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- ELECTIVE STUDIES. In the last annual communication of the president to the trustees, evidence was presented, derived from a pretty extensive examination 6f the statistics of collegiate education in the United States, showing that the colleges, in insisting upon the pursuance of an invariable curriculum of study by all their students, are not satisfying the demands of the age as it respects the higher education. The question was then discussed as a question of pure statistics; with a view to ascertain, if possible, what is the estimation in which the education furnished by the colleges is held by the people at the present time, compared with what it was earlier in the century. The result of the inquiry, however it might turn out, did not necessarily involve any thing beyond. Should it appear that the colleges at present attract a smaller number of students in proportion to the population than formerly, and even that this proportion is sensibly diminishing as years go by, it is still free to those who believe that the system can not be materially improved, to ascribe this to popular error; and to hope, and to profess to anticipate that this error, like many caprices of which precedents may be found perhaps in history, will presently pass away. To such the results actually reached in the inquiry will probably be unwelcome, but will fail to suggest the propriety of any modification of the system itself. There are those who hold with some reason that the popular judgment of systems of education is not to be trusted; but none can wisely claim that it ought not to be regarded. No scheme however judicious can be successful, in a country where choice is free, unless the people can be made to see that it is judicious. To a community without education, or but imperfectly educated, the value of education of any kind is not very obvious. And hence it is that this is one of the subjects of great public interest, of which it is unsafe to trust the regulation to the ordinary law of supply and demand. Limitation of knowledge is not, like deficiency of food, attended with a craving for a larger supply. It is characteristic of ignorance, on the other hand, to be content not to know; and of partial information, to be puffed up with the conceit that there is little more to be known. The relations of men to each other in civilized society render certain descriptions of elementary knowledge necessary to all; or at least cause the absence of such humble knowledge to be felt as a positive inconvenience; and so far as this may extend, but only so far, we may presume that education will be provided in obedience to a spontaneous popular demand. But a high order of education is not the necessity of the many, and the want of it can never be felt by them as a personal want. Still less are the multitude likely to feel the importance to the commonwealth that there should be an order of educated men superior to themselves. On the other hand, the popular feeling is instinctively opposed to the growth of such an order, or to any order which breaks the dead level of uniform mediocrity. This is well illustrated in the history of educational institutions in a number of the more recently formed states of our Union, in which provision for the higher education has been made by means of endowments granted by the general government, but intrusted for their administration to the legislatures of the States themselves. In cases which have fallen under the personal observation of the president, the colleges, though costing the people nothing, have been subjects of constant denunciation by demagogues as nurseries of aristocrats, their halls have been but meagrely attended in spite of attractions which ought to have filled them with throngs, and their endeavors to fulfill their mission have been rather tolerated than sustained by the people. The fact then regarding the higher education is, not that the demand creates the supply, but that the supply determines the demand. Superior educational institutions are provided either by governments or by the thinking few; and these, by the offers which they hold out, and by the visible results which they produce as illustrated in the subsequent history of those who avail themselves of their advantages, slowly educate the people to an understanding of the value of education—of the value of education in general, and of the value of the form of education furnished, in particular. So long as this form of cducation seems to fit men best to meet with and master the practical problems presented by the age in which they live, whether these be political or social, industrial, moral or purely intellectual, so long will it be preferred, and so long will the public preference for it be manifested in the increasing numbers of those who seek its benefits. If, in the changing conditions of society, systems of education remain wholly unchanged, there is reason to doubt whether the training which was once perfectly adapted to the circumstances can continue to remain so. And its want of adaptedness to the new exigencies of life, or its positive defects, can not fail to be detected by the people, through the application of the same criteria by means of which they learned to value the higher education at all. As therefore the practical success of educational systems and of educational institutions, in a country where as before remarked, the choice is free—where government, that is to say, does not step in to control the will of the individual—must depend upon the favor voluntarily extended to them by the people, the evidence of a great and decided change in the popular estimation of a system long established and long undeniably favorite, compels the inevitable conclusion that this system requires modification. No theory can stand against a fact like this. It is idle to prove to a people that they ought to prefer a species of culture which, upon evidence satisfactory to them, they have deliberately made up their minds not to prefer. The change in respect to the popular appreciation of the system of collegiate education, in form as hitherto conducted in our country, indicated by the diminished attendance upon the colleges, is too great to be treated as an accidental irregularity; and it has been steadily progressive for so long a time, that it can be attributed to no passing caprice. Taking the whole country through, the number of undergraduate students in all the colleges is less at the present time in proportion to the entire population, than it was thirty years ago, nearly in the ratio of two to one. From New England, where collegiate education has always been more highly in favor than any where else, the