« AnteriorContinuar »
be formed of public sentiment by the tone of certain official papers, it would appear that that feeling, instead of becoming extinct, has only changed the mode and place of its appearing.
Finding that the branches were drawing largely upon the fund designed for the construction of the University buildings, and that they were not satisfactorily accomplishing the end for which they had been established, the Board of Regents, after mature deliberation, being fully assured that the expense of keeping them up was greatly disproportioned to the benefits accruing thereform, suspended, in 1846, all appropriations for their support, after more than $30,000 had been expended in trying to sustain them.
Whilst this trial was being made of the utility of branches, Professor Gray was in Europe selecting the library of the University, and Dr. Torrey, of New York, was negotiating the purchase of the Lederer cabinet of foreign minerals, which now constitutes the principal sources of attraction to persons visiting this institution.
From this experimental though abortive effort to build up and sustain branches of the University, the Board have learned, and they deem the lesson of sufficient importance to leave it on record, that local institutions of learning thrive best under the immediate management of the citizens of the place in which they are situated, and when endowed or sustained by their immediate patrons.
When the time arrived for the organization of the College of Arts, the Board were not forgetful of the truth that man is not merely an intellectual but a moral being-a being meant for virtue as well as for reasoning, and partly as the result of his reasoning. And in order that the youth who should resort thither for instruction in sci.-ence, letters, and the arts, might also imbibe correct ideas of moral truth, and just conceptions of their relations to other men, as well astheir Maker, they appointed a clergyman from the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Episcopal churches, respectively, to the professorships of ancient languages, moral and mental philosophy, the philosophy of history, and mathematics, with natural philosophy. ID supplying the Chairs of chemistry and mineralogy, botany and zoology, and the modern languages, although the gentlemen occupying these places are unexceptionable in moral character, regard was more especially had to their other qualifications for these positions, than to
the religious influence they might exert over the minds of the young men entrusted to their charge. In order to avoid the appearance of sectarian predominance in the institution, a regulation was established by which the four first named professors were required, in turn, to act as President, for one year from the time of his accession to the office. The inconveniences of this plan of rotation in the office of President, to which the state of the finances compelled the Board to adhere whilst erecting the buildings necessary for the two departments now in successful action, were not so sensibly felt until the medical department was established during the past year. Since then, the necessity of a common head has become daily more apparent.
The Board are aware that the wisdom of their action, in selecting so many of their faculty from the clerical profession, has been called in question; still they are so strongly impressed with the importance to youth, of correct moral training, during the period of college life, and of the necessity of a sense of religious responsibility, to insure fidelity in the instructor, that no present consideration would tempt it to found a collegiate institution, without its materials were cemented by religious belief, and its durability guarantied by the hopes which Christianity alone can inspire or impart. Whether these ends can be as well secured by other instrumentalities, is a matter which they seriously commend to the consideration of their successors in office.
In arranging the course of study for the under-graduates of the University, the Board of Regents, aided by the members of the faculty, have expended much patient, laborious and anxious attention. They have striven to adapt their legislation to the demands of an active age, so as at the same time not to be instrumental in confirming the idea that it is not an age of reflection as well as of action. With this view they have required candidates for academic honors to study the humanities of the older schools, as a means of acquiring elegance in diction and an easy and happy command of style in composition, whilst they have afforded them the means of acquiring the modern languages, and the elements of natural history, including both organic and inorganic nature.
The Board have not been unmindful of the tendencies of the age. "They are aware of the growing impatience of youth to put off sub
jection to parental control, and to put on manhood
of the ardent desire of the young man to become rich, rather than wise—of the increasing disposition in all classes to despise preceden:, to reject whatever is old, for that reason, rather than because it has become effete; and have labored, not so much to minister to the gratification of this morbid relish for unregulated liberty, as to cultivate in their course of study and system of discipline, a conservative sentiment which should restrain, guide, enlighten and direct the young men who may resort thither for mental improvement. They desire, with great humility, to acknowledge their submission to an all-sufficient Creator. They observe in His works an order of progression, a plan of development which illustrates His attributes, and demands their profoundest admiration. In the origination of matter they recognize His power; in the development of organic existences, His wisdom; in the creation of sentient beings, His goodness; and in the existence of man, His power, wisdom and goodness combined. In His scheme of creation alone, they find inscribed the law of progress.
They learn from His word, that man was created in His own image; that since his fall he is left with powers susceptible of enlargement by cultivation, but find no warrant for the belief that any new faculty or power can be added or developed by his own exertion. Man may therefore improed, but cannot progress. They further learn from experience, a truth long since uttered by a Jewish Rabbi, that wisdom cannot be devised: and they infer from these truths, the law, that each generation of men must learn wisdom by its own experience, and that every individual mind must be improved by the exercise of its own powers.
