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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55

Otago Daily Times, Friday. August 28, 1885. — Presentation of Diplomas

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Otago Daily Times, Friday. August 28, 1885.

Presentation of Diplomas.

The ceremony commonly known as the "capping" of students took place at the Lyceum Hull yesterday evening, and resulted in that capacious building being as densely crowded as the University library has been on former occasions.

Professor Macgregor, who presided and presented the diplomas, was supported upon the platform by the chancellor (Rev. Dr Stuart), the University professors, and a number of graduates and other gentlemen interested in university education. The behaviour of the students in the body of the hall was a distinct modification of former experiences, but there were nevertheless slight interruptions from time to time.

Professor Macgregor said that he was sure every friend of the University of Otago must be intensely gratified to see such a large and orderly gathering.—(Applause). He would tell the gathering that the ceremony that evening had a double interest from the fact that the occasion was the first one that a lady graduate from the University of Otago had come forward to take her degree. He referred to Miss Caroline Freeman—(cheers)—who was there that evening to receive her diploma as a Bachelor of Arts.—(Renewed cheers). He had been asked by the chancellor to preside at the presentation of diplomas, and address the graduates, under-graduates, and those present to witness the ceremony. He would not detain them long, as there were a number of others to follow who would probably exhaust the patience of the audience sufficiently without his keeping them too long. —(Applause and laughter). The ceremony they were about to witness was interesting to everyone, but particularly the citizens of a free country for many reasons and in many ways. There was one aspect in the ceremony which mainly concerned the person who represented the University on the occasion, and that was, that it afforded the only opportunity for explaining to the public the reasons and the bearings of any important changes which the Senate had seen cause for introducing into the regulations for degrees. It was this consideration which compelled him to devote his remarks to explaining the reason why the senate at its lust meeting had resolved to institute; the B.Sc. degree as an alternative to the ordinary B.A. degree, which opened another door of entrance to their University. To properly understand the bearings of such a change, they must trace the influences which had given rise to it, and the altered circumstances which had made it necessary. In order to do so, it was necessary to look abroad over the different educational ideals that prevailed among civilised nations, when it would be found that they were ranged between two extremes, each equally clear and definite. On the one hand was the German system—the most complete and thoroughgoing in the world-based on an ideal which, in the words of Stein (its great founder), is "the harmonious and equable evolution of the human faculties." There we had the systematic instinct of the Teutonic nice faithfully reflected. They, above all things, must have symmetry and harmonious completeness. Their devotion to the ideal was supreme. On the other hand, we had what he ventured to formulate as the ideal that commended itself to the British colonist expatriated to subdue the wilderness and lay the foundation of a new English-speaking nation beyond the sea. Their ideal, begotten of their history and their circumstances, was what they called practical. Education was with them only training for work, and nothing was taught that could not be turned to account. Each subject received as near as possible that share of attention that was proportional to its future usefulness to the farmer, the manufacturer, and the merchant. This was practical common sense. If they now looked at the English educational ideal, it would be found that it was as usual an awkward and clumsy compromise between two divergent tendencies. It was above all conservative of the ancient learning of letters and culture that met the wants of its aristocratic and privileged classes, while it had been driven by the industrial organisation of the middle classes to concede a grudging toleration to those sciences and arts that helped the producers in their arduous struggle with nature. In education, as in everything else, the Englishman was constitutionally careless and impatient of theory and system. Our art, philosophy, and politics equally reflected that peculiarity of the national genius, and yet for that reason perhaps they were more than any other product suitable to the actual exigencies of this human life of ours. At the commencement he accepted Shakespeare because he was for no race or country, but let them take Milton. With all his solemnity and grandeur, they would find that his ideal of Heaven was a sort of St. James' Court, with a lot of flunkeys about it. His angels sang like Anglican choristers, and the Almighty himself was put forward as though he were guided by the last manual of divinity literally interpreted.—(Interruptions.) He was speaking of Milton's interpretation, and yet Milton more than any other poet was the characteristic English genius—the wisest and noblest in his sublimity and grandeur. For our national pegasus was simply hobbled and briddled with matter of fact. It was the same with the philosophers of England, John Locke, for example, who took eight ideals out of the front door, and smuggled them in at the kitchen window. What he meant to say by all this was that our English educational ideals were in the same predicament. What the ideal of English general or university education was, it was impossible to say; and yet for centuries it had educated the most effective men that the world had even seen. Its strength for practical purposes was its weakness on the theoretical side. We in these Colonies had carried away English traditions to reproduce them here; but how much had we left behind? The characteristic tenet of an Englishman was page break "knowledge is power," and we wanted knowledge for what knowledge would bring. Take the contrast between a country like this and England, with its thirty millions of people, and consider what had to be done by the men who only a few years ago came to settle here. What education did these men want—Latin, Greek, and polite letters." Well, the wisest of them thought so, and we were all thankful that they did. But we had left behind us all the accumulated treasures of art and learning. We had also left all those suggestive traditions and romances with which every mountain and river and town in the old country abounded, and which inclined a man to love that which custom had sanctioned, and treat reverently, however absurd, the foibles of his grandmother.—(Laughter). Under all these conditions the tendency was towards utilitarianism, and we were getting j impatient of the higher secondary education, as it existed, reproduced from the ancient standards of the old country. Parents would no longer stand it. They wanted something practical to turn into money soon; and the Senate seeing this great revolution pending, thought by reform to forestall it. They now said that no boy who wished higher, or university, education should henceforth be obliged to take up Latin unless he wanted to. Latin, and perhaps in a lesser degree mathematics, had been the great stumbling-block in our primary schools. A boy some-times found that the latter two or three years of his education had been thrown away, because when he wanted to go up to the university he had to go back to the earlier courses of the High School for it, although he was far advanced in other subjects. This discouraged the boy, drove the masters to despair, and tended to make High School education expensive. The B.Sc. degree removed this stumbling-block, and made it possible for every parent to get a rational education for his son, and obtain security that it should not be merely utilitarian principles. One difficulty they would have to deal with was that, owing to the persistence with which the English nation as a whole had invested all its power and educational discipline in classics and mathematics, it would almost be impossible to find men of first-class ability for teachers who had not directed their powers in this way. For his own part, he would, if it had been possible, have stuck to the old way. It was the diet on which heroes were fed, whatever they might say. But our present system was a too ridiculous compromise. We must cure this evil—a knowledge of many things and no knowledge of anything. A period of transition was inevitable, but we must get over this, and could not expect to do so until we had trained teachers to invest their powers in the new subjects, as they had formerly done in the old.—(Applause.)

