THE HIGHER EDUCATION FOR COLORED YOUTH.
Prof. Shaler's article in the June number of the Popular Science Monthly was in many ways sensible and timely, but it seems to the writer that in common with many other people he is misleading in his remarks about higher education for the negro. One would think from the great outcry against the higher education for young people of the colored race, that scarcely any other kind of education was being given them. On all sides we hear the familiar refrain: "The higher education for the negro has been a failure." Now success is a relative term. If a mere handful of colored college graduates, in a few years, ought to have settled the race problem, and induced their white fellow-citizens to treat these graduates and all members of their race fairly, then it has been a failure. But if the higher education should simply give added power of mind, enlarge the mental grasp and capacity for usefulness, lift up, socially, morally, religiously and financially, not only its disciples, but also thousands who have been induced to look upward by the force of their example, then the higher education for colored youth has been a tremendous success. Is not the latter the fair test? Of course the higher education of the few has not eliminated crime. It has not done that for the white race. The writer is a colored man and a college graduate. He can not see that the higher education has any different effect on the colored youth from what it has on the white. If there be any difference it is this: It raises the colored youth from a lower social level, as a rule, and places him on a social plane, relatively, among his own people, higher than it does in the case of the white youth. The higher training, therefore, should be more valuable to the colored youth.
In a recent address before a graduating class at Howard University, the Hon. W. T. Harris, Commissioner of Education, submitted statistics which showed that the proportionate number of secondary and higher students to the whole number of children attending school in the United States had increased from 2.22 per cent in 1879 to 5.01 per cent in 1897, nearly two and a half times; while the proportion of colored students in secondary schools and colleges had increased very little indeed, from 1 per cent to only 1.16 per cent. But the story is not yet half told. According to the report of the Commissioner of Education, 1897-98, Vol. 2, page 2,097, the total number of students taking the higher education in the United States, as a whole, was 144,477, being 1,980 to each million of the total population. The same report, page 2,480, gives the total number of colored students pursuing collegiate courses in these much discussed colored colleges as 2,492. This is only 310 to the million of colored population, whereas the whole of the United States, as shown above, had 1,980 to the million, nearly six and a half times as many in proportion to population. This does not look as if the entire colored population were rapidly stampeding to the higher education, or as if the labor supply in the Southern States were falling off from this cause.
This is an age of higher education for the masses. The increase in the number of students taking the secondary and higher education in the United States during the last ten years has been phenomenal—unprecedented. Is the person of color so much superior to the white that he does not need so much educational training? I think not. In view of the history and present condition of this race, there is an obvious necessity for a large number of educated and trained teachers, ministers, physicians, lawyers and pharmacists; and in view of the fact that this race has only one fifth of its quota pursuing studies above the elementary grades, what fair mind will not say that there is great need of more of the secondary and higher education for colored youth, instead of less of it?