, France,
England, Spain and Portugal, the more modern ones
of these countries and of the German and Scandina-
vian states, or to any of those more recently founded,
either in Europe or America. There is no educa-
tional institution above it, nor has there been from the
beginning. Upon this phase of the qualitative ques-
tion there seems never to have been any difference
of opinion.

It is the quantitative question that has so disturbed
and perplexed the educational world in these latter
days. This same problem may have engaged the
attention of the mediaeval Europeans for a time, —
while the university, as a new institution, was in its
formative stage, — but, if it did, a practical solution of



The Future. G7

it was soon found. The trirlum and quadrivium
were indispensable to all who assumed to be educated
men; and as the mure private, and the monkish,
schools, where these branches were taught originally,
were apt to be wanting in a sufficient number of
learned and commanding teachers, they were, of neces-
sity, constituted a part of the university curriculum.
This insured the establishment of a high faculty of
general culture, the character and range of whose
studies of course changed with the progress of
knowledge.

But it was necessary that there should also be schools,
somewhere, for diffusing such knowledge as was then
possessed concerning man and his individual rela-
tions to the material world, concerning man and his
relations to his fellow men, and concerning man in
his relations to his Maker. Hence arose schools
of medicine, of law, and of theology. These also
recpiired the concentration of learned men competent
to teach in them ; and since the association of men
of learning, though specially devoted to different
branches of knowledge, is ever both pleasant and
profitable ; since they who study are advantaged in
like manner by frequent intercourse ; and as economy
of time, forces and material would be promoted
thereby, without counteracting disadvantage of any
sort, these schools of the professions were naturally
established as faculties in the same place with the



68 University Progress.

faculty of general culture — thus completing the then
narrow circle of human knowledge.

It is not strange that such a cluster of schools should
have received the title of universitas (all together),
nor that the scores of universities which succeeded
those first examples, being surrounded by the same
general conditions, w T ere cast in the same mold. Nor
is it surprising that institutions like Oxford and Cam-
bridge, from which the professional faculties in course
of time fell away, in obedience to the superior attrac-
tive force of a great neighboring city, with extraor-
dinary court and hospital facilities, should have
retained a title once, but no longer, appropriate.

Perhaps, also, it should fail to excite our surprise
that the ancient universities should have continued in
their accustomed work of the exclusive cultivation of
the humanities and the three professions above named
long after the sciences had gained recognition as
highly important fields of knowledge and excellent
means of mental discipline, and even after the progress
of human development and scientific discovery had led
to the creation of numerous professions no less intel-
lectual, profound and difficult than the canonical and
time-honored law, medicine and theology. It is in the
nature of institutions, especially of old ones, to be con-
servative, and the rigid mold of the social ideas of
those times could hardly allow to new professions a
ready and undisputed admission to the places of high



The Future. 69

honor so long exclusively enjoyed by the favored
three.

On the other hand, whether, in view of the general
lack of the highest culture in America, the ignorance
of even many of our educational leaders of the systems
and institutions of other countries more advanced, and
the unparalleled ambition and conceit of our people, —
I say, whether, in view of these facts, it be a matter
of surprise or not that scores of our country schools —
and very poor ones at that — have been incorporated
by our state legislatures as " universities," it is certainly
a just cause of reproach that this wrong to the cause
of education has been, and continues to be, actually
perpetrated, and that, up to this moment, no concerted
or organized effort of any sort has been made to pre-
vent a continuance of the evil by the diffusion of just
sentiments and opinions upon the subject. Our
aspiring schools might at least be commended to the
wholesome example of old Harvard and Yale, both of
which modestly assumed the title of "college" at the
beginning — although then, as now, the foremost
schools of high culture in the new world — and have
not yet deemed it necessary to ask for a change of
title, now that they have each assumed the general
features of a university by the addition of professional
faculties and other schools to the academical depart-
ment.

But slow and faulty as has been the past, with



TO University Progress.

these data before us, — the evident original intent to
make the university a place of the highest and most
universal culture, and the manifest tendency, on the
part of the most advanced countries, to remold their
universities, in this respect, after the original ideal, —
it might be assumed, in the absence of any conflicting
testimony or weighty objection, that elevation and
expansion are to be, and ought to be, the watchword
of their future real progress. Let us see, therefore,
whether there be valid and substantial objections to
this line of policy.

Of course, no scholar will question the propriety of
elevating the standard of university education to the
highest practicable limit. But then there is, unfortu-
nately, a very wide difference as to what that practi-
cable limit is. If we are to judge them by their
actual deeds, a majority claim that the university
must gauge its standard down to a correspondence
with those of the schools below them. " Unless we
do this," say they, " we shall get no students ; all our
preparations will avail us nothing, and we shall lose
the early glory of a great success" — which they are
shrewd enough to see is measured by the public,
ignorant of the true office of a university, not by the
hi<di range of its studies and the number and value
of its contributions to the intellectual progress of the
world, but by the number of students whose names
are found in its catalogue.



The Future. 71

It is this lack of a true and noble ambition on the
part of some of our university authorities — this lack
of loyalty to the sacred interests they assume to repre-
sent — this shameful readiness to impose upon an
uninformed public by putting members in the fore-
ground and claiming consideration on their account, — ■
it is this false dealing with the real interests of educa-
tion in America that is its chief curse to-day. It is a
ground of encouragement, however, that here and
there are to be found educators and earnest general
workers in this field, who hold that the university is
not to be the governed, but the governing, power —
that the standards of the common schools of the country
are not to determine the grade of our university edu-
cation but are themselves to be determined by it — ■
that the university is not to be elevated to a higher
plane by the uplifting of the schools below it, as
islands are sometimes raised in the sea by subter-
ranean forces, but is itself the only power by which
they are to be raised to a higher level.

The first effect of the substitution of higher for the
present low standards of admission and graduation in
our universities would undoubtedly be a diminution
of numbers, since it would necessitate the transfer of
a large number of half-prepared, or wholly unprepared,
students from their halls to the district and high
schools, where they belong. But, as a secondary
effect, it would also lead to a conversion of many



72 University Progress.

unsuccessful, pretending universities into prosperous
high schools and colleges, to the greatly enhanced
value of the degrees conferred by the universities, and
an increased demand for them, on the part of students
the most worthy, and, as a necessary consequence, to
the stimulation and improvement of the entire system
of popular education.

I believe that these several conclusions are incontro-
vertible, and that, together, they constitute a sufficient
warrant for the declaration that elevation in grade is
the first important condition in the progress of univer-
sity education.

If our existing universities, state and denomina-
tional, for any reason cannot yet rise to the high level
of a true university, they ought at least to rise out of
their present competition with the colleges and high-
schools of the country, whose work they unnecessarily
duplicate, notwithstanding the need is so crying for a
work the colleges and high-schools cannot perform.
If they cannot do even this, then are they not so


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Online LibraryHohn W[esley] 1831- HoytAddress on university progress → online text (page 4 of 5)