Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/48

This page has been validated.

it; and their unfortunate appellation has probably been repented of long since.

But what shall we think of a community that gives the charter of a university to an institution with a total of $20,000 endownment, two so-called professors, and eighteen students; or another with three professors, twelve students, and a total of $27,000 endowment, mostly invested in buildings! And yet there are very many similar institutions; there being sixteen with three professors or less, and very many indeed with only four or five.

Such facts as these could only exist in a democratic country, where pride is taken in reducing everything to a level. And I may also say that it can only exist in the early days of such a democracy; for an intelligent public will soon perceive that calling a thing by a wrong name does not change its character, and that truth, above all things, should be taught to the youth of the nation.

It may be urged that all these institutions are doing good work in education; and that many young men are thus taught who could not afford to go to a true college or university. But I do not object to the education—though I have no doubt an investigation would disclose equal absurdities here—for it is aside from my object. But I do object to lowering the ideals of the youth of the country. Let them know that they are attending a school, and not a university; and let them know that above them comes the college, and above that the university. Let them be taught that they are only half-educated, and that there are persons in the world by whose side they are but atoms. In other words, let them be taught the truth.

It may be that some small institutions are of high grade, especially those which are new; but who can doubt that more than two thirds of our institutions calling themselves colleges and universities are unworthy of the name? Each one of these institutions has so-called professors, but it is evident that they can be only of the grade of teachers. Why should they not be so called? The position of teacher is an honored one, but is not made more honorable by the assumption of a false title. Furthermore, the multiplication of the title and the ease with which it can be obtained render it scarcely worth striving for. When the man of energy, ability, and perhaps genius, is rewarded by the same title and emoluments as the commonplace man with the modicum of knowledge, who takes to teaching, not because of any aptitude for his work, but possibly because he has not the energy to compete with his fellow-men in business, then I say one of the inducements for first-class men to become professors is gone.

When work and ability are required for the position, and when the professor is expected to keep up with the progress of his subject, and to do all in his power to advance it, and when he is selected for these reasons, then the position will be worth working for, and the successful competitor will be honored accordingly. The chivalric spirit