Popular Science Monthly/Volume 62/March 1903/Education for Professions
|EDUCATION FOR PROFESSIONS.|
SIBLEY COLLEGE, CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
THE preparation of the man who has chosen to enter a profession involves, properly, suitability for the profession chosen, in character, ability and a special talent, if not a genius, as a basis and an excuse for that preparation. It should include a general education sufficient to give the individual the knowledge and culture demanded, in this generation, of all who aspire to enroll themselves in the ranks of the leaders of the professions, broad enough and deep enough to command respect and to justify confidence both in the man's attainments and in their utilization. It must involve training, both gymnastic and 'practical,' and development of that strength and maturity without which the professional apprenticeship of the special school can not be appreciated or its best results attained. Education, in the commonly accepted meaning of the term, should be carried as far and as high as the time, the means and the ability of the man permit and continued, if possible, until he has acquired maturity, earnestness, intelligent ambition and thorough assurance that he has chosen the right field of work for his life's long endeavors. Yet, from the day when it becomes certain that his field of work may be safely selected, a thread of special preparation may run through all the sequence of his studies without injury to their value in the development of the man.
Mathematics may be taught by examples selected from the practical problems of the coming days of professional work; modern languages may be given large place in the curriculum; the sciences may be studied in a serious manner and intensively; these latter studies may be made to conspire for his advantage in the reading of scientific matter in foreign literatures. In many and very various ways, the bent of the child, the youth, the man, may be favored without loss of culture and with the great advantage of stimulating and maintaining his interest throughout. But, in the earlier stage, it would be a mistake to sacrifice culture and gymnastic training, true education, to professional training. Quite enough can usually be accomplished in the manner just indicated without observable distortion of the general education which every youth should rightfully claim. As secondary education and collegiate work in the 'liberal' arts are to-day conducted, it is probably always possible to secure a large part of the needed scientific and linguistic preparation for professional study before entrance into the professional school and, as in law, for example, it is seldom wise to attempt to incorporate such work in the curriculum of the school.
It is becoming more and more common to exact of the candidate for admission into professional study the preparatory work which brings with it the diploma of a reputable college giving a liberal A.B. course. In the professional school, it is sometimes sought to arrange a system of electives for the A.B. course in the university or the college, such as will best combine its work with the requirements of the professional school, and will thus permit the accomplishment of the two lines of work in a reduced period, as, for example, at Cornell, in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and of Engineering, in six years.
It is progress such as this which justifies the comment of Wendell Phillips regarding the value of modern education and that of Andrew Carnegie respecting the changes which have justified the words of that great orator, in our day as never before:
Now, as never before, education is coming to represent the ideal of John Milton, so often quoted and so rarely disputed, an ideal that can not be too often or too impressively placed before the youth of our own day: "I call a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform, justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both public and private, of peace and war." This ideal was embodied in the plan of Cowley for a 'Philosophic College' more perfectly than in the curriculum of any modern institution until, in fact, that aspiration began to find expression in the liberalized and enriched elective system inaugurated by President Wayland, and until, in the last generation, Ezra Cornell proclaimed his aspiration to 'found an institution in which any man can find instruction in any study.' This modern, and now almost universally accepted, Miltonian curriculum is based upon principles well-stated by Forel:
The same idea is expressed in somewhat different words, and as viewed by Huxley's different type of mind, from a different standpoint, thus:
The right sort of a liberal education obviously begins in childhood with the growth of the observational faculties, continues through youth with the development of the power of comprehension and reflection, is finally terminated, so far as formal education goes, with those studies which are the expression of the thoughts or of the discoveries or of the deductions of great minds and which demand the employment of mature, acute, powerful and trained talent.
This is the university period, and if this can be prefaced to the professional training the man is indeed fortunate. It is the modern incorporation of the Miltonian ideal into our educational work that makes it possible for one of our ablest business men to say:
In an ideal university, as I conceive it, says Huxley, almost in the words of Cornell, a man should be able to obtain instruction in all forms of knowledge and discipline in the use of all the methods by which knowledge is obtained. In such a university, the force of living example should fire the student with a noble ambition to emulate the learning of learned men and to follow in the footsteps of the explorers of new fields of knowledge. And the very air he breathes should be charged with that enthusiasm for truth, that fanaticism of veracity, which is a greater possession than much learning, a nobler gift than the power of increasing knowledge; by so much greater and nobler than these as the moral nature of man is greater than the intellectual; for veracity is the heart of morality.
