The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 1/Number 2/The American University
|←Seminar Notes||The American Journal of Sociology, Volume 1, Number 2 (1895)
The American University
By Emil Gustav Hirsch
|Sociology and Cosmology→|
JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
Volume I September, 1895 Number 2
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY.
The signs are multiplying that the ideal of the American university is beginning to take shape. While the creative week which is destined to mould it into perfect realization has by no means run its appointed length and is perhaps even not very far spent, yet the first day's formative "Let there be light!" has sounded. Primordial chaotic indefiniteness has yielded to incipient order and fruit-bearing concentration. Whatever the American university may and should share with the historic institutions of other lands, enough of its destiny and function is even now indicated to bring out in clear relief the lines along which its own peculiar possessions and possibilities must and will develop. It stands to reason that the American university cannot be a slavish replica of however perfect a European model. According to an old legend, even God's revealing voice shaking Sinai's cloud-crowned peaks to the very foundations and waking the whole universe to responsive and awe-struck attention, clothed its one fundamental truth in as many dialects as found sound on human lips. Science, indeed, knows no geographical and no national boundaries. Its curiosity and message are for all climates and times. Yet, no two nations approach its altar by the same paths. Historical conditions which even the master of giant genius may not undo, for they have become a part of himself and of his people, introduce also into its world dominion a personal and national equation. This, if one chooses so to regard it, limitation to national distinctiveness in dialect and expression, science shares with every member of the hierarchy appointed to lead man to the sanctuary of the heights vouchsafing the outlook and the uplook into the ideal meanings and relations of things. Art is certainly one of this priesthood. Yet, though she witnesses to a perfection which may beam upon man everywhere, she casts her testimony into certain moulds which differ not merely with the centuries, but also with the countries. Poetry is intensely human, and yet her melodies are always set to diverse keys chosen not merely under the pressure of individual temperament, but clearly responsive to national predispositions. Shakespeare prophesies of the eternally human, because he is so fundamentally British, Isaiah and the "son of man" have appeal for all generations and races, and yet they crystallize their stirring and uplifting thought along axes arising from the very soil of one land and the hopes of one people at definite periods of its career. Religion, the most universal of all human potencies, throws her white light into a many-colored spectrum, its lines varying with the zones and epochs revealing the medium through which the one common ray had to pass to token the bow of promise arching across the sky.
These historical conditions cannot be ignored. They are roots of power. The last decade of our century augurs so well for our nation because it proclaims the independence of the American university, as confidently as did the fourth quarter of the eighteenth compel recognition of the political autonomy of the republic by the nations of the earth. Independence, of course, can never be more than relative. Humanity whatever the complex manifestations of its teeming energies is organic. It holds its separate parts to interdependence. That the declaration of independence which for all mankind has made the Fourth of July sacramental was in its fundamental contentions not an original document, is not a secret. It is the precipitate of the political and philosophical doctrines of the age which lent tongue to Rousseau and pen to Montesquieu. Nevertheless, in its emphasis and its conclusions as applied to a concrete circumstance it was a new creation. As philosophers those who drew its phraseology had predecessors; as American statesmen, they had none. The undimmed glory of a new initiative is thus theirs.
He who would be for American education the Jefferson to herald the liberating word and intone the birth song of a new freedom, will, consciously or unconsciously, pursue paths analogous to those which the framers and signers of the declaration of our political independence chose for their confession of faith. In his theories, the spirit of the age will find a powerful echo. His, as incontestably as any European thinker's, is the past of the race. The failures and the victories with which the records of distant centuries or near decades are vocal are weighty monitions or winged messages to him. The American educator is no Chinese Mandarin who in the anxiety to preserve his independence forgets the interdependence of all ages and countries. For such Mandarins America has no call. But in the application of his wisdom, gleaned in all the fields and quarried in all the mines of accessible earth, the American has no more urgent circumstance to weigh and to remember than that he is neither in Germany nor in England—but in America.
