Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/200

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

But whatever the status of our country in art and literature, it will be said, there is one matter in which we are particularly strong, namely in education. Our common schools are the boast of every patriotic American, many of whom believe that such schools are unknown in other lands; our colleges and universities are in number more than those of any other country, and for our education we pay a greater sum than any other country does or could afford. Education is the one thing of whose value all Americans are convinced, and for which most of them are willing to make sacrifices. Not only do we have the greatest millionaires, as I have remarked, but they give away more money than any others, and education obtains a large share of their benefactions. No other country possesses privately endowed institutions comparable with our great universities, and in none is the generosity of rich men developed to so high a degree, when measured in numbers. It has recently been announced that Mr. Rockefeller has just brought the total of his gifts to the University of Chicago up to the sum of twenty million dollars, while Mr. Carnegie has given the same sum to two institutions of very recent foundation, both bearing his name, and it is to be remembered that in both these cases the sums named constitute but a fraction of the amounts contributed by these great givers to educational purposes. These are but two of the great number of generous contributors to education in our day, and they have been preceded by a long line of others whom we remember with gratitude.

The question now lies near, what are the results of this grand investment in education, in which not only the fathers, but we of to-day, take such an interest? No sensible man to-day asks the question, "Does education pay?" The great question that interests the engineer or the physicist in connection with any apparatus, machine or transformation of energy, is its efficiency, that is, the ratio of what comes out to what is put in. If I may be pardoned for introducing a well-worn anecdote, I will remind you of the reply given by the Hebrew capitalist to his wife, interested in family matters, "Isaac, have you noticed how much interest young Mr. Loewenstein is taking in our Rebecca?" "Interest," says Isaac, looking up from his stock report, "Interestwhat per cent.?" It is precisely this query to which I wish to call your attention to-day—how great is the efficiency of our educational plant, or, in commercial language, what per cent. of dividend does the investment pay? An answer to this may be of interest to future givers, unless indeed they are so permeated by the prodigality of the times that they will give their money in any case, and take their chances of its doing any good. Let us then take a brief survey of the state of learning in the United States. What is the attitude of the public toward learning, and toward the universities and colleges