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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

—Other Reforms Necessary.—

—Other Reforms Necessary.—

But even the abolition of the degree system is not the only reform that is neces[unclear: ary] to make our university colleges really [unclear: useful] for the mental development of [unclear: youth] there can be no doubt that an-[unclear: other] prolific source of "cram" and over-[unclear: work] amongst students is the Comparative Inefficiency of some Professors as Teachers. In the future we must have [unclear: for] this office not simply men who know [unclear: their] subject, but men who can teach. [unclear: Professors] who merely read their lectures [unclear: to] their class, as is sometimes done now, [unclear: are] no good at all. Whatever benefit stu-[unclear: dents] get from such professors they could obtain equally well from published text books. What is wanted at college is the contact of the professor's matured mind with the comparatively raw mind of the [unclear: student] the mind of the man who knows his subject thoroughly with that of the man who is ignorant of it, but anxious to [unclear: learn]. This is worth all the books in [unclear: creation] and this can only be obtained [unclear: from] an extempore teacher. Hence no [unclear: man] however distinguished for knowledge, should be admitted to a professor's chair who has not given satisfactory proof that be is a good practical teacher, that he has the genius for teaching as well as the genius for his subject, if a teacher is thinking only of his subject, and not of his pupils as" well, he will never do them much good. The college is instituted because a living man is an infinitely better instrument of education than a dead book; but for the professor to utter merely what is written on his manuscript is to reduce the college to the level of the book, and so to rob it of all its special advantages. The students in such a case just "cram" the lectures as they would a text book, and for any practical good they get from the college under these circumstances it might just as well be non-existent. The trained teacher makes everything intelligible to his pupils instinctively, and hence the trained teacher is almost as necessary at the university and the high school as he is in the primary school; and where he is not there must be cramming and over-work, with all their attendant evils. Of these, failure and disappointment on the part of students are not the least, but it should be made an axiom in education that, under normal conditions, the failure of the student is the condemnation of the professor. You take precautions to ensure that your primary school teacher shall be a thoroughly-trained man, shall have studied the art of teaching practically under the beet auspices; why do you not require the same of your Universitv professors, and, still more, of your high school teachers? As to the latter, we know that in the past they have too often been merely the rawest recruits—indeed, for the matter of that, I know of cases in which they are so still. As long as candidates are capable of pleading scholarship they are supposed to be necessarily teachers by the nominated boards, who have hitherto ruled our high schools. Let us hope that this anomaly, too, will soon be a thing of the past, and our high schools be thus brought into line with our other educational institutions, and so under more intelligent government.

Of course, we all know perfectly well the excuses that will be made by professors for the present order of things. Brilliant men have no sympathy with the slower intellectual movement of the average mart and woman, for whom, nevertheless, universities undoubtedly exist. We shall be told that what we ask for is mere spoon-feeding, and that if a man cannot do without this it is an indication that Nature never intended him for university work. Moreover, that it is far better for a man to solve his own intellectual difficulties himself, and make his way to truth by his own exertions. Now, that there is some justice in this latter remark, no competent person will deny; indeed, it is an axiom amongst all skilled educationists that the ideal teacher will tell his pupil nothing, but rather lead him on to ascertain facts for himself. These are truths as old as the hills, but all the same they must not be pushed to extremes, as otherwise they cut away the foundations on which university colleges themselves rest, to say nothing of university professors and their salaries. The very existence of university colleges is a proof that it is thought desirable men should be assisted in their efforts to acquire knowledge. A wise professor will meet his students half way, or more than half way, in their intellectual efforts; he will not lecture over their heads, and then think himself a very clever fellow for doing so. page 14 He is there for the express purpose of making their way easier for them, and, unless he does this, he is an absolute fail-Tire as a professor, however brilliant a man he may otherwise be. These are