In their temporal appointments even, for many circling years to come, if not for ever, our universities will be confronted with difficulties pressing down to the same degree none of their European continental sisters. In Germany and France, and the other transatlantic states, education in its widest scope, from the primary school to the academy, counting among its members the greatest masters, is the solicitude of the government. Museums, libraries and laboratories; funds for publications and grants for scientific expeditions are endowed or maintained from the same source from which the police or administrative machinery of organized society draws its support. Moreover, the university stands, on the one hand, in an organic relation to the secondary schools, which are regulated with a sole eye to make them the well-equipped drill and recruiting grounds for the higher schools; on the other hand, it is the great and only reservoir supplying the state and the public with functionaries. The university, including the university-like schools of technology, is the sole gateway to a career of honor in the church and the state, in medicine and law. These conditions do not now and probably never will obtain among us. For years to come our universities will yield the palm in museum and similar facilities to the old centers of European scholarship. Even our state universities, in view of certain well-known peculiarities of our present political life, cannot congratulate themselves upon being the objects of the government's anxiety in the sense in which Berlin or Heidelberg may do so. They have good cause to be thankful that the attention paid them by the state legislature is not more intense; the suspicion is well grounded that they would look upon too frequent an inspection by a legislative committee as in more than one way a—visitation. The great and glorious work done by many of the state universities, one is safe to say, is not in consequence but in spite of the attention of the legislature. The folly of slavish imitations of transatlantic university methods and models is apparent if no other factor be weighed than our antipodal temporal situation.
Higher reasons, however, than these give point to the ambition to create in America the American university, which, while profiting by the larger wealth and longer experience of Europe's historic centers of learning will blaze paths peculiarly its own. The passion for American educational independence has even now won for the American professor equality with his European colleague, if not of opportunity and facilities, at least of expectation. The last four lustra have wrought a wonderful change in the appreciation in even wider circles, of the character, the ultimate aim of university instruction. Time was, when among us transmission of knowledge was deemed the sole function of the so-called university teacher. This misapprehension recalls as the definition of the instructor's task, Plato's description of the ceremonies incidental to the festivities in the Piraeus in honor of the Thracian Diana: λαμπάδια ἔχοντες διαδώσουσιν αλλήλοις. The horsemen in the nightly pageant swinging the firebrands handed them to one another. To transmit to his pupils such light as he himself had received from his masters was esteemed the utmost scope of the teacher's professional obligation.
The emancipation of the American university from slavery to this prejudice was the final triumph over scholasticism, which defeated elsewhere had found its last refuge in our American school methods. The schoolman has implicit faith in books and authority. Knowledge for him is the acquisition of information established before. This view is involved in the very fundamental proposition of all scholasticism. Truth is a fixed quantity. To it nothing may be added, from it nothing can be detracted. Truth, in very fact, comes to man; he cannot come to and by it. Under the dominion of this idea, Moses and Aristotle, the Bible and the Organon became the taskmasters of all mediæval thought. Life and man dwindled away to a shadowy background while the "book," the "letter" loomed up in the foreground in gigantic stature. Tradition was the court of final appeal and precedent the peg to every tether. Christianity, Judaism, the Islam were alike under the spell; law and medicine no less than philosophy and theology were left to fret away their fresh impulses in the torture of a Procustes couch to which, under the despotism of the preestablished "truth" as found in the "books" by the surgery of casuistic dialectics "life" and "man" had to be fitted. Scholastic education emphasized books; the modern ideal—man. To restore to living man his birthright which the dead book had usurped, was the motive of the struggle which began when the age of the crusades and discoveries demonstrated by bringing men face to face with new facts, for which, in the scholastic scheme there was neither provision nor place, that the territory of truth embraced wider regions than the parchments of dead authorities had measured. The impulse given by the expeditions of the seafaring nations, to doubt the all-sufficiency of the schoolmen's dogma, and to replace memorizing and disputation by observation, acquired additional momentum in the tendencies leading up to the brilliant century of the Renaissance and its first-born child, the Reformation. Constantinople, forced to surrender to the Crescent of the Tartar, freed Europe from the Cross of Byzantian Christianity—a travesty on the original message of the lowly Nazarene. Old Rome and Greece rising from the tomb, and old Judea's literature once more addressing its appeal in its original tongue to a world craving for freedom, in opening to students access to the true thought of Aristotle and Moses and Jesus, wrested the scepter from the hands of the peripatetic and the prophets crippled, as was Jacob by the Angel, by Arab and other commentators. Rationalism and criticism are the next movements in the centuried symphony leading away from the prelude of formalism and literalism up to the fully orchestrated finale of emancipation. But even they are merely introductory to it. It was reserved for our day to find and speak the redeeming word, ending for all time to come the reign of the schoolman. Evolution, the proclamation but in more profound apprehension of the Heracelitean conviction, πάντα ῥεῖ enabled man at last to come to his own. Truth is not a fixed quantity. No truth is revealed to man—but in the fullness of the time. And the truth found by one generation cannot limit the curiosity nor blunt the desire for more truth of the next. Tradition as a living force, not as a dead weight, is conditional to progressive life. Repetition and transmission of things known are not final operations. The storehouse of things known supplies data from which to proceed to the finding of new things as yet unknown. And even the acquisition of the known data is not as the schoolman believed a mechanical process. "Was du ererbt von deinen Vaetern hast, erwirb es um es zu besitzen!" This counsel of Goethe compresses into a nut-shell the educational faith of our age. The schoolmen made the book supreme; the sun around which our thought swings is man and life. The book is made by and for man, not man by the book or for the book.
