« AnteriorContinuar »
As almost all colleges arrange their courses of study to occupy four years, unifying and raising the conditions of entrance would result in unifying and raising the requirements for graduation in the various courses; and this would tend to give to B.A., B.S., and B.L. an intelligible and honorable significance, long since lost. Legislative action could be taken in the different States, at least with reference to new colleges as they shall be founded, limiting the authority to confer degrees to those institutions adopting these improved minimum requirements; this would elevate the public ideal of the higher education and tend to save our young people from being betrayed by words and alphabetical combinations.
The defects above indicated should be frankly admitted to exist, but they are less universal and less disastrous than people living in the Eastern States are disposed to consider them.
A large number of the professorships in Western colleges are filled by men educated in Eastern institutions, who, after graduating from Harvard, Yale, Princeton or some other college which receives only young men, taught in Eastern colleges for either men or women separately before entering into their present connection with some one of our co-educational colleges. The experience of such men and their natural prejudice in behalf of early associations makes their favorable testimony to the merit of Western colleges particularly valuable.
The following extract from a letter from J. W. Bashford, of the Ohio Wesleyan University, is a very moderate statement of views expressed by many of my correspondents. He says: “Four women came to our university during the last two weeks of the term last spring, and afterward visited the leading colleges for women in New England. After personally inspecting the advantages for education for their daughters in the East and in the West, each of the four women decided in favor of co-education and of our university ; each came with her daughter and entered her among our students at the opening of our university this year. Belonging to the East myself, I have a very high idea of the work done in our Eastern colleges, and personally do not hold that we can give students superior scholastic advantages, or in some respects equal scholastic advantages to those enjoyed in our best Eastern colleges. There is, however, a greater spirit of earnestness, and possibly a more strongly developed type of manhood and womanhood among our Western students than can be found in our Eastern colleges."
The cause of higher education for women suffers from the fact that life offers fewer incentives to young women than to young men.
Dr. Smart, the President of Purdue University, and Dr. Jordan, the President of the Indiana State University, men of distinction in their profession, and well acquainted with educational questions, both say that the need of the young women in their respective institutions is that of sufficient incentive. The highest of all incentives, self-development and the possession of culture, appeals as directly to young women as to young men, and not less strongly ; but this highest of incentives is sufficient for only the highest order of minds ; and in the case of the average young person of either sex, must be reinforced by incentives more immediate and tangible. In this connection the need of improving the normal schools may be legitimately discussed. The normal school has done much to lift the occupation of teaching into the rank of the professions ; but teaching can never be accounted one of the learned professions until the learning which is generally considered requisite in the doctor, the lawyer, and the clergyman is demanded in the teacher. It is quite true that the education implied by a full college course is not made a condition of entrance to schools of medicine, law, and theology ; but if such preliminary culture is not demanded by these schools, it is expected by them. On the contrary, it is not only not demanded, but not expected, that applicants for admission to a normal school shall present a degree from some reputable college of liberal arts.
The professions which a majority of ambitious young men with intellectual tastes expect to enter, offer incentives to do preliminary college work; the one profession into which young women may enter with undisputed propriety not only does not offer incentives for taking a preliminary college course, but by its entrance requirements and its curriculum implies that such a course is not requisite.
Now that State universities are the direct continuance of the high schools, it would seem desirable that at least those teachers who expect to engage in high school work should have taken the courses of study implied by a college degree. Could the standard of normal school instruction and of high school preparation be thus lifted, it would act as a powerful incentive to young women.
The growth of progressive thought in the West, concerning the social and civil position and the industrial and professional freedom of woman, tends to supply women with incentives to
obtain the best education : and the defects in their education hitherto caused by the absence of incentive, promise to be remedied with increasing rapidity.
The colleges, particularly the State universities of the West, are charged with being defective in their provisions for the development and culture of the social qualities of their students. Many of them have no dormitories, and the students upon entering them, women and men alike, go into boarding houses or private families, or form co-operative boarding clubs, according to their own tastes and under conditions of their own making.
If in these universities students were received for post graduate work only, no criticism could attach to this custom of leaving every student to regulate his or her own domestic and social affairs, for such students are usually mature men and women. But this custom is open to criticism in institutions, in all of which the majority, and in most of which all the students, are under-graduates of immature age.
A study of their latest catalogues shows that, excluding the State universities, most of these institutions which enjoy more than a local patronage have erected or are contemplating the erection of dormitories for the accommodation of the young women in attendance upon them. Although some colleges, as, for example, the Ohio Wesleyan University, continue to build dormitories large enough to accommodate one or two hundred young women, there is a tendency favorable to the erection of less pretentious buildings under the name of hall or cottage, each of which shall accommodate from twenty to sixty young women. The refinement both of college life and of subsequent social life would be enhanced by the multiplication of these homes for moderate numbers of college women-if each were put under the charge of a woman whose intellectual culture, stability, and nobleness of character, and experience of life and the world, made her the evident and acknowledged peer of every member of the college faculty. But, if these col. lege homes for women students are placed under the charge of matrons who are expected to combine motherly kindness and housewifely skill with devout piety, but in whom no other qualities or attainments are demanded, and if the matrons are the only women, besides the students, connected with the institution, the influence of the college home will tend to lower the ideal of woman's function in society ; to rob the ideal of domestic life of all intellectual quality; and in general to diminish for young women the incentives to study.
Every one knows that the strongest stimulus to exertion that young men experience in college is afforded by their contact with men whose cultivated talents, whose sound learning, whose successful experience, and whose rich characters they admire, venerate, and emulate.
The almost universal absence of women from college faculties is a grave defect in co-educational institutions; and negatively, at least, their absence has as injurious an influence upon young men as upon young women.
Under the most favorable conditions, the college home, in which a large number of young women are brought into a common life under one roof and one guidance, is abnormal in its organization. If, in the university town where young women find homes in boarding houses or in private families, there could be a local board of ladies authorized to exercise some supervision over the young women, the arrangement might secure the aims of a college home under more natural conditions than the latter now provides.
But women in the faculty, women on the board of visitors, women on the board of trustees, holding these positions, not because of their family connections, not because they are wives or sisters of the men in the faculty and on the boards, but because of their individual abilities, are the great present need of co-educational colleges. Only the presence of women in these places can relieve the young men who are students in these institutions from an arrogant sense of superiority arising from their sex, and the young women from a corresponding sense of subordination.
In a statement of the “Theory of Education in the United States of America,” prepared by the Hon. Duane Doty and Dr. Wm. T. Harris, the present Commisioner of Education, we read the following:
“The general participation of all the people in the primary political functions of election, together with the almost complete localization of self-government by local administration, renders necessary the education of all, without distinction of sex, social rank, wealth, or natural abilities." Farther : “The national government and the State government regard education as a proper subject for legislation, on the ground of the necessity of educated intelligence among a people that is to furnish lawabiding citizens, well versed in the laws they are to obey, and likewise law-making citizens, well versed in the social, historic, and political conditions which give occasion to new laws and shape their provisions.”
These statements are in perfect accord with the following words of Washington, quoted from his “Farewell Address to the American People": "In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”
Here is the whole argument for the existence of State universities. In the West, these are destined to be the strongest, richest, and best equipped institutions for the higher learning; and are likewise clearly destined to have a determining influence upon the policy of other colleges in respect to co-education.
The “West” remains an indefinite term ; and in that part of it which the word accurately describes, a people will be born who know nothing of distinctions in opportunity between men and women.
A people reared under such conditions will ultimately exhibit the influence of the “Higher Education of Women in the West."