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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1904

American Universities

page 18

American Universities.

IIn the olden days when revel was the privilege of the few, and there was no Cook, the man that had been to Switzerland was rightly regarded as a social pest. He could no more keep Mt. Blane out of his conversation than could Mr. Dick keep Charles I, from his kite. I am afraid that it is somewhat the same to-day with the educationalist who has visited American, so that I could not but wonder at the readers of the "Spike" something about the Universities of American. I shall try to be as merciful as possible, and confine myself to a single point,—the popular interest in the Universities.

The most striking thing about American Universities is not their rapid rise, although that is remarkable, the number of students having more than trebled in ten years. Nor is it their equipment, although that is often magnificent, even in the "wild west. For example, California, which is about the same age as New Zealand has institutions of University type. Of these the State University (Berkeley) has buildings and grounds of the value of nearly £4000,000, scientific apparatus that cost £75,000 a year from a library with over 80,000 volumes. It receives £8,0000 a year from the Central Government at Washington, £100,000 a year. Within a hundred miles of this is the Leland Stanford Junior University (of which we have heard before), which has productive funds amounting to four million pounds. But after all, the most striking feature of which they are the object. The Americans really believe in University education; we do little more than tolerate it.

This interest in education in no new thing with the Americans, nor have their generous contributions to its advancement been confined to the later days of affluence, "The early settlers" wrote Quincy "waited not for affluence, nor days of peace, or even domestic concord, neither narrowness page 19 of territorial limits, nor fear of savage enemies, nor scanty subsistence, nor meager population; neither religious dispute, nor uncertain abode, nor lack of leisure restrained their unbounded zeal for an education that to them seemed not, so much desirable as necessary." A citizen f Boton, writing "home" to his friends in 1643, says : — " After wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places of worship, and settled the civill government, one of the next things wee longed for and looked after was to advance learning and to perpetuate it to posterity. And as wee were thinking and consulting how to effect this great work, it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard, (a godly gentleman and a lover of learning, then living among us) to give the one half of his estate (it being in all about £1,700) towards the erecting of a colledge, and all his library." The colony caught his spirit. Among the magistrates themselves £200 was subscribed, a part in books. All did another nine shillings' worth of cloth; one a pewter flagon; another a sugar—spoon."No rank, no class of men, was unrepresented. The college was of the people." From such modest beginning sprang the great University of Harvard, whose graduates have done so much to make the Americans respected in the fields of law, politics, science and literature.

Nor did America lose her faith in education when she was cut off from direct contact with the refinement and culture of the mother land. The famous ordinance of 1787 asserts that in the new republic " the means of education shall for ever be encouraged. " It is not generally known that Washington was the president of a Virginia College before he was President of the United States. Rhodes's idea of binding an empire together by means of a University is often spoken of as absolutely novel. Read what Washington said in his last will and testament. "It has been my ardent wish to see a plan devised on a liberal scale, which would have a tendency to spread systematic ideas throughout all parts of this rising empire, thereby to do away local attachments and State prejudices, as far as the nature of things would, or indeed ought to admit, from our national councils. Looking anxiously forward to the accomplishment of so desirable an object as this is, in my estimation, my mind has not been able to contemplate any plan more likely to effect the measure than the establishment of University in a central part of the United States, to which the youth of fortune and talents from all parts thereof may be sent for the completion of their education, in all page 20 branches of polite literature, in arts and sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of politics and good government, and, as a matter of infinite importance in my judgment, by associating with each other and forming friendships in juvenile years, be enabled to free themselves in a proper degree just been mentioned, and which, when carried to excess, are never-failing sources of disquietude to the public mind, and pregnant of mischievous consequences to this country. Under these impressions I give and bequeath in perpetuity the shares of a University, to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia, under the auspices of the general government, if that government should incline to extend a fostering hand towards it." It is a far cry from Washington to Roosevelt; but the development of American Colleges in the internal is one long record of private philanthropy and state aid. Meanwhile slightest signs of abatement to-day.

No one with his eyes open can fail to see that things are very different in these "Fortunate Isles." More than once when I have spoken to public men in this country on the claims of our University Colleges, I have been told frankly that such institutions can have little interest for "practical men," though they may be well enough for "visionaries." I never dream of questioning the wisdom of City Councillors or of Members of Parliament, so that I am forced to regard as "unpractical," men like Napoleon, George Washington and Cecil Rhodes, who made no secret of their belief in Universities.

After years of waiting we have got a site and funds that will put up half a building and no equipment. But we are not satisfied. Some one had said that a University that has all its wishes has already begun to decline. The Wellington District is evidently determined to save us from this danger; for with a few notable exceptions the community has shown little interest in the University and made no sacrifices for its advancement. I believe that this is mainly due to ignorance of what a University is, of what it aims to do, and of what it needs if it is to be properly equipped. The man in the street has the most crude ideas on the subject, if he has an at all. As a rule he thinks of a college as a place where people waste their time in the study of Greek, or other things that he regards as useless ? not being hampered in his judgment by too much knowledge. It would be well if the students of the Victoria College would endeavour to educate the Community to a truer conception of the function of a University. If each page 21 member of the College would arouse the interest of those with whom he, or she ordinarily comes in contact, then, in the course of a few years, the whole city may be as proud of its University and as Determined to advance it as are the cities of Boston or Baltimore or others of the American cities rendered famous by their colleges.

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