The preeminence of Germany in the republic of science is due to the historical circumstances which allowed her to be the protagonist in this contest for freedom from scholasticism. More clearly by her thinkers than by those of any other nation or tongue was apprehended the necessity of placing life and man, not authority and the book, in the very center of the educational cosmos. Her gymnasia became the nurseries of the humanities and her universities the great workshops of creative minds inviting younger and ambitious souls to the confidences of their inspirations. By whatever errors the history of Germany's pedagogical theories and practices may be fringed, however one-sided this or that emphasis may have been; in the steady pursuit of the one ideal, that education of whatever grade or character to be—education shall focus in living man and not in tradition and books, from the days of the Renaissance to this hour, German masters have led the van. The wonderful philology of Germany, child of the Renaissance and the Reformation, was fruit of the passion to learn to know man and to be man. The decadence of the joy and zest in the flowing and rich life of man in Hellas to dry-as-dust grammatical micrology which forgets that accidence and syntax are made for and by language and not language for grammar, is to be deprecated, but by contrast it heightens the glory of the original intention of the humanists. German rationalism and Aufklaerung may have exaggerated the creative independence of man and the supremacy of his reason, or on the other hand in consequence of preceding overestimation of antiquity may have leaned to the opposite extreme in disregarding the historical influences and limitations; but in comparison with the disdain for reason triumphant elsewhere, even German rationalism is entitled to credentials admitting it to the front file in the regiment of man's emancipators. German rationalism, indeed, produced its own corrector.
The criticism of Kant dethroned reason as an autocrat and made it a constitutional ruler with limitations well apprehended, while Lessing heralded the deeper appreciation of history and the laws of historical development. From these two men dates the New Germany that has become the great teacher of the world. Her fondness for metaphysical constructions, which characterized her efforts during the first four decades of this century, has by many a dwarf of recent years been made the target of ridicule. No doubt, in these speculations there is much to repel the modern thinker. Icarus-like these idealists sought the the proximity of the sun with wings fastened by wax, while we like Antaeus draw our strength from the soil under our feet. But the bold systems pretending to penetrate into the very holy of holies of life and being and becoming were the response to a human need, to an unstilled yearning of the human soul, which cannot rest satisfied until it owns, or imagines that it owns, the one key solving all the riddles of self and world. This yearning is the mother of all mythology, all religion, and—all science. In the "brilliant failures" of the German metaphysical system-architects is dominant again the faith in man and his freedom, the protest against overstrained tradition and authority, the autocracy of the book and the master. The modern German university has remained true to the spirit animating from the days of the Reformation its lustrous career. As long as scholasticism wielded the scepter in our American colleges, the German university could not but be the blessed Mecca for the young and ambitious among us thirsting for freedom and opportunity. To those that in body or in the spirit made this pilgrimage, we owe on this side of the ocean the dismantling of the citadel of scholasticism, garrisoned in our methods and institutions. They have, in tearing down the Chinese wall of authority and book worship to make room for man in American education, won for America a new independence. Germany and Europe today are no longer the only shrines the young scholar must visit. His own country has erected and equipped the arsenals where he may wield his knightly armor.
