« PreviousContinue »
to abolish the chapel services on the Sabbath, and to make the performance of the daily devotional service the duty, as it formerly was, of a part or the whole of the faculty in rotation? We believe, that the religious good of the students would be more surely consulted by making them members of common Christian congregations; and, as for the service of morning and evening prayer, we should delight in the obligation which such a duty would impose upon the instructers to be themselves men of a devout spirit and a religious walk; and we should prize most highly, from our remembrances of former times, the influence and weight of character, which would accrue to them from the regular and appropriate performance of this service.
The causes already referred to go far towards accounting for the present condition of Harvard College, in regard to the number of undergraduates. Pecuniary considerations and sectarian preferences operate largely against it; and we doubt whether it can at present gain increased patronage, if its general course of study continue parallel with that pursued at other colleges, however much more accurate and thorough may be the instruction dispensed. A mere difference in degree will not be appreciated.
But why may there not be also a difference in kind? Why might there not be instituted at Cambridge a course of studies for students of much higher attainments than those now admitted,- a course, on which the graduates of other colleges might be just qualified to enter ?The present instructers are amply competent to initiate their pupils into the most recondite branches of mathematical and physical science, and to conduct them through the most extensive course of classical reading. Many young men every year enter upon their professional studies prematurely, for the sole reason, that they otherwise have no opportunity of pursuing a regular and profitable course of study. There are many, who would not deem their education completed, so long as there was a higher seminary of learning, to which they could resort. Our highest standard of college education in this country is scandalously low. An intelligent and industrious youth of sixteen may easily reach the first university honors of the country, with attainments which would barely qualify him to enter a European university. A student at Cambridge, who continues his classical studies
through the whole four years, reads in Latin select portions
and in Greek a nearly equivalent amount. On the completion of this course, he is no more than well prepared to commence reading the classics, no longer as a task-work, but with taste, discrimination, and enjoyment. Even this is a higher point than a student can reach anywhere else in the country. It is absurd, then, to speak of the amount of classical requirements and attainments at any of our seminaries of learning; they must be estimated in the style in which Dickens gives the dimensions of the Lilliputian steamboat on the Connecticut, "thirty feet short by six feet nar
But at Cambridge, even this brief and scanty measure of classical learning can be attained only by entire abstinence from several important branches of general culture, and by comparative neglect of the modern languages. If pupils were received at Harvard at nearly the point of literary acquisition, at which they are now sent forth, the institution would become at once, and long continue, without a rival, the University of America. Studious young men from all other colleges, and from every part of the United States, would be drawn together there and the list of undergraduates would soon exhibit as large a proportion of names from distant parts of the country, as does now that of the members of the Law school, nearly half of whom are from the Middle, Western, and Southern States.
Could such a course as this be established, many of the features of the German university system might be advantageously adopted. The studies to be pursued, the books to be read, might with propriety be left, in a great degree, to the option of the student. Recitations might, for the most part, be superseded by lectures, and by critical expositions of classical authors The attainment of a degree might be made to depend on a series of thorough, searching examinations. The professors, under such a system, should depend in part for their compensation on the number of students, whom, by their talents and reputation, they could attract to their respective departments. We would not have them, however, without some fixed stipend. A man should be relieved from solicitude about his daily bread, in order that
he may devote himself freely and heartily to intellectual labor. But we would take a hint from the plan now generally adopted in respect to the masters of our freighting ships, who receive a monthly stipend sufficient for bare support, but depend for all beyond on a commission upon the freights that they can earn. We would have each professor paid by the College the lowest salary that would suffice for a respectable livelihood, and let him add thereto as much as he can by a tuition fee from every scholar who joins his classes or attends his lectures. On this plan, the College, with its present permanent sources of income, could support a larger number of professors than at present; for, under such an arrangement, tutors and mere officers of police might be dispensed with, a senior professor might be the literary head of the University, and a treasurer might be the only salaried officer other than the professors.
An institution thus organized would be of incalculable benefit to the whole country) Its influence would be at once most sensibly felt in the (so called) learned professions. It would redeem them from the curse of extreme juvenility, under which the land groans. It would prescribe a thorough basis of liberal culture for those who aspire to eminence in professional life. It would fix the scholarly habits of its graduates, and make them reading, thinking, improving men for life; whereas now, half of our graduates can exhibit, ten years after leaving college, no marks of a liberal education except its parchment testimonial. It would raise up a generation of scholars worthy of the name, and would enlist very many so earnestly and zealously in literary and classical pursuits, and give them such facility in the acquisition of knowledge, that they could not fail of attaining eminence as profound critics, original thinkers, and able writers.
