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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/339

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UNIVERSITY-BUILDING.

such knowledge rests the acquisition of it. One Helmholtz, the investigator, is the parent of a thousand Edisons, the adapters of the knowledge gained by others. The great function of the German university is that of instruction through investigation. The student begins his work on a narrow space at the outer rim of knowledge. It is his duty to carry the solid ground a little farther, to drive back ever so little it may be the darkness of ignorance and mystery. The real university is a school of research. That we possess the university spirit is our only excuse that we adopt the university name. A true university is not a collection of colleges. It is not a college with an outer fringe of professional schools. It is not a cluster of professional schools. It is the association of scholars. It is the institution from which in every direction blazes the light of original research. Its choicest product is 'that fanaticism for veracity' as Huxley calls it, that love for truth, without which man is but the toy of the elements. Its spirit is the desire 'to know things as they really are' which is the necessary attribute of 'him that overcometh.' No institution can be college, professional school and university all in one and exercise all these functions fully in the four years which form the traditional college course. To attempt it is to fail in one way or another. We do attempt it and we do fail. In the engineering courses of to-day we try to combine in four years professional training with research and culture. This can not be done, for while the professional work is reasonably complete, culture is at a minimum and research crowded to the wall. The subject of law requires three solid years for professional training alone. Three or four culture years go with this and are surely none too many. The same requirement must soon be made in engineering. We can not make an engineer in four years if we do anything else for him, and there are very many things besides engineering which go to the making of a real engineer.

But this we can do in the four years of college culture. We can show the student the line of his professional advancement and can see him well started in its direction before he has taken his first degree. We can give in the college course something of the methods and results of advanced research. In any subject the advanced work has a higher culture value than elementary work. Thorough study of one subject is more helpful than superficial knowledge of half a dozen. To know one thing well is in Agassiz's words 'to have the backbone of culture' By limiting the range of individual training to a few things done thoroughly it is possible to give even to the undergraduate some touch of real university method, some knowledge of how truth is won. To accomplish this is one vital part of the university's duty. It welds together the three functions of a university, and in so doing it will give the American university its most characteristic feature.