This declaration should be accepted as the fundamental principle, and the very inner spirit, of true education in all departments and as being as truly characteristic of the right form of culture as of the correct method of seeking professional knowledge. It is a characteristic of every correct form of study or of aspiration.
The 'ladder' which, in our country, leads 'from the gutter to the university' for every man who, possessing brain and physical vigor, wills it, includes the successive rounds of the public-school system. The purpose of that organization is to fit, as well as may be, 'all sorts and conditions' of youth for the life of the average citizen of our republic. It properly includes in its curriculum only those subjects which are of most value to the average citizen and it can not, and should not be expected to, provide either those luxuries of education rightfully desired by the well-to-do, or the special forms of training demanded by those proposing to enter on special lines of work, as into either of the professions. If it offers manual training, it is because that is found, on the whole, advantageous to all citizens, and sufficiently so to justify its insertion into an already crowded curriculum. Should, here and there, as in Europe, often, a trade-school be established, it should be justified by the general demand, among the people of the vicinity, for such a training; being a requirement of the place as a seat of the special manufacture, or, as with the common trades, by its systematic teaching of principles and methods that meet the needs of all and which can not be as readily, perfectly, completely and economically taught by other systems.
That 'ladder' includes our secondary schools, in which a selected body of youth are collected who have been found, by a sort of evolutionary selection, to be exceptionally well fitted to receive that higher sort of instruction. Here it is often possible for a determination of the choice of vocation intelligently and safely to be made. The polestar may be discovered and the course may be laid directly for the desired haven. But this course must be steered, as best possible, through available and safe channels and the youth seeking ultimately to enter a great profession may be compelled—often indeed, greatly to his advantage—to follow the courses set for him by the school which is intended to promote the education of other sorts of minds. It is commonly the fact, however, that the studies here offered include those fundamentals of professional preliminary work which should always be acquired previous to entrance upon purely professional study and hence time is not wasted in securing this, which is also, fortunately, always desirable culture.
The preparation of the aspirant for entrance into a profession involves the provision of a fundamental knowledge of means of acquirement of professional knowledge and this means acquaintance with the languages in which the literatures of the profession are to be found. In the case of the law school, this means Latin; with the theologist it includes Greek and Hebrew; with the medical man, it means mainly Latin, as with the others, so far as affecting early history; while, with all, this means the necessary acquirement of the modern languages, French or German, or more commonly both, and sometimes Italian and others. In engineering, it involves the acquisition of the modern languages, the sciences of the physicist and the chemist, of the mathematician, sometimes of the geologist and of the mineralogist; and it supplements these with special studies furnishing the peculiar, 'expert,' knowledge constituting preparation for the characteristic branches of the professional course.
When the whole course of preparatory work is surveyed, from primary to secondary and special, and when its relation to the strictly professional course is noted, it will be found that the latter involves so much of the admittedly educational, as distinguished from the professional, work that it thus becomes practicable for the aspirant to give all the years which his individual means and his time may allow, and most profitably, to liberally educating his faculties and to the storing of his mind with useful knowledge.
Says Dr. W. T. Harris, the philosophic educator and psychologist:
This is simply a statement of the fact, admitted by all, that professional training in the special school is the application, in a restricted field, of principles which should be applied in every field and in all studies, whether those characteristic of a profession or those which constitute divisions of a broad, liberal and cultural education. But it is also true that, before specialization can be properly commenced, the scholar must have terminated that division of his education which is intended to give him general preparation for 'the future of his life.' It is true that a certain amount of specialization may be practicable in the preparatory years; but it is none the less true that, in preparation for the latest stage, the student must give main attention to the educational side and leave the professional to be given main attention in years following those of growth and of development of character and of intellectual power.
The guiding hands of parent and teacher may do much in the adjustment and regulation of the educational life and progress of the young in securing that correct perspective and that direct course from haven to haven which, only, can give the highest possible result in training, in education, and, finally, in professional life. The best disposition of time, the best choice of subjects of study, the best adjustment of hours and the most satisfactory appropriation of time to work, to play, to gymnastics, and to practically fruitful exercises of mind and body, can only be determined by wise and experienced advisers.
Referring to industrial and professional training, Dr. Lyman Abbott says:
The importance of the provision of every citizen, of either sex, with systematic and scientific preparation for the duties of life is thus a most essential provision for the future of the State. Even were we not compelled, in providing for the individual, to make provision for systematic education and training in subjects that relate to the useful arts and the duties of every-day life, it would be none the less imperative, as being vital in the maintenance of the highest interests of the people as a whole. We can not escape this duty, either individually or as a nation, and it is supremely important that we go about our work in a systematic and intelligent manner.
