« PreviousContinue »
classes to the clearness and zeal with which he urges his peculiar views. By all means, let us have well-balanced teachers, sound and correct in their views; but let us also remember that nothing will atone for the lack of motive power. Better that a teacher should emphasize one idea too much than that she should never give vitality to any idea. The teacher who is dead in earnest will accomplish something; it may not be quite the best thing, but it is vastly better than nothing.
Although we may never be able," says Archbishop Whately, "to realize our ideal, yet woe be to us if we have no ideal to realize."
"THEY DO THESE THINGS BETTER IN FRANCE.”
BY JANE M. BANCROFT, A. M., PARIS.
N 1850 there was a thesis published at Paris, written by Charles Thurot, which gives some curious details concerning life at the University of Paris in the middle ages, and throws light upon many usages that have persisted in the colleges of other lands. The character of instruction was a matter of chance. It depended largely upon the inclination and personal qualities of the instructors. To hear such men as Abelard or Gerson was a liberal education in itself; but as a rule the professors were chosen for their position, not because of their special fitness for the work they had to do, but on account of their rank in life, their relation to some man of influence, or in recognition of a favor done to some one high in authority. Often the greater part of their duties were performed by a clerk or an assistant, and the neglect of the professors became so marked that an order was issued forbidding them to receive pay for their services without performing the work for which the salary was given.
There can be no such charge brought against the University of France at the present time.
Among other reforms initiated or executed by Napoleon, was the recasting of the forms of superior instruction. The University of Paris, and the various colleges scattered throughout the provinces which had been isolated in their interests, having no relation one with another, were now blended into one whole, known collectively as the University of France, while separately the differ
ent institutions received the name of Academy. There are at present in France, including Corsica, seventeen such academies, each having its special faculties of letters and sciences, often of medicine and theology.
When a professorship becomes vacant in any one of these academies, the place is thrown open for competition to all Frenchmen who have prepared themselves for such positions. Printed notices are put upon the bulletin boards of the academies, which belong. to the University systems. None but Frenchmen are admitted to this competition, but for Frenchmen, high or low, rich or poor, the way is open.
Here is such a notice, selected at random from a number now posted on the bulletin board of the Academy of Paris:
UNIVERSITY OF FRANCE,
By a decree of Jan. 17, 1888, the Minister of Public Instruction has declared vacant the chair of Greek literature and institutions of the Faculty of Letters at Aix. Applications of candidates will be received at the Secretary's office of the Academy of Aix until February 7th, 1888. Each applicant must present,— 1st. Their certificate of birth.
2d. Their diploma of Doctor of Letters.
3d. A copy of each of his theses, and of any other work that he has published.
4th. A note giving the names of his honorary letters, and the nature and duration of his services as a teacher.
THE DEAN OF THE FACULTY.
Such open competition is a great incentive to young men of talent. By looking at the list of papers that candidates for professorships must present, there will be noticed a recognition of every effort that a scholar can put forth to obtain careful and thorough training. His diploma is marked with his grade of scholarship, "with distinction," or "with great distinction," being the technical terms to designate the exact rank. A copy of each of his theses is called for, and his aptitude for research in the field of his studies is readily judged. His originality and intellectual versatility are also recognized by including among the papers called for any work that he has published. The nature and duration of his services as a teacher, the experience he has obtained in years of previous work are also weighed, and faithful service is a factor that counts in the final decision. None of the younger men are made full professors until they have tested their qualities as instructors.
As a consequence of this wise and judicious fostering of talent and industry, a generation of young professors, who have qualified themselves by years of extended studies in different lands and universities, and have obtained the best results that modern civilization can present, is making the new university life of Paris one of great mental stimulus and opportunity. Such men as Paul Girard in Greek, who was for a number of years connected with the French school at Athens, where he made valuable and original researches; of M. Zeller in History, who had extended additional study in the Italian universities; of M. Dubois in Geography, M. Seíguabos in History, M. Martha' (son) in Latin, all of whom have had the best results of German universities to compare with their own training in France; such young professors are a testimony to the excellence of a system of selections, which gives due recognition to well-directed efforts, and offers a free field to all wellprepared candidates. Paris is peculiarly benefited by this free competition, as there is a constant sifting of candidates. Any young man in the provinces who has won local reputation in his home academy, finds it not a difficult matter to make his way to a professorship at Paris. One instance of such a change is given by M. Larroumet, the talented young professor of literature. He first won reputation at an academy in the south of France, which was increased by his thesis on Mérisaux, in which he exhausted all that it was possible to say on this almost forgotten poet of the eighteenth century. He is now one of the best appreciated critics of French literature who can be heard in the halls of the Sorbonne. I submit that in America, we could learn something from the experience that has been gathered in France. Any one who has been connected with an American college, in which a position of trust or responsibility has fallen vacant, can attest the difficulty experienced in finding the right candidate for this place. Letters are sent to the presidents of different colleges, soliciting advice as to the suggestion of names; while on the other hand admiring friends often present candidates who have no real fitness for the place. Frequently, it may be added, selections are influenced by the accident of birth in a certain state, or the possession of certain friends, to a degree that is regrettable in the interests of instruction.