Professor Shand then called upon the new graduated, who were presented with their diplomas by Professor Macgregor in the usual form. The following is the list of graduates :—

Robert M'Nab.—Matriculated 1880; first section B.A., 1883 (senior scholar in mathematics); final B.A.. 1881; M.A., with second-class honours in mathematics.

Caroline Freeman.—Bowen prize; first section B.A., 1881; final B.A., 1885.

James Fitzgerald.—Matriculated 1880; first section B.A., 1883; final B.A.,1885.

James gJohnston Hay.—Matriculated 1881; first section B.A., 1881; final B.A., 1885; senior scholarship in mathematics.

Donald Munro.—Matriculated 1881; first section B.A., 1884; final. B.A., 1885.

Thomas K. Sidey—Matriculated 1881; first section B.A., 1883; final, B.A., 1885.

James Konaldson Thornton.—B.A. 1879, and M.A., and third-class honours in physics and chemistry at Canterbury College in 1880; first part LL.B., 1880; second and third section LL.B., 1881.

Mr R. L. Stanford was not present to receive his diploma, and Professor Macgregor intimated that it would be forwarded to him.

Miss Freeman, on coming forward for her diploma, was loudly cheered, and was accorded musical honours by a large section of the students. A number of very handsome bouquets were also thrown to her upon the platform.