Regarding methods: It is interesting to observe how completely educational processes have changed, in the last generation, in every department and in every division. The old methods, which reminded one of the stuffing of the Strasbourg goose, have largely disappeared and, while it must be admitted that work under high pressure is now too generally the rule, it may be claimed that a very great gain has been effected in finding reasonable ways of teaching, and especially of importing into the study of serious, and perhaps intrinsically difficult and uninteresting, subjects methods of treatment which render the task far more attractive than formerly.
This is as true of other subjects than those which, like physics and chemistry, like all the naturalist's subjects, the observational and experimental, seem necessarily to carry with them the paraphernalia of the laboratory. In every department of study there is some method apposite to that line of work which permits an appeal to the sense of inquisitiveness—a fundamental element of human nature and a most admirable and desirable one—and gives thus a means of approaching the mind by a direct and pleasant path. This is a principle now coming to be accepted as axiomatic, in education, in all its branches, and the once 'dry-as-dust' subjects are taking on new life and assuming lovely and engaging forms.
Thus we may steadily keep in mind, through the whole career of the youth intended to ultimately take part in the constructive work of the world, the fact that he must after a time take up technical studies and that, the more the work of the later years can be facilitated in the earlier, the better and the more profitable the earlier as well as the later work. The courses of instruction may perfectly well he made to include work in literature and in the pure sciences which is both valuable in the early gymnastic branches of education and useful in the later professional work. The earlier courses, in the case of the pupil, for example, who is proposing to fit himself for entrance into engineering or architecture, may perfectly well, and wisely should, be made to include just as much pure mathematics as can be had, just as much of chemistry and physics as the schools can provide and the modern languages in liberal amount.
Assuming that the aspirant for admission to the professional school, in this department, may follow his own bent, and that he desires to be educated and cultured as well as professionally expert, he will continue his work into the higher education, and there will elect advanced mathematics, will secure opportunities for experimental work in the physical laboratory, for work in analysis and synthesis in the chemical laboratory and for the study of the technical, as well as of the literary, works of modern writers in French and German and possibly in Italian and Spanish. If he is preparing himself to take up ultimately law or medicine or theology, he will similarly find in the college and university curricula various branches of study which will be of service either in shortening or in supplementing his work in the professional school. All such opportunities being taken advantage of, it will be found that the total time required to secure first an education and then a professional training will be greatly abridged without sensible loss in final results.
There are often subjects obtainable in the educational curriculum, or at least obtainable in connection therewith, which will be found either to constitute a part of the required work of the technical course, or to be likely to prove of special interest and advantage in connection with it, and which may be incorporated with advantage to the former course, also. There are many subjects, outside the liberal courses as usually prescribed, which, nevertheless, will be found quite as valuable, as cultural and as educational, as are some subjects which are the usual elements of that older scheme. The wise man will look for opportunities to secure a good hold upon these, in substitution, if needs be, for more usual electives. .
It will also be sometimes found that, to the earnest, competent and ambitious man, the commonly prescribed courses of instruction are by no means sufficient to provide a good day's work, each day, and that he may, with great advantage and without the slightest difficulty or sacrifice, increase the prescribed time and number of subjects by perhaps a third. He can not afford, in fact, to forego the opportunities which present themselves in such numbers and such wealth, up to the natural limit of his powers of safe and healthful exertion. He has but one such opportunity in his lifetime and only the man lacking in intelligence or in moral fiber will waste one hour of such precious time. In the large universities and the leading colleges of our time, the student is perplexed and embarrassed by the wealth of opportunity which is presented him. He will usually find that it will require very great care and deliberate thought to make a wise choice of subjects, to adjust himself to a wise limitation of time, so to adjust and schedule his work and his play as to make each day and each college-year in maximum degree profitable. This he should do, having in view the coming life, private as well as professional, and contemplating the utilization of that life most perfectly in the promotion of the highest interests of self, family, friends, country.
Thus, in summary, the ideal preparation of the aspirant, professionally, involves even a supervision of the child in its earliest efforts to obtain a knowledge of the outside world into which it has been introduced, a guidance of kindergartner and of the pupil in the elementary schools in the acquirement of those fundamental knowledges which furnish the means of acquirement of all knowledge, a discreet steering of the course of the older student in the preparatory schools and the finishing school or the college, and deliberate, earnest and careful choice of subjects of study and investigation in higher learning; all to the purpose of insuring that no hour of work shall be wasted by misappropriation to studies which have a less value for the ultimate purpose of the individual life than others equally available.The preparation of the aspirant to professional standing and distinction, or even to the most modest success, thus involves wise counsel from older and more experienced minds, from the earliest to the latest years of this long apprenticeship.
