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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/46

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tific research if they desire it. But here, again, that curse of our country, mediocrity, is upon us. Our colleges and universities seldom call for first-class men of reputation, and I have even heard the trustee of a well-known college assert that no professor should engage in research because of the time wasted! I was glad to see, soon after, by the call of a prominent scientist to that college, that the majority of the trustees did not agree with him.

That teaching is important, goes without saying. A successful teacher is to be respected; but, if he does not lead his scholars to that which is highest, is he not blameworthy? We are, then, to look to the colleges and universities of the land for most of the work in pure science which is done. Let us therefore examine these latter, and see what the prospect is.

One, whom perhaps we may here style a practical follower of Ruskin, has stated that while in this country he was variously designated by the title of captain, colonel, and professor. The story may or may not be true, but we all know enough of the customs of our country-men not to dispute it on general principles. All men are born equal: some men are captains, colonels, and professors, and therefore all men are such. The logic is conclusive; and the same kind of logic seems to have been applied to our schools, colleges, and universities. I have before me the report of the Commissioner of Education for 1880. According to that report, there were three hundred and eighty-nine,[1] or say, in round numbers, four hundred institutions, calling themselves colleges or universities, in our country! We may well exclaim that ours is a great country, having more than the whole world besides. The fact is sufficient. The whole earth would hardly support such a number of first-class institutions. The curse of mediocrity must be upon them, to swarm in such numbers. They must be a cloud of mosquitoes, instead of eagles as they profess. And this becomes evident on further analysis. About one third aspire to the name of university; and I note one called by that name which has two professors and eighteen students, and another having three teachers and twelve students! And these instances are not unique, for the number of small institutions and schools which call themselves universities is very great. It is difficult to decide from the statistics alone the exact standing of these institutions. The extremes are easy to manage. Who can doubt that an institution with over eight hundred students, and a faculty of seventy, is of a higher grade than those above cited having ten or twenty students and two or three in the faculty? Yet this is not always true; for I note one institution with over five hundred students which is known to me personally as of the grade of a high-school. The statistics are more or less defective, and it would much weaken the force of my remarks if I went too much into detail. I append the

  1. Three hundred and sixty-four reported on, and twenty-five not reported.