Dr Brown, who was the next speaker called upon, said we have witnessed a ceremony to-night which marks one of the great social advances of the century. Some of you will scarcely believe how strenuously, and in many cases how effectually, the admission of ladies to degrees has been resisted in the British Universities. A long period of agitation and persistent knocking at the doors of learning have at length cleared the way. It is worthy of note, as has been pointed out to me by a learned friend, that one of the earliest agitators in this movement was Mrs Priscilla Wakefield, grandmother of Edward (ribbon Wakefield, to whom we may say New Zealand owes its very existence as a Colony of England. This lady in 1798 published a small book called "Reflections on the Female Sex," which anticipated, in some ways, the writings of Miss Cobbe, Mrs Butler, Mrs J. S. Mill, and others. To these latter ladies and their associates great credit is due for a new and more generous public opinion. Within the last few years colleges for ladies have been established at Cambridge and Oxford. At Cambridge the other day ladies took high places in the mathematical tripos. Our Colony page break has nothing to be ashamed of in regard to provision for the higher education of women. We have High Schools for our girls, giving them the same advantages in the way of large classes, good teachers, and breadth of training as boys. When they leave school the lectures in college are open to them, and as you have seen tonight, the University of New Zealand admits women to degrees equally with men. Although this is a novel sight to most of us, it is another illustration of the truth of King Solomon's saw, "There is no new thing under the sun." In past ages women have, time after time, been distinguished graduates and teachers in academies and universities. Charles Kingsley has made popular the history of one distinguished lady professor of 1500 years ago. Names of ladies occur among the professors and lecturers of various Italian and French colleges from the thirteenth right on to the present century. In conservative England there are, however, few, if any, female graduates of the national universities. How is this? Why should a nation which has prided itself on its chivalry find nothing but a theme for jest in the idea of ladies entering on an undergraduate's life? A probable answer is furnished by an author from whom I quote a sentence or two : "The education of a woman and that of a man are very dissimilar. Thus, a man can study during his whole life; whether he is abroad or at home he can always look into the classics and history and become thoroughly acquainted with the whole range of authors. But a woman docs not study more than 10 years, when she takes upon herself the management of a family, where a multiplicity of cares distracts her attention, and having no leisure for undisturbed study, she cannot easily understand authors; not having obtained a thorough acquaintance with letters she does not fully comprehend their principles; and like water that has flowed from its fountain, she cannot regulate her conduct by their guidance." This is the usual position taken up by those who are opposed to or are lukewarm on the subject of higher education for women. There is a certain amount of grim satisfaction to be derived from the fact that the words now quoted are the utterances of a Chinaman.—(A Voice: "Name!") His name is Luh Chow, and he is in this, as in many other respects, quite up to the intellectual level of the selfsatisfied Briton who asked the question.—(Laughter.) Taking Mr Luh Chow seriously, he raises a very important point. Supposing the higher education of women to be arrested for a number of years by family life, is woman any the worse for being well educated before marriage? Is a woman less likely to be a good wife and mother if she has spent her spare time after leaving school in study than if she has led the life of idleness and petty distractions which is demanded by fashion-able society? It would be instructive to know how as a training for domestic life a soulless acquaintance with pianoforte playing and ability to paint from copies surpass a thorough knowledge of Latin and mathematics, or how a family will be better brought up by a mother who has a passion for dancing than by one who is familiar with English literature. The fact is that whenever we go beyond the region of what is useful, we find women in the matter of education, as in almost all other matters, victims of a despotism of their own creating. Fashion dictates what girls should learn, and fashion declares that young ladies finish their education by a veneering of showy accomplishments. Men have been to prone to look upon them as the Heaven-decreed order of things. It is for men as much a duty as for women to strive for a better way. Men gain equally with women in every advance made in culture; men of this generation gain by companionship with cultured women; men of the next generation gain by the impress made on them in childhood and youth. Where it is possible why should not girls have the best and most thorough grounding in those studies in which well-educated lads are drilled? Even if for a while in after life domestic duties withdraw a woman from studious pursuits a time will come in her life when the studies of her youth can be resumed, or the habits acquired in youth roused into activity and directed into new channels. Recent literature affords abundant illustration of the truth of this statement. Especially may we instance Mary Somerville as a striking example of the advantages derived in old age from thorough and exact training in early years. All women, however, have not the fortune, or misfortune, to enter on married life. It is easy to turn this subject off with a jeer, to say woman's function is matrimony; but is not so easy to ignore the fact that in most civilised communities the number of unmarried women is very great. What is to be done with them? One of England's sweetest poets answers the question thus:

For sure it is, indeed.

