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if desirous of attaining honours, and to offer himself for graduation only in company with his class.
Most of the older universities adhere to the system, which requires a fixed course to be followed, and for a certain time. Many of the more modern, on the other hand, permit a free choice ; and some allow the student to become a candidate for graduation, whenever he feels himself competent to offer.
In the United States, with but one or two exceptions, we believe, the antiquated system, with more or less modification, is adopted ; and, in most, the distinctions into freshman and sophomore, junior and senior classes, prevail: the sciences only becoming predominant objects of the student's attention in the two last. The course of study in each of these continues for a year, and is the same for every student, whatever may be his capacity or tastes. To be received into any of those upon the old system, it is made indispensable, that he should be acquainted, to a certain extent, with the Greek and Latin languages.
“No boy,” says Mr. Gallatin, in an address characterized by the same comprehensive and enlightened views, which we mark in every thing emanating from that distinguished individual“who has not previously devoted a number of years to the study of the dead languages; no boy, who, from defective memory, or want of aptitude for that particular branch, may be deficient in that respect, can be admitted into any of our colleges. And those seminaries do alone afford the means of acquiring
any other branch of knowledge. Whatever may be his inclination or destination, he must, if admitted, apply one-half of his time to the further study of those languages. It is self-evident, that the avenue to every branch of knowledge is actually foreclosed by the present system, against the greater part of mankind." Journal. P. 175.
Mr. Gallatin does not seem to have been aware that there is one university in the Union to which his strictures do not apply —the University of Virginia. In it the student, except in the schools of ancient languages, mathematics, and natural philosophy, is subjected to no preliminary examination; and, moreover, he is required to pass through no definite course or term of study; to attend no particular classes, but is left free to select his own studies. When he has once embraced them, however, he is not permitted to relinquish them, unless by request of his parent or guardian, and by the permission of the faculty ; and whenever he esteems himself sufficiently informed on the subject taught in any one of his schools, he is permitted to become a candidate for graduation in it. This system, which, so far as it goes,
will bear the test of rigid and philosophical examination more than any other, prevails more or less in the German universities, and has been adopted, we believe, in the new London University.
Professor Vethake of Princeton, New-Jersey-a communication from whom was read to the convention, and which exhibits sound practical sense, and ingenious and discriminating reflection-has exhibited the prevalent inaccuracy of information, regarding the system adopted at the southern university, to which, from its novelty, we have so frequently alluded. "I see no objection,” he remarks, “to render it obligatory on them (the students) to attend at the same period of time, a certain number of courses, unless specially exempted for sufficient reasons, as is now the arrangement in the University of Virginia." Journal, P. 30. No such arrangement exists in that institution The professor has been guilty of an error loci ; the plan is pursued at the old college of William and Mary, in Virginia.
In canvassing the comparative merits of the two systems, and, indeed, of every point of college discipline and education, it is necessary to take into consideration the age at which the students are received. In most of our colleges they are admitted when mere boys, and the course of instruction is necessarily made more elementary. In the University of Virginia, on the other hand, no student is received under the age of sixteen, and when, whatever may be the fact, it is to be presumed, that the more elementary portion of his education has been completed, and that he is now prepared for the prosecution of more advanced academic, or for professional, studies. To adopt a rigid rule, that students of this age should be compelled to pass a period of four or more years at college, before they can offer themselves for honours; or that they should be confined to classes, with boys, to whom a few years is a matter of comparatively little moment, would be manifestly unreasonable. This much is certain, that in this country few can spare the time in the mere attainment of academical or preliminary information. The truth is, our universities are, like those of Scotland now, and Oxford and Cambridge in former times—both schools and colleges. The under graduate course, in those venerable seats of learning, seems at first to have corresponded precisely, in point of age, with that of the modern schools. Many of the statutes, still in force at Oxford and Cambridge, respecting the discipline of students, sufficiently attest the boyhood of those for whom they were enacted. One of these directs corporal chastisement for those who neglect their lessons. Another, at Cambridge, prohibits the undergraduates from playing marbles on the steps of the senate house. In process of time, excellent schools arose, at which the ordinary preliminary education was obtained, and the period of resorting to college became thus postponed. The dislike to innovation, which augments in intensity according to the age of the establishment, prevented, however, any modification in the course of scholastic instruction,
College-Instruction and Discipline.
and thus it would seem was occasioned the length of time consumed there in preliminary education. *
It will be manifest, that the objections to the system of classification are not so numerous or so weighty in those colleges into which mere boys are received. It has been repeatedly urged, that by such a system they are compelled to study subjects foreign to their inclinations and capacities ; but, until the age of sixteen or seventeen, the mind cannot, perhaps, be better employed than in the acquirement of such knowledge as forms part of the course prescribed in the generality of our universities. The great objection is, that those of all ages are subjected to the same restrictions.
