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simply the observation of the physical eye, but the superior observation of the mental vision.
But this necessity, on any and every ground, for a large introduction of science in our college courses needs no enforcement by argument. The only question, and that especially to be discussed by us, is how can that be done? What organization in the collegiate system is best adapted for instruction in both the permanent and progressive studies ?
The different methods of organization used in America to effect this object may be reduced to the following classes :
1. We have the rigid unelastic classical curriculum, with the addition of a scientific department devoted to special instruction in science. In some of the older colleges there have been established these scientific schools, which, under a special corps of Professors, have in their great suc.cess added honor to the college and proved the demand for the character of the instruction given. This organization of necessity requires a large annual expenditure.
2. In some we have several parallel courses presented, in each of which there is a regular prescribed course of study, election on the part of the student being confined to the course.
3. Again we have institutions which prescribe the course for the first, or first and second collegiate years, and after that admit within fixed limits election from the different subjects presented.
In all these modified forms the class idea is kept distinctly in view. A student after a preliminary examination, generally of a very mild character, is admitted to a certain class, and in due course of time, without an infringement on his part of the college laws, he is honored with a degree.
4. There is another method of organization apparently not so generally known as those we have mentioned. In this each department of study constitutes a distinct school. The widest possible election of studies, consistent with qualification, is permitted, and students are awarded, in each school, certificates of proficiency or of graduation, only when they exhibit the requisite attainments. When the requisite number of certificates is obtained appropriate degrees are awarded, significant of the course of study pursued.
In this system, first introduced in America by Thomas Jefferson in the organization of the University of Virginia, a quarter of a century before Dr. WAYLAND attempted its imitation at the college over which he presided, a system the recognition of which has been singularly omitted in some recent valuable works on collegiate education, and which an experience of half a century has shown to be neither “complicated in its arrangements nor in its workings,” there are two marked characteristics. First, the college class as such is wholly ignored, in fact, has no existence; second, time is not an element requisite for graduation, as the degree is made to depend on qualification alone. Of several students who
be admitted to the same classes of the distinct schools at the same time, one may receive his degree in two years, one in four years, and others may not be able to graduate in a score of years.
It is not our design to compare the merits of these different systems. We propose simply to present some of the advantages of the elective system and especially of the last mentioned organization,
We adopt the distinction that defines a college to be “a training place for minds that are yet immature in the elements of knowledge and culture," and a university to be “a teaching place for those who are supposed to have been trained to the capacities and responsibilities of incipient manhood." Yet it is true that there are colleges that approximate nearer to the functions of a university than many of those institutions whose only claim to be considered universities is the name of which they boast. Secondary or collegiate education, designed for immature minds, to be efficient, cannot from its nature be largely elective. The architect has but little choice in the character of the foundation; that must be laid in solid masonry before the building is erected. Hence we would not recommend the elective system for immature minds, but for those which have been fairly disciplined by the studies which usually belong to the first and second years of American colleges, as well as for those of maturer years than ordinarily enter the first classes in our colleges. With us the distinction between college and university is only in name. Many of our colleges are doing university work, and some of our so-called universities are hardly doing respectable school work, and some, owing to the demands of their environment, have been compelled to make provision for collegiate education, while at the same time they extend their efforts in the higher departments to give university instruction.
It may have been well in former years to confine all students to the well-marked macadamized road. It was simple and effective for the limited means provided. It is the simplest organization, but is it the best ?
Upon what principle is it best that every mind should be subjected to exactly the same discipline? Is it enough to prove that there is a benefit derived from a special study? The question is not what study will be of advantage, but rather what study will be of most advantage to the individual.
There is a discipline of language-study, and a discipline none the less valuable of science-study, and all that the advocates of science ask is, not to dethrone language, but to give science equality in educational rank and dignity. They contend that the discipline of science-education is not only equal but superior in many respects to that of language, and hence demand that the influences of the organization of the college shall not be more in favor of one education than the other,—that language may be classed among the electives as well as science, and that those who elect science shall not be degraded in the estimation of their fellow-students as being electives or irregulars.
The fact that in some institutions the elective courses of study failed to attract a large number of students cannot be justly used as an argument against the system, since this want of attractiveness was, it is probable, mainly due to the inferior position such studies were made to occupy in the organization.
As there exist differences of opinion among educators of equal experi. ence in regard to the best subjects of educational discipline, it is obvious that no one scheme should be marked with special honor, no one road through the field of human knowledge given an undue prominence, wherein all should be required to work, there should be no Procrustean
bed to which all must be fitted, no adherence to a uniform discipline simply because respectable through the usage of years. But there should be provided different subjects of education, so arranged that mature and qualified young men may elect what, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, will furnish that discipline and instruction which will best fit them for the duties of life.
Admitting then the necessity of making provision for different types of education, let us examine the advantages of an organization based upon equality of studies and freedom of election. By this we do not denote a system that tacks on to a regular classical course an incongruous appendage of “ easy electives,” and thus discredit in the beginning the course it has provided for, but rather a system that discards class organization, and places the attainment of a degree on qualification alone, and not on time.
What are the advantages that this system possesses ?
1. It is adapted alike to those who take a scientific course as well as to those who take a classical or a partial course. Each occupies a position of equal dignity among his college companions. Mutual benefits are conferred by the intermingling of students of different departments, and that one-sided development so much deplored by educators fails to find the encouragement that is apt to be given by special scientific schools.
2. It is broad, plastic, expansive, and progressive. It includes all that the four years' curriculum does and more also, and in addition possesses that plasticity that makes ready provision for advancement in any department of human learning without organic change. With a regular prescribed curriculum it is impossible to introduce a new subject of study without trenching upon some other department. Time in the prescribed system is an element of graduation. A limited amount of time is given to each subject, and hence the advocate of the introduction of a new subject of study, finding the time of the student preoccupied by an enforced rule with other studies, is compelled to plead for a diminution in some other department. Under this working new subjects have been introduced to the detriment of the cause of education. We have from the very best authority this condemnation of what we regard as the legitimate result of the prescribed system.