Two streams through Life's ground flow, and both are good—
The one, whose goal is gracious motherhood;
The other, in the cloister pale and dim,
Finding sufficient meed
In pure observance, rite, and soaring hymn.

Thus poetry; but prose tells us of many who are not mated, and who do not or cannot adopt the poet's pleasing alternative of "getting them to a nunnery." What is to be the fate of these? There are many industrial occupations open to them, but following the example of the learned, the artisan objects to a woman competing with him. Woman has to encounter the same difficulty in nearly every direction. Where she is admitted as a worker in schools, for instance, she is paid at a much lower rate than a man. The University of New Zealand deserves the praise of every woman who has the welfare of her sex at heart, because in it and in the affiliated colleges there is absolute equality. Lectures are attended by male and female students; the same examinations are undergone by both, and the same degrees are open to both. In recognising equality between the sexes our university is imbued with the spirit of Mrs J. S. Mill, who says : "We deny the right of any portion of the species to decide for another portion, or any individual for another individual, what is and what is not their 'proper spheres.' The proper sphere for all human beings is the largest and highest which they are able to attain to. What this is cannot be ascertained without complete liberty of choice." Well, granted the liberty, what is the use to women of higher education? One is often asked this question and expected to be too effectively crushed to reply. To answer properly one would need to touch on the whole subject of culture. Suffice it to say that education, properly so called, will not unsex either man or woman. There is no fear that it will harm "distinctive womanhood." We so recently heard from Professor Sale the common-sense view of the value of a degree that I do not touch on that subject. However, degrees are conferred, and if they have any value, let them be open to both sexes.

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The battle of higher education for women has, however, been fought a little further on. Are women to share in that special training which to men is a means to an end? Are women to be trained to professions? Here, again, the catholicity of our Colonial university is in marked contrast to the older schools. Degrees in law, science, music, and medicine are open to ladies. There are strong prejudices standing in the way of women becoming professors, preachers, lawyers, and doctors; but there is neither justice nor grace in refusing the claim of any woman who desires to enter on a professional career. They have historical precedent in their favour; they have modern instances. Opposition comes to them from those who dread their competition where competition is already keen enough, but most of all from those who have an ideal of womanhood with which the professional woman clashes. People who hold this view exhibit in their unreasoning prejudice a logical fallacy which some of the younger students here could blow to the winds in very short time. Because it so happens that some asserters of woman's rights have been coarse and vulgar, it does not follow that every woman who wishes to carve her own way in the world is so. One treads on dangerous ground when venturing to speak of a career for woman in the pulpit or at the bar, but the public are not so unaccustomed to the idea of woman choosing medicine as a profession. Here, at any rate, there is room for some of the fair sex. I would not venture to advise or dissuade, but I know that, if not in this particular town or country, in some other towns and countries there is a demand for lady doctors. There is not much to be proud of in the stand made by the medical Press against the entrance of women into this profession. There was a strong flavour of the Middle Ages about the literature of the controversy and about the action taken by the medical corporations and universities in England and Scotland to prevent females from being taught or examined. There is no need either to approve or disapprove of the bent of mind impelling a woman to study medicine in order to judge of the unfairness of the way in which Miss Jex-Blak and others were treated by medical men and medical boys. If any lady now present believes that there is a field for her in medicine she may rest assured that the university will treat her exactly as it treats others, and that the means of instruction are as open to her as to any student. I cannot conclude without a word of congratulation to Miss Freeman. No one knows so well as I do the difficulties she has had to contend with. She has shown such pluck and perseverance that, if she had been a fighting man instead of a studious woman, she would have merited decoration. I am pleased, therefore, to hail her as the first lady graduate from the Otago University.—(Applause.)

