« PreviousContinue »
at any other College in the United States.* Unfortunately its position in the midst of a large city prevents it from entering into competition with other institutions, limits its pupils to the sons of residents in the city, and in fact makes it only a very superior day-school for New Yorkers.
But has there been no improvement in the last ten years, a space of time in which our countrymen can do so much ? I rejoice to say that there has. Under the auspices of the new President of Yale there is more encouragement for, and consequently improvement in certain branches of classical learning than at any former period. Having occasion two years ago to examine some of the best in the Junior class who were candidates for a Scholarship, I was agreeably surprised at their proficiency in Greek prose, while in some of their earlier studies, Virgil for instance, they were as deficient as the students of my time. The Scholarships, five in number, nearly all founded by the President himself, must have a good effect in the end, by giving the best men a motive for reading beyond the regular course. But allowing these favorable prospects, and supposing that other institutions have improved equally (which may be doubted, since whatever has been done at Yale is owing chiefly to the exertions of one man, its new head), our colleges are very far behind what they should be, judging them not merely by a foreign standard, but by that of the best schools in New York or Boston.
* When I fitted for Columbia—a preparation which was all but sufficient for the Sophomore class at Yale--three books of Xenophon, three of Homer, three of Euclid and Algebra as far as Quadratic Equations, were among the subjects required. Now, I believe, either the Euclid or the Algebra, either the Xenophon or the Homer, will be accepted. Even this lower standard of admission is beyond that of the New England Colleges.
It may seem very unpatriotic to say all this, but when people are not generally awake to their own deficiencies their eyes ought to be opened, and their real friend is he who tries to do this, not he who, by claiming for the country what it does not possess, makes it and himself ridiculous in the eyes of foreigners, and tends to make them sceptical in regard to its real merits. Talk to a stranger of our chivalry towards women, our sympathy between classes, our benevolence for public objects, the diffusion of rudimentary education among the
masses, &c., and he may be well disposed to believe you; but if you tell him at the same time that “So-and-So is a great scholar," when his works prove him to be a very inferior one, or that “Classics are on the whole as well taught at Yale and Harvard as at Oxford and Cambridge” (I have heard this roundly asserted, by a public man too), and your foreigner says to himself, “ Here is my informant grossly astray on a subject of which I can judge at once; may he not be equally mistaken in some of the other excellences which he attributes to his countrymen ?” The English have injured their character by a similar mistake of claiming too much. Insisting on a superiority in the arts of life—in dress, cookery, and furniture, which they do not possess, and
their claim to which is so readily disproved, they have caused foreigners to distrust their pretensions to higher excellences which are less obvious on the surface, and require longer and deeper experience and examination to appreciate.
-υδ' ίσασιν όσω πλέον ήμισυ παντός.-HESIOD.
“ The great comedian of Athens saw that the feeling of their own insight and profundity rendered his countrymen a prey to the vulgarest delusions. The great philosopher of Athens whom that comedian ridiculed, saw still deeper into the meaning of the same fact-saw that the most clever and enlightened of the youth of Athens could talk about all manner of things, but knew nothing whatever of themselves.”
MAURICE'S LECTURES ON EDUCATION.
ADMITTING that our colleges do not teach Latin and Greek so well as the European ones, the natural and ordinary defence is, that they teach other things, and those on the whole of more value, better. Let us examine the particulars of this defence. What are the other things taught ?—are they better taught ?—and are they more beneficial as means of liberal education ?
And first, in relation to Mathematics. There used to be, and probably is still, a vague general impression at Yale, to the effect that the Mathematical course there is a very difficult and thorough one-that, in fact, Mathematics constitute one of the crack points of the institution. This fancy certainly derived some support from comparison with the Classical course, as compared with which the Mathematical was undoubtedly a good one. But that did not prevent it from being very bad, as tried either by an ideal standard, or by those existing in other countries. How far it reached is sufficiently shown by the fact that the Differential Calculus, the vestibule as it were to all high Mathematics, was among the optional studies at the end of the third year. The Valedictorian at the completion of the course, or the man who gained the first mathematical prize in the second year, need never have studied it. Nevertheless, a course of Mathematics stopping short of the Differential may be a very good one so far as it goes. But this was not the case with the course at Yale College. In many of its stages it was liable to the same reproach as the classical, of being a study of books rather than subjects. The learning and recitation of portions from day to day (for the annual examinations were little more than a form, and had no effect on the college honors) encouraged a habit of cramming from one day to another. A great deal of the work in the second or third year consisted of long calculations of examples worked with logarithms, which consumed a great deal of time without giving any insight into principles, and were equally distasteful to the good and the bad mathematicians. In fact, while the course was, from its daily recurrence throughout three years, and the amount of figuring it involved, more disagreeable to classics than a more difficult and rigorous investigation of principles requiring less dead mechanical work would have been, the best mathematicians of the class always grumbled at it