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PAPERS AND DISCUSSIONS
CONTINUOUS UNIVERSITY SESSIONS
BY PRESIDENT JEROME H. RAYMOND, WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY
At a gathering like this one —a gathering made up of men and women from every state and territory in our nation - one is forcibly impressed with the fact that it is impossible to separate ourselves one from another; for in this age of progress and of invention, the ends of the earth are gathered together with as much ease as a lady folds together the corners of her dainty handkerchief. Mountains are leveled, and plains and valleys meet together. Thought touches thought. One city shouts aloud to another city, and ocean cables, fathoms deep, bear the greetings of distant lands to us. The chain that binds the human race together is growing firmer. All that is thought out in the solitude of the scholar's study thunders or sings in the ears of the thronging multitudes of the city, or of him who paces alone by the seashore. This truth gleams thru every phase of human life, and from every field of the world's work. A great word is spoken today—a great, significant word on religion, on politics, on education. Tomorrow all men will repeat that word with joy, and all minds and souls be the richer for that message.
In no field of work is the interdependence of society truer than in the educational world. Whenever some teacher, be he famous or known only to the few who receive the bread of life from his hands, thinks out that which, put into action, shall add dignity and worth to life, which will make knowledge increase among men, which will bring into the mind and heart the voices of goodness and of beauty, do not the North and the South, the East and the West cry : “We, too, shall have this gift”?
The educational world is alive, in these days, to every suggestion which shall assist in solving the vexed problems of life: How shall we get better returns in brain and soul for the time and money and thought expended ? or, How shall we create in lives indifferent to the marvels of knowledge a great hunger and thirst for the higher things of life?
Today I shall briefly review one means of bringing a college education to the reach of a far greater number of people than have heretofore been able to secure it. It is an innovation in university life. As yet it is, in the eyes of many, merely an experiment. Yet it will gradually but surely force itself into our educational system, for its advantages are so many and so obvious that even the proverbial conservatism of our systems of education cannot permanently hold out against it.
The plan of continuous sessions is a part of a larger whole. It is one manifestation of the university-extension spirit -- that spirit which, during the last eight or nine years, has been leading many of the more prominent universities of our country to widen their fields of activity with the purpose of bringing the advantages of the university to those classes of the population that have heretofore been deprived of university culture. This university.extension spirit led, in 1890, to the organization in Philadelphia of the American Society for the Extension of University Teaching. From Philadelphia the movement spread in all directions over our country. At first this university-extension spirit confined itself to the lecture field, sending university professors from their class-rooms out into the surrounding country to give more or less popular lectures to people who could not or would not come to the university. Most educators and the public generally continue to associate the term "university extension" with this particular form of popular education. But the university. extension spirit did not stop with furnishing popular scientific and literary lectures to the public. It has enlarged the scope of its activities, and has manifested itself in a number of new forms. Instruction by correspondence is one of these forms. Evening and Saturday classes for teachers
. and others is another. The summer quarter and continuous sessions of the university itself is a third form in which this spirit has manifested itself. I am not called upon to discuss the other manifestations of the university-extension spirit, but it ought to be understood that those institutions that have adopted the plan of continuous sessions have also adopted the other features of university extension. Indeed, the work of giving instruction by correspondence to those who cannot attend the university in person might almost be considered a necessary accompaniment of the plan of continuous sessions inaugurated by President Harper at the University of Chicago. In accordance with this plan of continuous sessions, while no student and no instructor is expected to work at the university more than nine months out of twelve, unless he so desires, the university itself is in continuous session thruout the year, there being no long summer vacation, but, instead, four short vacations, one week long, at the expiration of every period of twelve weeks. Each of these periods of twelve weeks is appropriately termed a “quarter.” Under this system a student may begin his work at the beginning of any quarter, and may take a vacation either in the summer quarter or in the autumn, winter, or spring quarter; but he is at liberty to continue university work during all four quarters, if he is strong enough and desires to do so. Similarly, an instructor may arrange to take his vacation in any quarter of the year, provided not more than one-fourth of the instructors elect to take their vacations at the same time. Indeed, more than a fourth of the regular
staff may well be absent during the summer quarter, if the university be able and willing to spend a little money for outside help; for in the summer it is easy to get able instructors from other institutions for comparatively low fees. The courses are so arranged that the work of each quarter is complete in itself, and courses for which there is great demand are given more than once in the same year, so that any student in attendance during that year may have the opportunity of taking them, in whatever quarter he takes his vacation. This is a most important adjunct of the system. I believe there is now no difference of opinion in our faculty as to the desirability of having subjects in the university begin at the beginning of a quarter and complete during that quarter. Until this past year we have followed the old plan of having students pursue a good many subjects two or three hours a week each, continuing the study of each subject thruout the year. In this case students who do not enter at the opening of the fall term are unable to take up the work to any advantage when they do enter. Having adopted the four-quarter plan, we found it eminently desirable to concentrate the work of the student during each quarter on fewer subjects. With few exceptions, at present our classes all meet five times a week. In this way it is possible for us to complete many subjects or sections of subjects in one quarter, and thus our work in most subjects begins four times a year, and students who enter at the beginning of any quarter find classes which they may enter without the disadvantage of making up back work, always so exceedingly unsatisfactory to students and teachers alike.
