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THE UNIVERSITY AND THE COLLEGE
PRESIDENT DAVID STARR JORDAN
Leland Stanford Jr. University
The next step for higher education in America must be the separation of the university from the college. These should have, not only different buildings, but a different staff of teachers and a different plan of organization. The college is English in origin, the university German. The one is generalized and elementary, the other is specialized and technical. Both exist in America, but they are unhappily telescoped together to their mutual disadvantage. In common language, college and university are words without difference in meaning.
We have in America some twenty institutions fairly deserving the name of university. Those bear the reproach that their contribution to advanced knowledge is far less than it should be. Their professors are not scholars in the creative sense—at least very many of them are not; their students are treated like school boys, without either personal or intellectual freedom; and the standards of advancement fall short of the best ideals of the universities of Germany.
On the other hand and in equal degree, we hear this complaint of the colleges. Their professors are not teachers, but rather young men of intense special training and narrow sympathies; men who hope to be investigators, or at least who talk a great deal about research, and who have scanty patience with the elementary drill the college assigns as their part. It is further urged that the freedom of the universities is granted to immature boys, not ready to receive it. The freedom of study and freedom of action is used for snap-hunting, for hysterical athletics, and for the many incentives to vice within the reach of the "gregarious mediocrity" component of the college.
The college students are taught in droves, thousands in a yard, with no incentive to the development of personal individuality, and with teachers too intent on other things to be able or willing to call it out.
Without insisting that these extreme statements are everywhere and at all times, or even anywhere at any time, justified, the fact remains that the university suffers from its fusion with the college, and that the college suffers equally from its fusion with the university. That the relative deficiency of America in advanced research (a deficiency by no means so great as is currently believed—but real nevertheless) is due to this confusion, no one can doubt; and we cannot doubt that to the same cause we must attribute in large degree the lack of pedogagic enthusiasm, the inadequate discipline, the want of purpose, and the spread of contagious vices within the college.
A university in the proper sense is a place for life-training of the highest order. It should embrace technical, professional, and research work, and each part of it should be intensely specialized and under direction of men of the highest personal fitness in their particular line of work. The university demands enormous libraries, highly developed laboratories, and a general concentration of all materials for work, each part giving strength to the others. Each professor should be a great teacher, but the greatness of his teaching should lie in example and in the contagion of personality, rather than in skill in class-room pedagogy.
The college is the place for general culture, for the acquisition of basal conceptions, and for the development of personal manners and manliness. Its students are lost in great libraries, and their presence embarrasses the administration of the libraries. The need of books in a college is primarily for the teachers. The college students do not need highly specialized apparatus in science, and their teachers should be those whose primary interest lies in making boys into men. To this end, accumulation of resources beyond a certain reasonable point is a doubtful advantage. The college reaches its most effective limit with less than five hundred students, and it can do its work well with less than two hundred thousand dollars of income. Larger numbers impair effectiveness, and this disadvantage is not made good by the presence of great libraries and great laboratories which the college student cannot use. The weakness of the small college today lies in the starvation of its faculty. If it could pay better salaries and demand better teachers, it would find its opportunity at once. Colorado and Knox, Amherst and Trinity, Wabash and Oberlin, lack only this to do better collegiate work than is possible at Harvard or Stanford or Cornell. But this again is the vital point, and not much can be said for the small college while it is weak in its pay-roll, low in its ambitions, narrow in its sympathies, and vacillating in its standards of scholarship. Much of this weakness is due to the struggle of the colleges to be universities, to be rivals of the great schools rather than to be their feeders.
