Popular Science Monthly/Volume 61/October 1902/Discussion and Correspondence



To the Editor: In the Popular Science Monthly for September, page 472, Mrs. W. A. Kellerman asks, 'Are Fellowships Almsgiving or Investments?'

As ordinarily granted in American universities, they may be either. Still more often they are rather advertisements, and they may in any case partake of the nature of all three of these. The great gifts to education have been for the purpose not of feeding men but of furnishing means of study and investigation beyond the reach of individual effort. This is 'investment put to the credit of the country's future.' The ordinary fellowship furnishes not special facilities, but board and lodging for individuals, matters quite within the range of individual effort on the part of almost any student worth educating. It does not increase scholarship but multiplies the number of those who scramble for its rewards. The same amounts expended in better teachers and in better facilities for work would do more for American scholarship than the fellowships now accomplish.

It is understood that the Carnegie gift is to be devoted solely to the promotion of research, not to the encouragement of men who show mere promise of ability. It is to be used to complete the equipment of investigators who have already done all within their power as individuals, and whose lives will be devoted to research whether helped or not. To aid in making their work effective is not almsgiving. If any part of the fund is used to hire men to undertake research, it will be wasted, and the trustees of the fund will have to resist many temptations to do this.

The fellowship is now largely used as a means of university advertisement, to the real injury of higher education. To induce any man to go where he does not wish to go or to study what he would not otherwise have cared for is to cheapen higher education.

Real scholars will work out their own salvation, so far as the cost of education is concerned. Real universities are built up by real investigators. To furnish these and their students with books, implements and materials 'will bring students worthy of the opportunity. To give students that which they need in their work and can not buy for themselves is to draw the line between 'investment' and 'almsgiving.'

Certainly the whole American 'system of fellowships for advanced students is now on trial with most of the evidence against it.'

David S. Jordan.


To the Editor: I have read with interest Professor Stevenson's article in the September number of the Monthly. It is sane and well considered. Two of his generalizations are however not based on a sufficient number of data. In speaking of the college professors of a generation ago he says, 'The hours of teaching were short.' In so far as this was the case I believe it was the exception rather than the rule. Not long ago a professor who began to teach in the fifties remarked to me incidentally in a conversation,' For many years I taught all the time and so did my colleagues.' Several instances almost similar are within my knowledge. It has been said of a prominent college not fifty miles from Philadelphia that its trustees had for many years a regulation threatening with dismissal any professor who published a book. They wished to have it understood that professors were expected to devote all their time to teaching and that the writing of books was equivalent to depriving their students of what clearly belonged to them. Perhaps it would not be easy to find a board at this time that takes such a view, but individual members are not rare. That man is most acceptable who can, or thinks he can, teach the largest number of subjects. Again, there may be many high schools that do the excellent work Professor Stevenson had in mind; I have no desire to belittle it or them. On the other hand I am sure there is a far larger number, taking the country as a whole, in which, for various reasons, the instruction is very inferior and the graduates of which could not be admitted into any reputable college unconditioned. Furthermore, I believe the three following propositions can be sustained: (1) The average ability of college professors is not higher than that of the legal or medical profession, if we include among the latter only those members who have had collegiate training in addition to their professional education. That they are generally men of wider information most people will admit. (2) That speaking by and large those college professors who have had adequate preparation can find time for original work, if they desire. Of the professors in the college from which I graduated, about a dozen in all, two were constantly carrying on original investigations; yet they had no more time but rather less than their colleagues. Very often the college professor makes deliberate choice between two courses open to him: either he will employ his spare time in keeping abreast of the advances in his own department and in preparing to present this fresh knowledge most effectively to his classes, or in original researches. Few men can do both. (3) College professors on the average get as much satisfaction out of life as any other class. It may be assumed that the young man who enters deliberately upon the profession of teaching does so in response to a 'call,' that is, because it represents the work he feels best fitted to perform. Of the men who engage in the quest for money the large majority is disappointed. The pleasure of the pursuit is conditioned upon possession; but when they fail in securing possession their labor and self-denial have been in vain. Not so with him who is engaged in seeking and imparting knowledge. Few persons have a large preponderance of the good things of this life. He who dwarfs his mind by bending all his energies to the acquisition of wealth effectually closes it to esthetic enjoyment. If all men were permitted to fix the pecuniary compensation for their services we should see some curious estimates. Few are satisfied with what they get. Our frequent strikes are evidence that labor is as discontented as teaching. Most persons who give their services for pay get all they can; it is the philosophically inclined who grumble least over the amount. College professors above all others need to take to heart the injunction of the poet,

"With a heart for any fate
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait."

He who in the course of a life-time has succeeded in making a few of his students better, wiser, nobler, has not lived to little purpose. He is something more than a 'link in being's endless chain.'

C. W. Super.
Ohio University,
Athens, O.