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WHAT CAN WE AND OUGHT WE TO DO FOR OUR COLLEGES ?
ές Τροίαν πειρώμενοι ήνθον 'Αχαίοι.
THEOCRITUS, JDYLL. XV., v. 61.
The conclusion of our investigations is that the English system of liberal education possesses some decided advantages over ours ; a conclusion from assenting to which the reader need not be prevented by any personal dislike he may
feel towards England or Englishmen. Let him profit by the motto of this book, and be wise enough to take a lesson from those whom he does not acknowledge as friends. Still, before we can make any practical use of our result an important inquiry remains. It may be that the peculiar benefits of such an education as an English University affords are dependent on certain political and social conditions peculiar to England, or upon certain antecedents having no counterpart among us. If so, it would be a clear waste of time to suggest any improvements from that quarter. We may be curious about the system or admire it at a distance, but can never rationally hope to imitate it. To seek an impossible combination of advantages is one of the most frequent errors of reformers, and one of the most prolific sources of delusion. Indeed were I asked in what practical wisdom consists, I should not know how to answer better than by defining it as the faculty of discerning things compatible and incompatible
---that is, I should enlarge Whately's definition, "a ready perception of analogies,” by the addition, and a ready discrimination of differences.
If therefore the peculiar advantages of an English University education are such as to require for their development (1) the influence of an hereditary aristocracy, (2) an established church, (3) public schools like the English for the preparatory training of the students, (4) greater wealth on the part of the students than the majority of our undergraduates possess, (5) greater wealth on the part of the institutions themselves—if they involve any one, and a fortiori if they involve all of these conditions, then we may copy them in form, but can never hope to reproduce their reality.
Are these conditions essential ?
It seems to me pretty evident that the first is not. The whole number of noblemen and “hat Fellow-Commoners ” at Cambridge does not exceed thirty, and not one sixth of those reading-men. Their extinction or absence would not diminish both triposes by the average of three a year, nor would it alter anything in the University except that there would be a few showy gowns less on holidays, and that the only unfairness or inequality existing in the examinations (letting noblemen's sons go out in classics without passing the mathematical examination) would be removed.
Equally plain does it seem that the second condition is in no way essential. The ethics and divinity entering into the college Under-graduate studies or the University course, are
not necessarily favorable to the peculiar views of any denomination. A Unitarian might read most of it. I was going to say a Romanist could ; but the Index Expurgatorius may have extended farther than we are aware of. Paley and Butler, the Acts of the Apostles and the Old Testament History, are not remarkably sectarian. The only point where the Established Church acts immediately on the ordinary life and system of the student is attendance at chapel. Now almost every one of our colleges is under the control of some particular denomination, and all our students are compelled to attend daily prayers, and much more rigorously too than the Cambridge men; so that in this respect the collegiate institutions of the two countries are already on a similar footing
The existence of the public schools seems more immediately connected with that of the Universities. I know the opinion to be common among our scholars (having often seen it expressed in print as well as heard it) that whatever benefits result from the English system of education are owing to the schools and not to the universities. Some things which have been stated in this book may go a little way
towards removing this impression. That the mathematical training at Cambridge does not depend on the public schools is clear enough. Few Eton, or Westminster, or Harrow, or Shrewsbury men are high wranglers. The public school men might be taken out of the mathematical tripos altogether without leaving a very serious
gap in it. With regard to classics the case is indeed different. Much of the highest technical scholarship, particularly superiority in composition, and more particularly in verse composition, is due to the student from the public schools. Take them
four out of the first five men in every Classical Tripos. Still you would have a high standard left; for a man to be in the first class at all must be a pretty good scholar, and know quite classics enough to bother many of our Professors. And a non-public-school man may make very considerable progress in classics at the University, and derive great benefit from the instruction there. Two instances occurred in
time of the Second Chancellor's Medallist not having been at any public school, and the senior Medallist in 1840 came from King's College, London.
The expense of a University education in England is certainly startling at first sight. That a student spending $750 a year should be called decidedly economical, and one spending $1,500 not extravagant, gives a great shock to the accustomed ideas of an American, German, or Frenchman. But we must remember that England is one of the very dearest countries in the world. All the necessaries of life (except some kinds of clothing) cost about twice as much, not merely at Cambridge but in English country towns, as they do at New Haven ; and the comparison with a University town of Continental Europe would probably show a greater difference. Making the proper deductions on this account, the necessary expenses of a Cantab will, with the exception of private tuition, be brought very nearly on a par with those of a Yalensian. And the items which oblige me to
add the qualifications very nearly are such as I would gladly see added to the American student's account. If, for instance, there were better arrangements for cleaning the men's rooms (every Graduate of Yale College will understand what I allude to), the civilization accruing therefrom would be cheaply purchased by the addition of a few dollars to each term-bill.* The expenses for private tuition, which will not be exagge
, rated if set down at $175 per annum for three years half, or above $600 for the whole course, form a large item, one which
of our students would not be able or willing to pay; so that supposing the requisite sort of persons ready to make private tutors, it is very improbable that the system could be established amongst us so as to become at all general, for a long while at least. Here, then, we come directly to the question, whether the peculiar advantages which we have attributed to the Cambridge system of education are inseparable from private tuition? In treating of the private tutors it has been stated that some distinguished members of the University, including the Master of Trinity himself, wished to put them down entirely, or confine them within such limits as would be equivalent to their extinction; but that, in the opinion of the majority (wherein I heartily
* One of the grievances of the Trinity Under-Graduates used to be that they had not baths and a water-closet in every staircase (every entry, as our students call it), and their complaints actually found their way into the Quarterly Review. This may seem extravagant, but it surely is a failing that leans to virtue's side.