Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 77.djvu/249
THE SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATOR 243
much upon the finding of the right road. Only the Universalgenie, if such exist, could arrive at the goal by any of the divergent roads.
The true aim and project of the university seems to me to be, in the first instance, to help the man to find himself, and only in the second instance to educate him. For the reason that this may appear an unusual view it should be explained. Universities arose out of the desire for freedom of thought, out of the wish to break the fetters of formalism. At various times, at Salamanca and Bologna, Strassburg, Paris and Oxford, assembled groups of men who had become dissatisfied with the crystallized curriculum offered by the church schools, who felt the curb on thought. Consequently they segregated, and from their number selected those men as teachers who had new and fertile ideas. Thus within such an assemblage all subjects came gradually to be pro- fessed, and each man chose his disciplines according to his inclinations. That is to say, universities in their inception were places for freedom of choice of subject, and this has remained the ideal in at least the more influential continental universities. One expression of it is our elective system, but it is pursued still more broadly in Germany. There the student comes from the fairly rigid curriculum of the Eealschule, or the still narrower course of the gymnasium, to the university where he may select just as many courses and just what ones he cares for. The result is a double one: he frequently chooses as few lectures as possible, and then enjoys several Bummeljahre; but drones are no honey getters, and, provided he need a profession, he sooner or later comes to hear lectures on a great variety of subjects until he finds the one that most engrosses his attention, when he devotes himself to that. This system, in the nearly complete freedom of choice it allows, offers the fruits of all sci- ences, so that by browsing in this diverse orchard the student may find his peculiar taste.
A graduate department is not an Eden simply because all are com- manded to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Men come to it from undergraduate courses where they have followed rather delimited curricula; in it they are free to make choice of the profession of their lives. It is the duty of the graduate school, the university proper as seen in the historical setting, to help each man to find himself, which is but a paraphrase of the Socratic " know thyself/'
Students come with different innate propensities ; they should choose the fruit that comes nearest their hearts. The decisive step towards success is to choose wisely, which means simply to elect that which attracts most strongly. That is, one should place himself in the soil for which providence or his inheritance meant him, for only by so doing can one develop his capabilities to the full. And if there be one duty set upon us, a duty to our neighbors as well as to ourselves, it is to do that for which we are best fitted, granted only that a man be of sane social judgment.