In conformity to these laws, and to ef. fect these ends, the course of study in the University has been regulated. The special objects being to teach youth how to study; to prepare them for professional reading or for becoming intelligent artisans or business members of society. Not being of the opinion that the untutored youth is the best judge of what he ought to learn, nor that the admission of pupils to an irregular course of study along side of those of whom a more thorough drilling is required, would have a favorable effect upon scholarship, the Board have required all candidates for academic honors to study the elegant and antique models found in the Greek and Roman classics, to submit to daily
recitations and the moral restraints of a college faculty. They know that in the hurry of men to accumulate wealth or acquire power, they will sorgo the advantages and pleasures derived from patient mental, culture-resign the sceptre of mind for the gilded mace, or the delusive and transitory exercise of political authority-and know. ing these things, they have felt it to be their duty to strive to establish another umpire than that of Mammon, and to tempt young men, by protracting their course of study, to look for distinction out of the counting room or the political arena.
It is admitted that the number of students in the University could be greatly increased, if there were no prerequisites to their admission; and they believe at the same time that a system which should look merely to the augmentation of numbers, would have a fatal effect upon scholarship, and subvert the object of the grant, the end and purpose of the endowment.
Since the foregoing was written, a national educational convention has been held at Cleveland, in Ohio, in which the expediency of ex. pelling the classics from our colleges became the subject of discussion. One of the gentlemen who took part in this debate, having been at one time a Regent of the University of Michigan, included in his remarks an admirable defence for his colleagues, in the adoption of the course of study required of their under-graduates. I take pleasure in incorporating it into this memoir, although it adds essentially to its length. It is gratifying to add, that that respectable Body set the seal of its disapprobation upon the attempt to make it the medium of disseminating so pernicious a sentiment:
The Board adopted in the organization of the collegiate department of the University, the general system and plan of studies which have been approved for centuries in Europe, and almost universally by the directors of colleges in these United States. The curriculum is equally full and extensive with that in any collegiate institution in this country, intended mainly, though not exclusively, for the education of minors. It would have been as disastrous in its results, as certainly a breach of trust in its very nature, had the Board, with the commencement of the collegiate department of the University of Michigan, projected any novel system of education which had not been put to the test of time and experience. The collegiate course of studies in the United States, as in the different colleges of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, in England, and the Gym. nasiums of Germany, is intended for a specific purpose, and wisely adapted to it. The history and experience of centuries have stamp
ed it with the seal of approbation, and it is questionable, especially after several abortive experiments already made in this country, whether any other equally, not to say more, efficacious can be devised.
The design of collegiate education is not immediately to impart the knowledge of the sciences and the arts—not to fill the memory and minds of youth with mere information. This is the work of life. It is utterly impossible that in the course of four years, any person, whether a minor or of maturer years, can range through the whole circle of the sciences, the whole field of human knowledge. In many of the natural sciences, especially in chemistry, geology, mineralogy, and various departments of natural philosophy, the continual development of new facts and new discoveries, render it indispensable, even for the most learned professor, to be a diligent student, if he would keep pace with the progress of knowledge in his own department. The same remark may be made in relation to the moral sciences and ethics, economics and politics. Nor can the professor of mathematics, without continual study, long maintain his position and reputation as an instructor in the exact sciences.
Whoso would think of requiring from boys, in a course of four years training, to compass the entire range of the natural and other sciences, only betrays his own ignorance of the wide field of human knowledge. The course of collegiate study and its peculiar advantages, have already suffered much from attempts to enlarge the course of study, so as to embrace a wider field than can be perfectly or even profitably cultivated by youth generally, or by any one in so short a period as four years. Yet the demand of popular feeling has been for the enlargement, rather than for the curtailment of the studies of a college course; and institutions, depending on popular favor for the means of their existence, have been forced to meet and gratify, to some extent, that demand. The Board have not been insensible of this state of public feeling, and have felt the necessity of respecting it, as far as it could be done with safety to the real interests of college education. They have introduced into their schedule, as full a course of study in the exact and natural sciences, as is to be found in most colleges. They have far exceeded most in the provision made for the
study of the modern languages, and they have manned their Faculty with talents and attainments inferior to few. It is not without the conviction, however, produced by their observation and the history of the University, that this extension of the collegiate course has tended to embarrass the student somewhat in the prosecution of his studies in the Latin and Greek classics. This has been matter of deep and serious regret with the Board. For, although there has been a studied attempt, in certain quarters, to disparage the study of the learned languages, as they are sometimes called, and although much interest has been manifested in decrying the Latin and Greek classics, and in demanding the substitution of various natural sciences and arts in their place, yet the Board hope that the day is far distant when any revolution will be wrought which would exclude them from a course of collegiate ed