But all this, desirable as it is, is more than we can at present expect; though we believe that Harvard University is destined, at some future time, to assume this position; and we cannot but trust, that, by calling the attention of our readers to the need of higher means of culture than are now enjoyed, we may have done something towards the ultimate supply of such means. Very different, however, from the plan which we have sketched, should be the system of discipline and instruction for the class of
students, that now, from year to year, enter the University. In marking out a suitable course for them, their average age should be taken particularly into the account. Accustomed to the juvenile aspect of the students at Cambridge, we seem to ourselves, when on the grounds of any other college, to be among the posterity of Anak. On our first visit to Dartmouth College, we met the entire senior class coming from a recitation, and, judging from their athletic forms and bronzed faces, that they were the substantial young yeomanry of the neighbourhood, then at the village to attend some caucus or merry-making, we asked, after they had gone by, "Why do we meet no students ?" The members of that college are capable of casting so large a vote, that the reigning party in the State have thought it necessary to incur the odium of disfranchising them, a game, which, at Cambridge, would not be worth the candle. The majority of the students at Cambridge are the growth of the most approved system of hot-bed cultivation; as Freshmen, they are microscopic objects; they take their degrees in early boyhood; and our venerable University is fast becoming, in a double sense, "gentis cunabula nostra."
For students generally so immature in years, and with a course of preparatory study so limited as is the case at present, we cannot but deem the system of elective studies highly inexpedient. There is, indeed, a point, at which students, who have previously pursued the same course, ought to diverge, and thenceforward to shape their plan of study with reference to their respective tastes, professions, or destinations in life. But by placing this point of divergence too early, though you may not, indeed, disqualify the student for success in any one profession or calling, you incur the risk of sending him forth into life with a disproportioned, one-sided, defective education. We grant, that, in order to preach acceptably, to maintain a lawsuit successfully, or to blister, bleed, and purge, a man needs acquaintance neither with Horace nor with Homer, and has little occasion to refer to fluxions or to conic sections. But the country is flooded with these professional hacks, with men, who are adroit and popular in the routine of professional duty, but who could be termed literary men only by the grossest of misnomers. Such men are produced with sufficient rapidity without aid from our colleges. The ob
ject of a college education is not, or should not be, to qualify a young man for entering upon his professional studies, but to give him literary tastes and intellectual habits, to spread before him the various departments of learning in their mutual relations and bearings, to make him acquainted in each department with the sources of knowledge and the modes of investigation, to awaken his curiosity on a wide range of subjects, and to make him, wherever his lot is cast, the judicious friend and patron of education and of all liberal pursuits. In order to do this, the student should acquire a sufficient knowledge of other languages than his own, to fix in his mind the great principles of general grammar and comparative philology, and to acquaint him with the sources and relations of his own vernacular tongue. He should read enough of the classics to give him correct ideas of that early Greek and Roman culture, which has transfused itself into every form of modern civilization, art, and literature. He should study mathematics so far as to train his mind to accurate reasoning, and to gain some adequate conception of the processes by which calculations are made and results reached in astronomy and its kindred sciences. In metaphysics and ethics, he should at least learn the history of the principal theories and systems, should be made aware of the points at issue and the state of the controversy on each, and should be put in possession of waymarks to guide him in his future inquiries and reflections.
Now, the student at Cambridge may perform creditably all that is required of him, and yet may make such a choice of studies as to leave himself grossly deficient in some of these essential branches of a good education. He may read in Latin only Horace and a part of Livy, or, in Greek, Xenophon's Anabasis, two books of the Odyssey, and a book or two of Herodotus. He may suspend the study of either or both of these languages at the end of his first year, without having attained any good degree of ease or skill in reading Latin or Greek, and at precisely that stage of acquisition, at which what has been learned will surely be forgotten, or at most enough only will be retained to enable him, by much conjuring, to divine the sense of a random classical quotation. In mathematics, he may study merely an elementary treatise on geometry, part of a treatise on algebra, and the formu- No. 126.
VOL. LX. —