Bacon says, also:
Nor is he ignorant that he stands alone in an experiment almost too bold and astonishing to obtain credit; yet he thought it not right to desert either the cause or himself, but to boldly enter on the way and explore the only path which is pervious to the human mind. For it is wiser to engage in an undertaking that admits of some termination than to involve oneself in perpetual exertion and anxiety about what is interminable.
In the mechanic arts, the case is otherwise these commonly advancing towards perfection in a course of daily improvement, from a rough unpolished state, sometimes prejudicial to the first inventors; whilst philosophy and the intellectual sciences are, like statues, celebrated and adored, but never advanced; nay, they sometimes appear most perfect in the original author, and afterwards degenerate. For since men have gone over in crowds to the opinion of their leader, like those silent senators of Rome, they add nothing to the extent of learning themselves, but perform the servile duty of waiting upon particular authors, and repeating their doctrines.The end of our new logic is to find, not arguments, but arts; not what agrees with principles, but principles themselves; not probable reasons, but plans and designs of works a different intention producing a different effect.
Finally: The preparation of the physical man, like the preparation of the foundations of any great architectural structure, is a first and a last essential. Of little value is a noble conception or a high aspiration, the noblest work of the greatest architect or the highest attainments of the greatest human genius, without a solid and safe substructure, capable of supporting it at all times, in all weathers and in all contingencies, throughout a long and constantly satisfying life. Health, strength, vigor, ambition and high spirits are essential strata in this foundation of every human structure of character and value. The human mind, the human intellect, the spiritual and the moral man, can only survive and properly flourish within a wholesome and vigorous body. So closely are the mind and body related that the failure of the one carries with it, inevitably, loss of efficiency and ultimate failure of the other. Every minutest defect of body and brain of the physical man detracts from the possibilities of accomplishment of the highest and best in the profession, in the home, in the house of one's friend. No man can do his very best as an intellectual, moral, spiritual, being without employing his physical part in its very best estate in the work. Defect of body means, always, defect in the work of the man, either in quality or in quantity.
The physical frame is a machine, a transformer of natural energies. It is at once a home for the soul and a wonderful, an intricate and mysterious prime mover, an engine of which the motive forces are as yet undetermined and unmeasured. We know that its perfection is essential to the perfection of the humanity which it encloses and of which it is the vehicle; we know that the display of the intellectual and the spiritual power, the genius, of humanity is dependent upon the provision of ample stored physical energy and of efficient means of kinetizing and applying it to the purposes of the mind as well as of the body; we know that the animal machine is not a heat-engine; we think it is not an electrical generator; we are coming to believe that it is some form of chemical motor—possibly one in which the vital, the physical, and especially the chemical and electrical, energies find common source and origin in a common point of emanation. We know that, whatever its nature as a motor, it has an inherent efficiency far superior to that of any heat-engine yet devised and constructed by man. We know that it requires certain well-ascertained elements as its fuel—or food—that it must be kept well within the requirements of certain well-established physical laws; that, to maintain and promote its best and highest work, it must be cared for with scrupulous attention to certain definite hygienic laws. We know that the best possible, the highest possible, can only be attained by man when this curious and mysterious and inseparable vehicle of the soul is thus maintained in its best estate.
The building of the body—which means the building of the brain, always, and just as absolutely—the construction of the physical side of the man, is actually a problem in architecture and engineering and one, like all such problems, capable of a good or a bad or an indifferent, but never of a perfect, solution in any actual case. The building is carried on by mysterious and unknown forces within it and we can never touch them or their work without embarrassment or injury to both. We do, however, know positively certain laws and their action and certain rules of procedure in the adjustment of exterior conditions, favorably or unfavorably, and in supplying the necessaries of wholesome life. We know, in a general way, what should be the methods of life, of diet, of exercise, of use of powers of body and of mind. We know enough to make the difference, in most cases, between health and disease, success and failure of the physical man, and, in consequence, thus largely to determine the success or the failure of the real, the intellectual and spiritual, man.