“The spirit of cram,” says Dr. PORTER, “and of the superficial and mechanical mastery of a few elements of many sciences is the curse of the colleges as they are. To intensify this tendency, as has been done persistently for the past generation, is to permit the worst of all blunders.” Breadth has been gained at the expense of depth, while the college student has thus learned something of many things, has he also learned much of something? Has not the boasted liberal education become rather a “smattering of omniscience ?”
But it is urged as an objection to the elective system that students of immature minds are not capable of electing such studies as will be of most worth to them, and that when the privilege is granted they will always elect the least difficult subjects. Facts show that this apprehension is groundless, especially when increased age is required for admission. In a given number of years, at the University of Virginia,-more than forty,where the largest privilege of election has been permitted, we find that
twice as many students have elected mathematics and ancient languages as have elected chemistry.* This fact shows the contrary to what the objectors have urged. The more difficult subjects which constitute the basis of all thorough education are more frequently elected than the less difficult ones. The practical working of this system is that the election is made for the young student by his parent or teacher, before he enters college, or by his professor when he enters.
3. There cannot be a greater misapprehension of the effects of a proper elective system than to suppose it degrades scholarship, “encourages literary triflers,” and is, as has been said, American expedient to dignify superficial and limited attainments by high-sounding names." In fact it elevates rather than degrades scholarship.
With the prescribed curriculum it is frequently true that a college degree simply means that the recipient has had the opportunity presented to him of acquiring an education by a college residence. It does not always indicate that he is even moderately well acquainted with the prescribed course of study, inasmuch as the chief element of success is time and not proficiency. How many students in our colleges are rejected at the close of the senior year for deficiencies? If the reports of the number of recent failures of the Senior class of our oldest university be correct it only proves the more rigid exactness of the examinations in an institution that has but recently given sanction to the elective system.
As educators we cannot give adhesion to the popular delusion that the success of an institution is indicated by the number of its graduates. Nothing can be simpler than to place a given number of students in the same class, and at the end of a given time to award all, whose removal has not been caused by a violation of discipline, with a collegiate degree. That this has been the custom of too many of our colleges cannot be denied. The desire to have a large number of graduates, in connection with the increase of small colleges in our country, has caused a degradation of scholarship that has in many instances brought discredit on the system of collegiate education. It probably would be well for some to remember the fable of the wolf and the lioness, “better one at a birth, if a lion.'
Because there are few graduates in an institution organized with the elective system does not prove that the system provokes idleness and engenders little study, but rather the rigor of the examinations. Many who fail to pass under the elective system, under the class system would be awarded with a degree; but we fail to see how that act of the authorities renders them better educated.
4. The elective system elevates scholarship by placing the test examination at the close of the course instead of at the beginning. In the
* An accurate report of the number of students in attendance in each class, at the University of Virginia, where the largest election is allowed, from 1825 to 1867, exhibits the following result: In the department of Mathematics..........
.4,672 students “ Ancient Languages
,4,117 “ Modern Languages
.3,720 " Natural Philosophy.
.3,215 “ Moral Philosophy.
.2,967 “ Chemistry.
prescribed system all who enter the admission-gate, are, on good behavior and a certain residence, passed out honorably at the exit-gate at the close of the fixed period. In the elective system the exit-gate is guarded with extreme care, for here in a great measure depends the reputation of the special school: since by this independence of schools the professor is enabled to make more rigid exactions than possible with a system that compensates deficiency in one department with success in another. The system also thus reacts on the professor, and stimulates him to do his maximum amount of work. Ingress, in the elective system, to a class is easy, but egress with success is difficult.
It is encouraging to note the efforts now being made to improve the character of professional education. In some institutions we observe the time required to be devoted to study is increased, in others-and this we regard as the more hopeful sign-candidates for degrees are required to stand an admission-examination on general subjects of discipline. Educators everywhere will be found in perfect accord with the praiseworthy effort to elevate the tone of the profession by increasing the general culture of those who present themselves as candidates, and we may be permitted to suggest that it is worthy of examination to determine whether the same cannot be better accomplished by giving less prominence to the element of time and the idea of class graduation, and by making the attainments requisite for a degree depend on qualifications alone, as exhibited by success at rigid final examinations,—which to be exact should be written and not oral. These final examinations for a professional degree should be made to embrace not only the technical subjects of professional study, but such elementary subjects of educational value with which every one admitted to the profession should be familiar.
Probably it would not be considered as transgressing the bounds of propriety for us as educators to express our regret that an extremely-limited knowledge of the most elementary subjects of education is not, by some institutions, regarded a barrier to full admission to all the honors of the so-called learned profession. We hail the movement just begun as the beginning of a change that will have an important influence in elevating the tone of professional education.
5. We present it as an argument in favor of the elective system, and hot as an objection to it, that the distinctive class as such has no existence. College life, with its pleasures and benefits, is intimately associated in the minds of many with the existence of a class. With the absence of the esprit that attaches to the class, in their opinion, much of the benefit of college residence would be lost. With them the class is an unmixed good.
Education is designed to fit for life, and while the class system has its advantages in cultivating the social nature, it does not require an acute observer to note its defects. It is an artificial system that tends to uphold the weak and idle, and conceal deficiencies. It is a stream that collects pure and impure water and carries both alike to its destination. It is a breeze that wafts the effortless ship to the desired haven.
When the student leaves college he finds nothing in life to correspond to the class. He, not unfrequently, has been educated to rely on the class, obtaining from it position and receiving with it, at the expiration /