So much for the system itself. Its advantages are :
First, it enables us to meet, far better than they have ever been met before, the needs of that noble body of young men and women who work their way thru college - a body that would be much larger than it is if the conditions were more favorable to them. This body is a large one in West Virginia, but we are painfully conscious that many of the most deserving men and women of the state are kept out of college altogether, or until late in life, or are compelled to spend a great many years in completing their course, because they cannot so arrange their breadwinning work as to make it fit in with a college course. Many of these young men and women are teaching school during the winter months, and thus loše from one to two-thirds of each university year. And not infrequently the school term begins and ends at such dates as to make it useless to undertake to get anything of value from the university during the few weeks in fall and spring that are left to them; in such cases, altho their teaching takes hardly half a year of their time, they are cut off by it from all university privileges. This state of affairs ought not to exist, and it is quite unnecessary that it should exist. If a would-be student, in view of these difficulties, takes for granted that he cannot, with any advantage, teach and go to the university during any part of the same year, and therefore plans to work steadily until he has saved enough to carry him thru one or more years of the university course, he
be unable to get remunerative employment during all the four quarters of the year, and thus again he will lose valuable time because he has not the chance he should have to study any quarter that he cannot work at money. making to advantage. Furthermore, it is obvious that it is a great advantage to a student who has saved enough to keep himself at school twelve months, to be able to attend college continuously for twelve months, instead of having to content himself with nine, because college is not in session during the summer. Now that a young man or woman may attend the university during any quarter of the year, it is safe to say that the university will serve an immensely larger body than it has served in the past, and, moreover, that many of those whom it has heretofore served after a fashion will be able to graduate anywhere from one to six or eight years earlier than they could otherwise arrange to do.
But not only is there this great advantage to the regular student who, for economic or other reasons, may wish to take his university vacation at other times than in the summer; there is to be considered, in the second place, the advantages to the professional teacher and others who, without the summer session that is an incident of the four-quarter system, could get no direct advantage from the existence of the university. For the benefit of this class of students the summer quarter is divided into two ternis of six weeks each, so that some short courses may be given which will enable the attendants to get valuable assistance from the university, either in the form of general culture, or in the form of special instruction and training to make their regular work more effective, without giving up their whole vacation. There are also, however, regular twelve-weeks' courses such as are given during the other quarters.
Let it be noted that a regular university session in the summer quarter, having in attendance a considerable number of regular university students, is very different from, and much superior to, a mere summer school. At least one teacher of pedagogy will always be on duty during the summer quarter, to conduct classes and lead round tables for the benefit of the teachers; and distinguished educators from other parts of the country are secured to give courses six weeks or twelve weeks in length. While it will always be desirable to have the department of pedagogy represented during the summer quarter, it will not be necessary to have all the other departments and subdepartments of instruction represented in the summer or any other quarter. One year the professor of geology, for instance, may be present in the summer quarter, and take his vacation in the spring or winter or fall; the next year he may take his vacation in the summer, and the professor of zoology be present that quarter; and so on. The four-quarter system, therefore, need not necessarily be confined to universities that have great resources.
While it is desirable, of course, to
have all departments in operation every quarter, this is not an absolute necessity; and in the case of institutions that have pot the financial means to add one-third to their annual expenditure, the summer quarter may still be adopted, and by proper arrangement of classes the continuous-session plan will at least double their usefulness, while increasing their expenditure very little or not at all.
A third advantage of the system is one that has, perhaps, already suggested itself, namely, that the effectiveness of our instructors' work will be materially increased by enabling them to take vacations when other universities are in session, so that they may learn at first hand what is being done in other institutions, and may see at work and learn from the masters in their respective specialties. It will be possible, under this system, for an instructor to teach for six or nine quarters successively, and thus earn a vacation of six or nine months on full salary, which will enable him, without financial sacrifice, to spend a year abroad in study if he desires to do so a privilege of which many of our professors are already planning to avail themselves. The result of this will be to keep our teaching force up with the times, and prevent the fossilization of our professors. Great as are the advantages of the four-quarter system to the students, the professors have even more reason to appreciate it.
I have not spoken of the possibility the four-quarter session will afford to the very strong and ambitious student of completing his university course in less than the regular four years, because I feel that such intense and unremitting application is not good for the average student; but, of course, there are cases in which such a course will be justifiable, and a great benefit to the student.
And now let me add one word in regard to the business and financial aspect of the matter. What business-man would build and equip an extensive plant, for manufacturing or other business purposes, in which his own personal interests were concerned, and then regularly allow it to lie idle during three months out of every twelve ? What railroad president would advocate closing the stations, and stopping the service, for a long vacation of three months each year ? None, I am sure. then, be less zealous to make the greatest possible use of the great educational plants, whose care and conduct have been committed to our charge, than we would be of our own personal business interests ?
On the whole, it seems to me that there is everything to be said in favor of this admirable invention of President Harper, and nothing of consequence to be said against it.
It is a source of great satisfaction to me to be able to say that thus far the system has worked admirably at West Virginia University. Let
come down to actual facts and actual experience, and give you the real data of our first summer quarter, which began July 1, 1898.
At the outset we were able to secure a number of lecturers of note,