As long as the book, the precedent, and tradition were the exclusive solicitude, knowledge was repetition, and facts and definitions in whatever order amassed and memorized stood not merely for the scaffolding of science but for science itself. The teacher was, indeed, merely the medium to transmit facts, which he himself had learned from another. The moment the supremacy of man over facts and books is conceded the teacher's mission, in whatever school he may be placed, changes. With facts he is but concerned in so far as they are his tools. Knowledge is not repetition but reproduction. The guide to the halls of learning has no other duty but to stimulate the energies of the mind confided to his leadership to reproduction. Method, the power to control facts, the means to discover facts, not the transmission of knowledge, is the ultimate design of all true teaching. This has always been the view of German pedagogics. In winning recognition for this elementary but all important conception, the American scholar has opened for himself another opportunity, admitting him to science's holy of holies. He, condemned so long to act the part of the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, may now aspire to the very high priest's tiara. To teach is not his sole preoccupation. To search for new truths is also his obligation. Knowledge is not a fixed quantity. Her realm has no boundaries beyond which there is no need to push on. The university professor, and so is the university student, is the Columbus of unknown seas, the Livingstone of unvisited continents. What he knows, is for him an indication of what still remains unknown. What others have found, must always suggest to him that more things are hidden waiting for the explorer's eye!
The American university has in these days found this, to it so long denied, supreme opportunity. Its new sense of independence inspires it also with self-confidence that among the busy pathfinders its sons shall not be the last nor the least. The sky which arches over our continent is studded with interrogation points as richly as is the firmament of the Eastern hemisphere. The American astronomer, therefore, cannot complain of lack of opportunity for original investigation. Our rocks and rivers, our fauna and fiora, our mountains and cafions, spell solicitous invitations for geologists and botanists and biologists promising ample rewards to him who refuses them not the tribute of devoted attention. Indeed, no words are needed to prove the assertion that America has not been step-motherly to the loving suitor who would have her tell him the innermost secrets of her birth and growth. In fact, American scientific men, whatever their speciality, on the watchtower of the night spying for the erratic brilliancy of the comet, in the bowels of the earth cross-examining into eloquence the petrified forests of antecedent aeons; in the laboratory counting the throbbings of the sun's heart, or taking the census of the population of a single drop of water—a micro-cosmos, allowing a peep into the very life-story of a planet, have even before documented the autonomy of the American scientific investigator.
But there are other fields and as rich ones which now attract the eye of the American scholar. In them he has already done much more than to glean the corners. The American scholar is no longer the poor wayfarer claiming the leavings under the old Mosaic poor laws. In philosophy and psychology he has made by no means mean contributions. Into archaeology and philology, which one would suppose to be the eminent domain of nations bordering on senility, the young giant of the West has taken mighty strides. It is true, the American philologist has not within easy accessibility the treasures of the British Museum; no Vatican in his country reminds him by its very architecture of rare parchments and scrolls and codices stored away in its alcoves; no Alhambra
no Escorial suggests the glory of Catholic Spain, the conquest of the Moors and the expulsion of the Jews and whets the curiosity of the ambitious scholar to search for the written witnesses to Jewish love of poetry and methaphysics, Arabic manuscripts and Latin or Gothic documents. Still, even the European scholar, if his love be one or the other of the capricious daughters of Mother Language, must pay her court by waiting on her favorite seat of residence. The American scholar is no stranger in the papal library; his fingers have turned often the catalogue of the British Museum and handled its parchments and tablets. Ghizeh, the necropolis of Egypt, resurrected to new life, will soon learn to know and to trust him. The American schools at Athens and now at Rome, the American expedition to old Babylon have annexed the acropolis and the forum and the ruins of so many royal palaces to—America. These are now a part of every true American university.
Were even this disadvantage of distance greater than it is for the race who have learned to trust the jealous ocean, the nightmare once of every Roman, by way of compensation, the American university is assigned under the principles of the division of labor many a field which to cultivate the world looks to it. The investigation of the Red Man's civilization, the study of his dialects, is preëminently the contribution which American anthropology and glossology is expected to make. The very fact that our republic has become the meeting ground of varied races and nations constitutes it also a laboratory for the ethnologist and sociologist which the European may well begrudge to his American colleague. The very degradation of our municipalities renders them great trial fields for the elucidation of the pathology of muncipal government, that cannot but attract and reward the devotee to political science. America has a history; if its archives do not teem with dusty regesta and papal bulls or imperial franchises and charters, the formative period of our republic, its constitutional development and much more was not unworthy the searching acumen of a von Hoist That American finance and political economy tempt the schooled mind by the very exuberance of the experiments we have indulged in stands to reason. American independent scholarship and the American university have both by their earnestness and the vastness of their peculiar opportunity won the right to full recognition in the republic of science.
