Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/126

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122
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE STATUS OF AMERICAN COLLEGE PROFESSORS.
By Professor JOHN J. STEVENSON,
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.

THREE months ago, the colleges and universities opened for the new year. In most instances, telegrams from the institutions were jubilant, announcing that the entering class is the largest in the history of the college, but some were apologetic, as one or another department showed decrease. Editors rejoiced in the 'era of education' pointing with pride to the four hundred and fifty colleges, more or less, with about 15,000 instructors and about ten times as many students and a total income for all purposes approaching $25,000,000. Unquestionably, there is much in this of which to be proud, but the broad statement, as given in the journals, fails to emphasize the fact that this great fabric of higher education owes its existence, in great measure, to the willingness of college professors to bear a great part of the cost. It is true that college professors have never received salaries such as to arouse envy in men of other professions, but, at one time, the calling offered great attractions to those who cared more for study than for money. Appointments were made for life or good behavior, the calling was honorable above all others, as in Germany of to-day, and there was that 'literary leisure' which could be devoted to investigation. Many imagine that there has been no change in these conditions; this error should be corrected.

The scope of instruction, especially on the scientific side, but measurably on all sides, has been widened and the hours have been scattered so as practically to cover the available day. The kind of knowledge required is very different from that of even thirty years ago, when students had hardly any source of information outside of the text-book and classroom and the courses were truly elementary. Immediate preparation required little time and the professor's close study was within a chosen field of investigation; but now he must read carefully the literature in all portions of the field covered by his chair merely to meet the exigencies of the classroom, for the elementary courses of little more than thirty years ago belong to the common stock of knowledge; popular magazines deal with discoveries in science and archeology, as though they belong to familiar discourse, and daily papers indulge in editorial discussions of subjects which, twenty-five years ago, were in the province of specialists alone. There remains for the college professor hardly a trace of 'literary leisure,' and even the university professor is apt to find the stress of outside duties con-