A few students at the back of the hall here favoured the audience with the refrain "Glory Hallelujah," after which

Mr A. Wilson, M.A., rose to speak, and commenced by referring to the central fact of interest in that night's proceedings—the investiture of the first Otago girl graduate. From such comparisons as he had been able to make he should not be surprised to see women before long claiming their place in other fields besides medicine—law, for instance. He would neither assert nor deny that women might make as stable judges as men, but he was inclined to think they would make better advocates.—(Laughter.) The speaker then proceeded to discuss the value of a degree—its equation, so to speak, and said: In order to know the actual value of any degree, certain data are necessary, and these only a few possess—a knowledge of the examiners, and—still more essential—a knowledge of the teachers. All students will agree with me when I say that it is difficult to find two teachers whose standards are alike. But whilst I hold that most of us are very much in the dark as to the value of various degrees, we can each say what we think ought to be their value, and I would like to say in a few words what I think the degrees of B.A. and M.A. in the New Zealand University ought to represent. The degree of Bachelor of Arts ought to certify to all whom it may concern that its possessor has laid a broad and firm basis of sound learning on which to build the superstructure of his subsequent intellectual life. He has gone through an aprenticeship, so to speak, and has learned how to use a large variety of tools. I say advisedly a large variety of tools for the very name of university premises that no part of the intellectual nature is to be left uncared for. Whilst he is an apprentice he must exercise himself in the full round of intellectual operations. It will not do for him to say, "I have no leaning to mathematics; my bias is towards classics. Therefore I shall go in for the one and neglect the other. At this stage of his career, if he has little aptitude for mathematics, there is all the more reason that what little aptitude he has should be cultivated to the utmost. Everyman can learn enough of mathematics, or of anything else, with sufficient thoroughness to enable him to have some adequate estimate of the field, though he may have neither the ability nor the desire to explore it to its extent. Again, a student may say—"My tastes he in the direction of objective nature. What lies round about me, open to my sight and touch, interests me, but I have no taste for looking into my own inside. Introspection is not in my way. Give me substances organic or inorganic to work upon, but do not ask me to acquaint myself with the subtle problems of psychology." But as surely as there is a danger in being too introspective, so surely is it an imperfection to be wholly extraspective, if I may coin a word to fit my meaning. "Cultivate the faculties one and all," should be the maxim of the undergraduate. By-and-bye the time will come when he must concentrate his energies on one subject. Now the course of study in all good universities is so arranged that this breadth is ensured to all who obtain its degree, for the degree of B A. is a guarantee rather of breadth than of depth, therefore it is that in no subject is more than a moderate degree of proficiency demanded though such knowledge, so far as it goes, must be honest and thorough—a thing that can be only when the student is brought into living contact with the mature minds of teachers who are masters and specialists in subjects where he is but an apprentice. When the student has achieved a respectable proficiency in the arts, I literature, philosophy, and science, the university authorities certify the same presenting him with his parchment and investing him with the fur.