"Who reads an American book?" could, not many decades ago, be the insolent skepticism of one who deemed the virgin bride of the setting sun too much engrossed in material work and worry to attune her lyre to song worthy of intonation in presence of British minstrels. Today the taunt of assumed superiority is changed to eager summons for the American muse to sound her lay. For she has assumed David's part and sings to Saul, an ancient world sunk into melancholic surfeit of life, the story of the brighter hope spurring on western manhood to new conquests. So does today American scholarship, like American literature, hold the expectant attention of every land. Its own periodicals command respect and its sturdy yeomen are not infrequent nor minor guests at the symposia of European academicians.
But the American university must be and is more. Scholarship and culture cannot be divorced in this country, however lax our courts may be in judging the binding character of the vinculum matrimonii. Whatever growing prominence the graduate school shall attain, the college forms an organic part of the university. Both departments gain infinitely by the maintenance of this historically developed interdependence and interinfluence. The specialist is thus preserved from fatal bigotry; he is kept in touch with the warm currents of youthful, vigorous life. He is not allowed to forget that there is more in this life and to it than a digamma or a twin star; that men are more than consumers of salts and fats. But if by this happy union the scholar is saved from fossilization and ossification, the college student is as effectually protected against shallowness, the stagnation of routine, the ridiculous presumptiousness of sophomorism. The culture studies are as great a solicitude for the American university as are the specialities of the methodic scholar. In this the American is distinct from the European university. What culture implies has been the bone of contention these weary years of educational controversy. Is my belief that our university has solved this perplexity in the truly new American, i. e., non-dogmatic spirit, a delusion to which the wish is father? The Shibboleths of the conflict on either side are certainly misleading. The humanities or the natural sciences, so has been pointed the issue. But are these antithetical? I hold not. It depends upon our point of view whether we affix to one of the same branch this tag or the other. It is only a conventional division which has no real distinction and existence that would draw an impassable line between the "Naturwissenschaften" and the "Geisteswissenschaften." In the method to be pursued they are insistent today upon loyalty to the same principle. Their matter cannot constitute the essential and clashing distinctions. As man is vitally interested in understanding the home in which he lives, every natural science may be claimed for the humanities; but as again man is of nature's household, every function of his belongs to the domain of the natural sciences. Philology and philosophy are as legitimately natural sciences as are physiology or anatomy. History, literature, even religion, are not extra naturam, but in natura and per naturam. It is natural for man to be religious as it is for him to breathe. But mark, nature which includes man and man that claims nature as falling within the range of his humanities, are concepts not connoted by the loose use of either term. But science cannot tolerate loose usage of words. Exactness is the prime condition of the scholar. True to the convictions that natura and homo, and even deus, are not irreconcilable antitheses, the American university realizes fully that as in the Father's house there are many mansions, so in culture's palace there are many living rooms. Guided by the experience of many generations, yet not blind to the changing needs of the new time, in the spirit of broad tolerance and of deep insight into the humanizing power of everything that man is concerned in, our American university has recognized the legitimacy of the claim that many paths lead to culture. In a certain sense, the classic nations had attained unto fullness of human life. In that sense their literatures will forever be great guides unto humanity. But their deficiencies in another sense shall not be minimized. A classic humanity is less than the humanity demanded by our age. Under wise limitations that experience suggests the gradus ad parnassum, access to the ladder on whose rounds the university guides the student to scale the heights of a cultured scholarship, is open to all from whatever angle of the broad plain the candidate may seek the privilege of participating in the ascent.
Yet another vital duty devolves upon the American university.
It cannot be content with being a cloistered company of cultured and scholarly men and women. Let the stream of its tendencies by all means take rise in the Alpine altitudes of pure thought; let its mother source be among the glacier lakes whose crystal waters are not passion swept or churned by prejudice. But as the rill descends to the lowlands it must widen; it must meet the sister rivulets and open its arms to them; it must roll on through the plains and hurry to throw itself into the embrace of the ocean of humanity. In other words, the American scholar cannot be a recluse. Though, he like the lonely lens-grinder of Amsterdam, must seek to understand all things, he cannot consent to forswear his human affections. He must preserve his capacity for indignation and admiration.