The materials of the builder and their preparation for use are, on the whole, well known, for best construction, and it is well established that a frugal yet ample supply is essential of those substances which furnish in potential form the energy which is demanded by the animal machine. Especially should we avoid such kinds as will clog the machine and impede the evolution of the potential energies in kinetic form. These constitute main conditions of production and of maintenance of the maximum efficiency of the machine, and also of its passenger, the inner man, with whom, even in our individual selves, we have so uncertain and so mysterious an acquaintance.
Man has learned by scientific methods to identify and utilize a vast number of materials distributed amongst the various kingdoms of nature and the physician and the surgeon are able to perform wonders in the maintenance and repair of this mysterious motor. Plainness and simplicity of diet, frugality and maintained efficiency of the apparatus of preparation, are thus requisites for highest attainments, whether in physical or in intellectual and moral and spiritual realms, whether in gymnastics, in learning, or in imagination and in spiritual life. The famous athlete, the great man of science, the philosopher, the poet or the divine, each and all live a better life and are more perfect men in proportion as they perfect the physical side.
Methods of life and habits of body and mind exercise an enormous influence upon the health, happiness, capacity and achievement of the man. It is the daily experience of every one that only when the body is at its best can the mind and the soul rise to highest levels. Keep the animal machine in good order and the highest efficiency of the being dwelling within it is maintained—and only thus can efficiency be attained or maintained.
The teachings of comparative physiology, indicating what are the desirable and what the undesirable materials of construction, and the teachings of the natural instincts which, in the child as in the animal, reject harmful substances, give ample instructions to him who seeks, honestly and earnestly, for such knowledge. Guided by these precepts, an ambitious and intelligent man can usually find his way safely and successfully through the snares of this world which everywhere trap the foolish and unwary.
With ordinarily good physical health and a good body within which to dwell, at the outset, the way by which to an approximation of the ideal perfection of Agassiz, the 'soul of the sage in the body of the athlete,' is open to every man. No aspiring and earnest youth need doubt which is the proper course. The way toward the ideal, the perfect, man, is open to him.
The prerequisites of a successful life are health, strength, intelligence; power of self-control and of self-direction; selection of that profession, or that vocation, which gives largest opportunity for the peculiar talents and ambitions of the aspirant; a good general education; a complete professional training; habits of work and play in due proportion; ability to keep abreast of the times, socially, professionally and generally; capability of meeting and of making mutually helpful all people with whom the accidents of life bring one in contact in social or in professional life, and a good-tempered persistence in making a record that shall, with its steadily lengthening and strengthening chain, become a constantly more and more helpful factor of all success.
Professional success attained, the greatest problem, that of making that success in highest degree valuable and productive, is one which appeals to the thoughtful man more importunately than ever could the problem of gaining a triumphant success in any division of the great world of humanity. It is not so much the acquirement of wealth, whether of money or of wisdom or of fame, which must compel thought and anxious sleeplessness, as it is the problem of investment and of securing safe and satisfactory returns on the accumulated and invested capital. If the capital consists of material wealth, the question how to use it for the highest and best purposes becomes a serious one and the example of the great philanthropist is studied to ascertain the outcome of his endeavor to do most and best with his surplus, to learn how far such attempts have hitherto proved successful and how far they have proved unfruitful or harmful. If the capital is personal fame and power and influence, the same question comes up in a modified form and the successful man is fortunate, or unfortunate, after all, proportionally as he is able to make his fame and power and influence felt for good in the great world's movements.
The ultimate measure of the man, of the woman, is the degree of final approximation to the success of a Peabody in promoting education, of a Carnegie in giving men opportunity to learn and to develop, of a Booker Washington in promoting the advance of a race, of a Roosevelt in advancing the standard of honest and patriotic politics, of a Rockefeller in discreetly seeking out the greatest needs of humanity and providing for their effective supply, of a Vassar in promoting the special care of women in their intellectual life, of any approximation gained for self and others to a higher life in wisdom and learning, in knowledge and culture.
The prerequisites of success are the perfect training of the body, brain and soul; the methods are scientific, in education, in training and in practice. The resultant form is a specific type, a species. The results of the work are as specific, in every profession; usually measured, crudely, by accumulated capital, in form of learning, of skill, of property; but its use is ever the same, its abuse usually common to all forms. Its use is the elevation and upbuilding of humanity, its abuse self-gratification; its glory is seen in the progress of mankind.
- Read before the N. Y. State Science Teachers' Association, Syracuse meeting, December 30, 1902.
- August Forel, University of Zurich.—'Current Encyclopedia,' November, 1901.
- Huxley, Vol. II., p. 320.
- 'Of Business,' It. R. Bowker, 1901.