Most of these schools have celebrated their coming of age within the last five years, and their growth is certainly one of the most notable features in the intellectual development of America. The State university was founded as a logical result of the American system of education. It was part of the graded system through which the student was to rise step by step from the township school to the State university. It has grown because it deserved to grow. When it has deserved nothing it has received nothing. In the persistence of old methods and low ideals we find the reason for the slow growth of some of the State universities. In the early dropping of shackles and the loyalty to its own freedom we find the cause of the rapid growth of others.
In its early years the State university was in aim and method almost a duplicate of the denominational schools by which it was surrounded. Its traditions were the same, its professors drawn from the same sources, its presidents were often the defeated candidates for presidencies of the denominational schools. Men not popular enough for church preferment would do for the headship of the State universities. The salaries paid were very small, the patronage was local, and the professors were often chosen at the dictates of some local leader, or to meet some real or supposed local demand. I can remember one case when the country was searched to find for a State university a Professor of History who should be a Democrat and a Methodist. All questions of fitness were subordinated to this one of restoring the lost symmetry of a school in which Presbyterians, Baptists, and Republicans had more than their share of the spoils. This idea of division of spoils in schools as in politics is only a shade less baleful than the still older one of taking all spoils without division. And when the spoils system was finally ignored, and in the State universities men were chosen with reference to their character, scholarship, and ability to teach, regardless of "other marks or brands" upon them, the position of professor was made dignified and worthy.
The first important step in the advance of the State universities came through the growth of individualism in education—that is, through the advent of the elective system—and its first phase was the permission to substitute advanced work in science for elementary work in something else. It does not matter from what source the idea of individual choice in education has arisen. It may be a gift of far-seeing Harvard to her younger sisters; or it may be that in Harvard, as elsewhere, the elective system has arisen from a study of the actual conditions. The educational ideas which are now held by the majority of teachers in our larger schools were long ago the views of the overruled minority; and for fifty years or more individuals in the minority have looked forward to the time when inspiration and not drill would