The nation has claims upon him. She is his mother and into her household he is expected to introduce his bride, his science. He must not be the hermit but the prophet, seeking his kind to speak the voice of warning and clarion the appeal to action. In our democracy, the aristocracy which Plato dreamt of as the rulers of his model community must strive for the scepter by winning over to their clearer way of thinking the multitude. The American university has the function of the Gulf Stream. Its influence must belt the broad Atlantic of the people's public life, temper indifference into enthusiasm and fanaticism into tolerance. Our universitiy extension, the very summer quarter, are proof that in this spirit this university was conceived. But this spirit must prophesy over many dead bones, that our people shall respond to the vernal call of the resurrection. No lover of our country and its institutions but must have in his thoughtful moments taken notice of the flight of black-winged petrels foretelling the gathering of a storm. The danger which none may blink arises as much from an overdose of chlorals called conservatism as from too free an indulgence in nerve tonic, labeled radicalism. The demagogue is busy compounding his drugs; it is he that reaps the harvest, while we alternate between languor and paroxysms of fever. The conservatism of American institutions has often been commented on. It has stood us in good stead in many a crisis which would have swept away nations on a more mercurial basis.
This conservatism has crystallized in the Constitution, this wonderful instrument of political sagacity, and in so doing has stamped upon our institutions their characteristic element. For it is this which distinguishes American constitutional life from that of Great Britain. In the United Kingdom no such breakwater is erected as we possess in our Supreme Court. Beneficial as this institutional conservatism on the whole to us has been, it cannot be disputed that in this epoch of industrialism of ours emergencies have arisen for which to provide apparently the framework timbered in a period of agriculture and provincial barter is not broad enough. Progress is more vital and justice more essential and humanity more sacramental than even constitutional literalism or casuistry. Yet this reconciliation of the political principles of the eighteenth with the social philosophy of the nineteenth century cannot be accomplished by heated prejudice and passionate appeal. That of this we have today a surfeit none may dispute. Selfishness always engenders selfishness. Selfishness wears today too often the cloak of conservatism; it cannot be indignantly surprised that as frequently its own motives assumes as readily the livery of radicalism. The duty to mediate devolves clearly upon the trained minds and men who have learned to pierce beyond the selfish outer crust of interest to the inner kernel of principles. To the university primarily addresses itself today the admonition: Videant consules ne quid detrimenti respublica capiat. Let the consuls be on the alert lest injury result to the commonwealth.
The social question is today the perplexity of every land. It is the penalty which man now pays for his Promethean presumption to yoke the lightning to his plough. I have faith that its solution will be peaceably attained on the continent over which floats the starry banner of Liberty wedded to Law. I question not the sufficiency of our political principles to meet the issue. Yet, I cannot hold with what would pass and pose for American conservatism, that the "foreigner" is the sole disturber of Israel. Were Ahab not sceptered and crowned among us, neither a native nor an alien Elijah could arise to prophesy the judgment. Microbes of plagues will work their deadly havoc only where the conditions favor their culture. We have become urban when one hundred years ago we were rural. Concentration of population in industrial centers is not an unmixed good. Whether the problem be indigenous or imported, matters not; it is among us. Who is commissioned to speak the message of peace? None other but the university! From its halls shall go forth the law, and from it as the Zion of the age the redeeming words.
That our people need the steadying influence of clearer thoughts on the weighty problems awaiting its decisions than now it has, is clear. Conservative to the core as our written Constitution is, even so fickle have of late become the political sympathies of the voters. And no wonder! Party and principle are no longer exchangeable terms. Party and spoils are. The hustings have degenerated into sounding boards for vociferating politicians whose ambition is office, not the public weal. The race of the giants seems extinct; pigmies usurp their pedestal. And thus, from the Capitol no light proceeds to guide the citizen. He vacillates; "landslides" recur with alarming frequency! Protectionist yesterday, the voter deceives himself today with the belief that he is a freetrader, to jilt his new love again tomorrow with as little reason as he courted her the day before. Such flirtations are not healthy symptoms. The university must come to the rescue. What Liliput of a politician cannot accomplish, Gulliver of a professor must undertake. To his lot also falls the Herculean task of cleansing the Augean stables of civic corruption. Reform is more than a fad or a fetich. The science of public administration must be consulted if the desire of the hour shall event in a lasting change for the better. Without this it will spend its spasmodic enthusiasm and be in its failure a renewed pretext for continuing the old cankerous abuses. The university spirit must be the St. George to kill a dragon of the spoils system.