If the educators of America can devise some system that will be better than the many Teacher's Bureaus, which are rising
in every large city, in demand to a felt want; if they can make the way open to really well-prepared men and women, independent of the minor questions of locality, position, friends; they will be conferring a great service upon American institutions, and the cause of higher learning. Let us learn from our neighbors. They do these things better in France."
HERBERT SPENCER'S CRITICS.
BY C. HANFORD HENDERSON,
Professor of Physics and Chemistry in the Philadelphia Manual Training School.
T has always seemed to me that Gamaliel was an exceedingly shrewd Israelite. He acted upon a principle which is becoming each day more and more generally recognized. If a doctrine. be good, it will grow in spite of all opposition. If it be false, it will die a natural death. The friends of a new doctrine, have, then, quite done their part when they have given it proper currency, and have seen to it that the doctrine is not misrepresented at the hands of too warm opponents. It will do it good to be combatted.
Mr. Spencer and the majority of his friends have spent little energy in answering the objections which have from time to time been urged against the doctrines contained in the Synthetic Philosophy. Mr. Spencer himself has refrained from controversy with a persistence which could scarcely fail to excite the admiration of his most pronounced opponents. And this silence is the more admirable when one reflects upon the motive which has enjoined it. The total energy wrapped up in any human life is a fixed quantity. If it be expended in one direction, it is not available in another. Mr. Spencer has told us that the task which he proposed to himself in earlier life was one of such large proportions as to tax to its utmost the store of power which is his share: he has preferred therefore to devote himself to the exposition of his doctrines rather than to their defence. The result of this concentrated effort has been the production of a systematic philosophy so detailed and so luminous that the majority of his critics would find a full and satisfactory answer to their objections if they could
only be persuaded into the honesty of carefully reading what they pretend to criticise. But experience leads me to believe that this would be asking a great deal of them. I have heard and read many remarkable criticisms of Mr. Spencer's works. Before I read him "in the original" - the phrase, I think, is admissible, in view of the many who read him at second, third, or even fourth hand -I was myself under a half impression that he must be a very wicked and absurd man. Particularly was "The Data of Ethics misrepresented to me, and I presume that others have had a similar experience.
I believe, then, that I do not err in stating that the major part of Mr. Spencer's critics are not familiar with his philosophy. I recall in particular, a course of Sunday afternoon lectures delivered a couple of years ago by a very distinguished clergyman, in which such curious statements, or more properly, misstatements, were made in regard to the philosophy in question that I was utterly at a loss to account for them. The explanation was more conclusive than I had anticipated. I found, on inquiry, that the gentleman had never read Spencer! To an evolutionist, this would seem shockingly dishonest. I do not know in what light it would be regarded by a dogmatic theologian.
Mr. Spencer's determination not to be drawn into the profitless turmoil of controversy has seldom been suspended, and on the rare occasions when he has turned aside from his great life-work to answer his objectors, the motive has not been a personal one. He has written, not so much with the idea in mind of vindicating himself, as from a desire to prevent the misapprehension of his views which would naturally obtain currency were these false statements uncontradicted.
The literature of Spencerian criticism is already large, and it is growing. But one who will take the trouble to examine the library shelves which contain these volumes and the volumes. against which they are directed will, I think, observe that while Mr. Spencer's are well worn in the matter of binding, and well thumbed about the pages, the volumes of his antagonists are suspiciously fresh looking, and indicate but slight use. The heavy guns thus brought to bear against him for the most part miss fire. Books which are quietly shelved, are not calculated to produce much harm, or much good. The smaller artillery represented by magazine articles and reviews, is better calculated to produce