really good institutions suffer continual discredit. In education, as in all other things, the realities are brought into disrepute by the shams.
Suppose now that the college described above had continued through several successive stages the career so auspiciously begun. It would probably have opened with its clerical founder for president, and a force of one or two professors (should not this be written professers?) to help him. It would have announced all sorts of courses of study—a classical course, a scientific course, a mixed literary or ladies' course, a business course, a normal course, and so on, to the limit of its founder's power of invention. These courses, having been organized with various degrees of incapacity, would in due time be supplemented by departments of art and music; and, in short, there would grow up an institution claiming to do all things, but unfit to do any one thing decently. The classics would be taught by a mere grammarian unacquainted with modern philology; the sciences by a teacher destitute of special scientific training; the normal department by an amateur educator; and book-keeping by somebody who had never attempted actual business. Degrees would be given by the dozen to students who had never learned anything but dilettanteism, and whose ideas of scholarships would, as a rule, be limited by the attainments of their teachers.
Does anybody doubt the existence of such colleges as I have sketched? It would be easy to point out twenty institutions in different parts of the county, any one of which would answer tolerably well to my description. Between these extremes and the respectable colleges there are many intermediate grades. There are some schools in which thoroughly good work is done of a low order—work which carries the student to about the point where a fair junior year should begin, and which is honest so far as it goes. The only objection to these schools is, that they call themselves colleges, and confer college degrees. That they have a great value, nobody can doubt. Many and many a country lad who would otherwise remain ignorant gets in one or another of them the foundations of an education. If they would but abandon the college name, cease to grant diplomas, and call themselves academies or high-schools, they would then deserve only praise. It is their pretension to be more than they really are which is so damaging to the cause of higher education.
With all these lower institutions the true colleges have to compete. Every college is directly impeded in its work by their existence. The institution which provides low-grade courses for imperfectly prepared students, actually encourages defects in the preparatory schools, and every other college suffers in consequence. All or nearly all of our universities are in part dependent upon the income received from students. They must get students, or perish; and hence the competition for numbers, which is continually tending to keep down the standards. Nearly every respectable college in America is hindered in this