As yet, be it observed, the student is an apprentice of all trades, but a master of none, Theoretically he is not yet entitled to teach the matter he has learned, being not yet a master of it. To qualify himself for this he must proceed to narrow the area of his studies; he must decide for what subjects he has the greatest page break aptitude and taste, and he must concentrate his attention upon those. During his undergraduate or apprentice days he has been trained in the proper methods of study, and no longer requires the direction of a teacher. Is it to be supposed that he chooses that department of knowledge for which lie has the greatest aptitude. If he determines to follow one of the learned professions—which are more numerous to-day than they used to be—this is the time (and not before) when he can, without injury to himself, give his whole attention to the acquisition of that special knowledge which every profession demands. If he begins the study of a profession at an earlier stage—that is, when he should be equipping himself with a good liberal education by the study of literature and science, he is in danger not only of suffering from becoming that imperfect being—the professional man whose horizon is shut in by the mere technical knowledge of his profession—but in his very profession he is likely to be less efficient than his rival who has taken the arts course. This for two reasons: First, because he has begun his professional training at too young an age—before the mind is able properly to assimilate what is supplied to it in the lecture-room—a serious matter where learning a profession is is concerned; and in the second place because, even if he were not too young to make a good use of his opportunities, he must necessarilly be at a disadvantge as compared with one whose mind is already thoroughly schooled and who comes armed cap-a-pied with powers disciplined to observe, classify, and reason. But it may not be the intention of the B.A. to fit himself for one of the learned professions, but he may wish to make himself a master of some of those arts of which as yet he is only a bachelor or apprentice. Accordingly, after a certain period devoted to the mastery of a group of cognate subjects, he re-turns to the University authorities, and demands that they try him. If it is found that he has made good use of his time, he is pronounced a Master of Arts—a title, however, which, to use the phraseology of logic, connotes more than it denotes; hence the desire to institute other degrees such as B.Sc., which shall more accurately indicate the narrower range. I have outlived what I conceive to be the theory of degrees; and though in some universities the theory may not square with the practice, yet I think it does run parallel with the lines followed in our own university; so that we may well congratulate those students who have received the imprimatur of the university as certifying that they have served a creditable apprentice-ship to the arts, and have laid a broad and sound foundation for subsequent attainments. Still more may we congratulate those who have finished their "wanderjahre" and have been pronounced proficients in certain departments of the arts. As the number of graduates increases year by year, we may rest assured that the Colony will be all the better for it.—(Applause.)

Rev. Dr Stuart, addressing the graduates, said: I have much pleasure in congratulating you on making good another step forward in your educational course, and in joining in this public recognition of it. The simple but becoming ceremonial of the evening has told us not only of a memorable attainment on your part in classics, mathematics, and philosophy, but also of what is still more valuable—viz., mental discipline, decision of character, singleness of purpose, and sustained endeavour—an attainment which must prove a vantage ground of immense importance in your life work. When you matriculated you gave a pledge that you would manifest a sacred regard for your alma mater by diligence to your studies and loyalty to her laws. And, now that you have honourably redeemed it, your friends and teachers gladly join in what I may call the celebration of your educational majority. But the filial relationship continues, and the University which taught you and the University which tested you expect you will bring them credit by doing your life-work like true men, and in the way of true men, with a purpose fixed and holy. Though not a prophet, I do not hesitate to say that a crown of priceless value awaits those who show in the prosecution of their chosen task not only a resolute will, but also the courage of a hero and the love of an apostle, and along the line of duty the sympathy and prayers of kindred souls. Would you be successful in uplifting yourselves and helping others, lest out of your heart, the fear of man which bringeth a snare and everything that defileth, and labour while it is day, with both your hands, with open heart, and with faith unswerving as it becometh those who are bent on being valiant for the truth on earth. Now and again the cry is raised, and it is sure to reach your ears, that in our times men of culture are becoming a drug; but I am sure you are effectually protected against its evil contagion by the inestimable gifts of faith, hope, and youth. Friends, don't heed the craven cry. The new crusade has already began, and all but the blind must see that in every sphere of human activity there is not only room but urgent need of all who can interpret great Nature and her parables, instruct the ignorant, cheer the timid, and reclaim the erring. Don't heed the pessimistic cry—the fields of high endeavour are all fully occupied, and there is neither work nor wage for any more. What! Neither room nor work in our world for the good and the true? Why, God and His servants are now calling to boundless fields, white to the harvest, all whose inspiration is goodwill to men and faith in the promises. Believe me, there are work and wage, and there are distinction and honour for those who, like the prophet, are ready at the call of duty to go wherever faith can see, hope can breathe, and love can work. For one, I have confidence that our alumni will continue to be fairly represented in the front ranks in the industrial arts, in scholarship, science, citizenship, and beneficence, and thus nobly vindicate from age to age the patriotism and foreseeing wisdom of our founders. Graduates, I wish you success in your studies and in practical life.—(Cheers.)

Professor Macgregor then complimented the students upon their changed manners, and the proceedings terminated.