If we separate the college from the university it is the college that needs most help; it now falls short of the best ideals farther than the university does. The university in Germany meets the definition given above. It is devoted solely to the professional and research training. But in England the word university has a meaning quite different. In Oxford and Cambridge the university is merely the alliance of the various colleges, joined to form an agency for granting degrees. It is the examining board of the colleges. A college is a place of residence and instruction, the value of this instruction being tested by professors, not collegiate teachers, selected for the purpose by the university. Hence university becomes primarily synonymous with the system of examinations. From this, in England, arises the anomalous distinction of “teaching universities" and "examining universities.” The university of London, though now controlling various detached schools, is primarily an examining board. It is a device for standardizing education, but at the same time it conventionalizes it and tends to destroy originality and spontaneity in teacher and student alike. Very lately the university of Cambridge has become organized on the German plan as an agent of advanced training. It has become, in a high sense, a teaching as well as an examining university, and the chief obstacle in the way of its success lies in the conservatism and the inertia of the colleges represented in its board of control; for these colleges of Cambridge, as a whole, are only remotely in sympathy with professional training or independent research, which is the most distinctive attribute of the true university. At Oxford the university as a body of teachers scarcely exists, although in Oxford there are many professors who possess university ambitions and the university spirit. Yet many of the ablest of these professors have never had a student, and others have sought for them in vain. For the first duty of a great investigator is to leave his impress upon a group of disciples. Research without students is a species of race suicide.
When our first little colleges were established in the American colonies—Harvard, Yale, William and Mary, and Kings College they were isolated, and could not be grouped in universities. Hence the professors perforce did their own examining, granted their own degrees. From this fact arose our confusion of terms, college and university, these meaning in America practically the same thing. As to this day, the "college course" is the chief business of most of our universities. For various reasons—mostly bad ones—the professional school in America has grown up as the rival of the college. Only relatively lately, under the lead of Harvard and Johns Hopkins, has the entrance to a profession been based systematically and consistently on a college education.
The English college requires a three year course for the degree of A. B. In America, this course has required four years. In the last twenty or thirty years the entrance requirements of our colleges have been steadily pushed upward, so that the bachelor's degree now implies two years more work than was required in the seventies. It is admitted that it has been pushed up too far for the advantage of the student who is to add to it a university course in professional training. It is pushed too far, if the university is to begin where the college leaves off. It is not too far, if the main purpose is general education-broad training, as an end, with reference to the special demands of professional life.
To remedy this condition two changes are proposed. At Harvard and in some other colleges the course required for the degree of A. B. is shortened so that a good student can complete it in three years. The fourth year then becomes a graduate year, and with it the university begins. No suggestion as to a physical separation of the university from the college has been made in this connection except in Clark university, which stands unique in its method of organization.
The other proposal is that the first two years of the present collegiate course be relegated to the college alone, and that the university begin its instruction with the present junior year. In this case, the junior year should be given to preparation for research or professional work, the latter beginning properly with the fourth or senior year. In this arrangement, after entrance to the university two years would be required for the degree of A. B. (which degree would probably, as in Germany, become obsolete as a university degree); four years would lead to the degree in law (Juris Doctor, or J. D.); five years to the degree in Medicine (M. D.); three
or four years to the degree of Engineer, and four or five years to that of Doctor of Philosophy, the badge of the professional investigator or teacher. The value of these degrees would not be materially changed from that now recognized. The essential feature is that the university would confine itself to the costly work in education, the work it can do best; while to the college or to the supplementary high school the freshmen and sophomore work, the work in elementary language, science, and mathematics, would be relegated.
The term "junior college” was some years ago framed by President Harper for this work, and the junior colleges affiliated with the University of Chicago now grant at the end of the sophomore year the degree or title of Associate in Arts. This title serves for admission to the university college of the University.
The work of these two higher years, or of the university college, the small college in general cannot do well. These years involve libraries, laboratories, the beginnings of research, the beginnings of professional training. To postpone all these until the degree of A. B. is attained is, for many students, a loss of time and a waste of strength. The German university begins virtually with our junior year. It would be a mistake for the American university to set its entrance standards any higher. The college may retain for four years those of the number who want, not a university course, but rather what the college can give. It might advantageously lower its entrance requirements to cover, not two, but three or even four, years below the entrance to the university. If it took the four years it would be on the plane of the college of thirty or forty years ago. If three years, it would be on the general level of the English college. If A. B. were to be lowered to the level of “A. A.” (Associate in Arts), a collegiate degree from an approved college would admit to the university. But these adjustments will come in one form or another when the essential, the inevitable, change takes place. This is the separation in place, in organization, and in method of the university in America from the American college.
This separation of the first two college years from the university would be in every way to the advantage of the few well-equipped institutions fit to bear the university name. It must come sooner or later, and there is no large or insuperable reason why Harvard or Yale or Cornell or Chicago or Stanford, or the state university of Wisconsin, Michigan, California, or Illinois, could not accomplish