number of undergraduate students sent to the colleges within and without New England, is not greater by one hundred in all at this time, than it was in 1838. It is even considerable less, if, at both dates, we leave out Harvard University; an institution which has received, within the last few years, a rapid and surprising increase of numbers, as an apparent consequence of having abandoned the distinctive feature of the collegiate system of instruction, i. e. the invariable curriculum of study. In all New England there is not a single considerable college in which the attendance from its own state has not fallen off in recent years, except Amherst, where it has not increased, though the population has increased largely, and IIarvard, in regard to the exceptional prosperity of which, the probable reason has just been suggested. In regard to our own State of New York, we have not the means of ascertaining, for former years, how many young men have been sent to colleges beyond the State limits, or how many from other States have attended our own ; but the comparison of the total attendance upon the colleges of New York at different periods exhibits results entirely in harmony with those derived from New England. Taking up, for instance, entirely at random, the American Almanac for 1848, we find that the colleges of the State of New York, then six in number, viz. Columbia, Union, Hamilton, Madison, Geneva (now Hobart) and the N. Y. City University, embraced for the year preceding, nine hundred and forty undergraduate students; while in 1869-70, the total attendance of students in Arts in all the colleges, now increased to twelve in number, viz., besides the above-named, Genesce, Rochester, St. Stephens, Cornell, Alfred, and the college of the City of New York, was only one thousand and thirty-four; an absolute increase of ninety-four, or ten per cent only, while the population of the State during the same time increased not less than fifty per cent. If, in connection with facts like these, which illustrate the declining favor with which that system of collegiate education is regarded, which makes adherence to an invariable curriculum of study its distinctive characteristic, we consider the success of those institutions which offer to their students a considerable latitude of choice in the selection of their studies, we shall see that it is not an inferior grade of education which the popular voice demands, nor a diminished amount of exaction. It is rather that education shall be varied to suit the varying capacities of individuals; and further, that, in place of limited and necessarily superficial attainment in many things, there shall be thoroughness, or at least the opportunity for thoroughness, in a smaller number. The throng which has filled the halls of Cornell University from the first day of their opening has been gathered mainly by the opportunity thus offered. And though the education furnished by some of the schools of that institution is not what can be properly called liberal, yet setting these schools aside, the truth still remains that Cornell University, in the third year of its existence, outnumbers any three of those of the colleges of the State which have been in existence half a century. The University of Michigan furnishes an example almost equally striking which has been in evidence for a much longer period. This institution numbers at present nearly five hundred students in its undergraduate department. But the most remarkable illustration of the same truth is probably that which is to be found in the case of Harvard University already mentioned; especially when considered in comparison with the sister institution next in age (in New England) and her most prominent competitor, Yale College. These two institutions have, for many years, appeared to divide pretty equally the popular favor. But while the first is exhibiting at the present time a growth more vigorous than has marked any former period of her history, the second is nearly stationary. The average undergraduate attendance of Yale

College for the last five years (including the present) has been five hundred and thirteen. Her catalogue for 1870-71, gives the present attendance at five hundred and twenty-two; but the total for 186061—ten years ago—was almost exactly the same, viz. five hundred and twenty-one. The increase at Harvard in the meantime has been nearly two hundred. The reasons which were once thought conclusive in favor of an invariable curriculum of study extending through the collegiate course, have many of them at present lost their principal force. The first and chief of these was that the object of collegiate training is so almost exclusively mental discipline, and so little the imparting of useful knowledge, as to make a uniform system of instruction a logical necessity. It is not what a young man likes to study—that is the argument—but what he needs to study, to which his attention should be directed. Very probably what he likes least he will need most, and to give to him freedom of choice will be to defeat the ends of his education. The force of this argument depends upon the assumption, which is always made, and which thus far has never been in terms distinctly contradicted, that the entire college course is or ought to be a course of mental discipline strictly, and nothing else. However justifiable this assumption may have been fifty years ago, it can by no means be admitted at the present time, without at least important qualification. The mental powers can not, it is true, be exercised without improvement upon any subject, or at any period of life before the commencement of natural decline; and in this sense we may say that we are always under mental discipline. Dut the discipline which we properly distinguish as educational is something different from this. It may be defined or explained somewhat as follows:— There is a period of early life during which, without any artificial and intentional culture at all, the powers of the body and those of the mind simultaneously unfold themselves. During this period if certain muscles of the body or certain of its limbs be kept in incessant activity, and certain others in continual repose, the result will be an abnormal and possibly a monstrous growth. But if the child be allowed to grow up under ordinary conditions so as to reach adult years with tolerably symmetrical proportions, the subsequent effect of unequal activity of the different members of the body will no longer be an unnatural development, or a marked disturbance of the balance of the physical powers; but rather a greater skill or aptness in the use of those which are most employ

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