The opposite course, as it at present prevails at the University of Virginia, is also liable to animadversion ; the less, however, as the students are not received under sixteen years of
It will most generally happen, that neither the youth, nor his parent nor guardian, is sufficiently acquainted with the course he ought to adopt with the view of being well educated; and if the youth be left solely to the exercise of his own discretion, which is often a negative quantity, he will be apt to select those schools that require the least application, and are the most interesting, to the exclusion of more severe and elementary subjects. The best system is that which turns out the greatest number of well instructed individuals, or which holds out the greatest amount of incentives to regular study. This cannot be accomplished by any plan which leaves the student, or the parent or guardianoften less competent than the student-to be the sole judge of what should be the course of instruction in all cases. The University of Virginia, which admits this system to the full extent in no wise controlling the choice of the student-affords us some elucidation of the comparative value attached to different subjects of university instruction, by the student, or by parents and guardians, and of the disadvantages of this, unrestricted plan. From the report of the rector and visiters of that university for 1830, we find that there were attending the School of Ancient Languages 52 Mathematics
60 Natural Philosophy,
47 Moral Philosophy,
16 We have selected those subjects only, which constitute the usual course of academic instruction ; and which, we think, ought to constitute it. The school of chemistry we have omitted, because it was composed of both academic and professional students, with the ratio of which to each other we are unacquainted. The
obability also is, that some of those attending the departments
Quarterly Review, Vol. XXXVI. P. 229.
of natural and moral philosophy, were students of law or medicine. From this list we find, that whilst the schools of ancient languages, of mathematics, and of natural philosophy were well attended, that of moral philosophy-one of eminent importance in forming the youthful mind—was comparatively neglected. The two first departments, as taught in most of our colleges, are the subject of the first years' attention ; the latter are esteemed more advanced studies, and, where free agency is allowed the pupil, he will generally prefer the study of matter, with the advantage of the beautiful and diversified elucidations afforded by the advanced state of physical science, to that of mind, with all its arid, but by no means sterile investigations.
We have said that, in the University of Virginia, the selection of studies by the student is free and uncontrolled. An indirect influence is, however, exerted by the graduation of the fees paid to the professors. If the student attends but one professor, he is required to pay $ 50 ; if two, $ 30 to each ; if three or more, $25 to each. A similar effect is produced by the enactment which requires that the student shall enter three classes, unless his parent and guardian shall authorize him, in writing, to attend fewer. Such regulations are favourable only to diffusion of studies over three subjects; the evil remains-of permitting the student to employ his own unassisted judgment in the choice. Such a rule must, however, he generally inoperative. If the collegiate regulation be known, the student will take care to provide himself with the necessary authorization from his parent or guardian ; and if not known, it would be hard that the rule should apply. But let us suppose that he arrives at the university without any such authorization, and desires to join the elementary departments of ancient languages and mathematics. When he discovers that he is required to attend three schools, he will necessarily select one that may afford the greatest attractions, and the attention to which may be esteemed recreation rather than study. In such a case, the law, independently of being productive of no clear advantage except that of adding to the emolument of a greater number of professors, has the evil of compelling an elementary student to adopt a more advanced subject of study, or, at all events, an additional study to the disadvantage of the main object for which he joined the university. Less objection would have existed, if the regulation had required the student to attend two schools under such circumstances. He might then devote himself exclusively to elementary studies; or, if more advanced, he could readily find a collateral subject, which would not distract his attention from the main department, and might form an agreeable and useful alternation.
The truth is, however, that the law is liable toʻall the objections which apply to the old collegiate regulations, which make
time the only element of qualification for distinction. The board of visiters of that university should have gone a step further, and instead of stating the number of schools which a pupil should be compelled to attend, unless his parent or guardian wished otherwise, they should have recommended, not enforced, a particular system of study for those desirous of attaining high literary distinction, or of becoming well educated; still retaining the valuable feature, that they, whose opportunities, tastes, or capacities, do not admit of their following the recommendation, may choose their own subjects.
What this system ought to be, we will now inquire into. It will enter naturally into the consideration of the latter part of the question canvassed before the Convention—“ought students to be confined to their classes, or allowed to receive degrees when found prepared on examination ?” The affirmative of the proposition, as regards graduation, seems to be the natural view; yet there are few institutions at which this course is permitted. If the pupil be constrained to follow a prescribed and unbending series of studies, as is the case in most of the universities of this country and of Europe, it would appear to result as naturally that the negative view should be adopted.
In the Convention, the most opposing sentiments were here again elicited ; and, as on other topics, they seem to have arrived at no fixed conclusion ; all that we are informed being, that “the discussion of the topic was discontinued.”
As regards the requisites for graduation in the different colleges of the Union, they are as various as the colleges themselves. This circumstance has, indeed, given occasion to the little estimation in which the degrees are in general held. It often happens, in truth, that the degree of Bachelor of Arts is conferred at one institution, on such as would be utterly incapable of acquiring it at another; and, at the close of his college career,—which differs in length in different institutions,-every individual receives the first degree in the arts: the examinations instituted being a matter of form, and, too often, of farce. We cannot be surprised, then, that a degree, thus obtained, should be contemned; and that, even in legislative assemblies, members should be found to declare themselves totally unworthy of the honours thus conferred upon them. This is not the case in the universities of Europe. In the English universities, the Baccalaureate is made the test of severe devotion to particular studies ; and, whatever objections may be made to the plan followed in those institutions, of requiring accurate classical and mathematical knowledge, to the exclusion of every thing else, the degree is, at all events, an evidence that the possessor is unusually weír instructed in those matters. Hence, we find in that country the initials B. A. and M. A. proudly appended to