In dealing with these vital questions conservatism must not clad itself in indifference to the bugles sounding the advance. If it does this, it cannot but engender the counterirritant of pseudo-radicalism. At the root of spurious conservatism is thought decayed; at that of pseudo-radicalism thought immature. Thought to keep fresh and to ripen is the mission of the university. Its hands are on the pulse of the age. It must detect the slackened beat of senility and apply its corrective as well as the intermittent throb of fevered impatience and administer the sedative. The hand on the dial of time can neither be arrested nor quickened in its steady progress. Pernicious conservatism would fain attempt the former; destructive radicalism is bent upon the latter. The scholar's influence must be for healthy growth. All half-truths, be they dear to the conservative or moulded by the radical, it is for it pitilessly to expose.
And have we not today a surfeit of half-truths urged by both conservatives and radicals as the cure-all for all our ills, social, financial or religious? Here is the opportunity of the American university. Shall we be silent when on the one hand conservatism makes of competition a fetich and radicalism would ignore the element of human freedom? Shall no better light be had on government and its functions than that peddled about in the catchwords Paternalism or Self-government? Is conservatism not exposing for food rotten over-ripe fruit when it hucksters its insistence that government is only an umpire in a fight which is said to be between equals but which is not between equals? Is radicalism not crying out ware that is but half made when it lures us to buy its toy, no government at all, or all by government? Is the doctrine of rights so glib on tongue of conservative and radical not also a half-truth? Every right, be it of property, of labor, or of what else, is pillared upon a duty. Shall this be ignored? Who shall speak the liberating and therefore the conciliating word of the full truth, if not he who is searching for it, who knows how to discriminate between the petrifaction of a former truth outstripped in the fuller life of today, and the hot-house exotic parading as truth as though it was the naturally blown flower—and will have none of either? The university shall stand for progress and meliorism and exert its influence in this direction, indicated by the upward course of humanity reaching out after the fuller realization of a brotherhood sealed by justice and covenanted in righteousness. Shall not the overstrained appeal to the letters of laws in the interest of selfishness as well as the total contempt for law find its correction by a clearer apprehension through university instruction of the social function and value of the law?
That the university trained financier in these days of stupidity is a supreme need of this land, who will deny? The Shibboleths in the camps prove how pressing this urgency. But also in the pulpit the university must inspire and preach a better appreciation of religion and the Bible than now among us either conservatism or radicalism seem to possess. Evolution is the bugbear of the one and the idol of the other. "It dethrones God!" both contend. Is this conclusion warranted? University thought accepts evolution, but by no means does it admit the conclusions which conservatives by their half-truths and radicals by theirs would urge as inevitable. Evolution is not only mechanical; it is dynamic; it is spiritual. It robs man neither of his dignity nor absolves him of his responsibility. Not how man grew but that he grew, and into what, is the fundamental consideration. The university is in this as in all other things constructive.
The researches in the department of our university with which I have the honor of being associated, bear directly upon questions which have agitated the conservative and aroused the radical. Our finds have not and could not have satisfied either. Truth we search for; half-truths we could not stop by the way to entertain.
False conservatism would take religion and its literature out of the reach of scientific investigation. Radicalism shouts from the housetops the premature paean that religion afraid of science is dead. The Bible is beyond all criticism, is the anxious insistence of pseudo-conservatism; the Bible is not worth criticizing, is the retort of religion's unthinking foe. The dogmatism of the conservative produces the dogmatism of the radical. Ingersollism is the inevitable reaction against the bitterness of unscientific bibliolatry. The university does not exempt religion or Bible from methodical scientific investigation. Does it rob religion of her crown jewels or the Bible of her sparkling gems? Religion is a supreme fact in human life; it is a factor in society, in state, and has been this at all times. The crimes imputed by half-thought to religion were perpetrated for political reasons. This and much more comparative research in the psychology, the history, the institutionalism of religion demonstrates in defense of religion. The Bible has had its history; its truths are brought out, not beclouded, under treatment of the critic. False conceptions, errors about the Bible, he disputes. He shows the rise of this wonderful literature in connection with the unfolding of God's purposes in the people whose seers and singers confided its ideals to stone or papyrus. Woe to a Bible that has to be afraid of the Hebrew or Greek grammarian! Woe to a theology which is so little sure of its truth as to dread the search-light of critical studies in sacred literature. This theology, arrant atheism, radical demagogism, operating with notions as crude as are those it attacks, may indeed overturn. The religion of Isaiah and Jesus stands forever; criticism indeed only confirms its message and unique character. The American university in disseminating these correct principles saves religion and the Bible for the American people.
As an American university ours was conceived; as an American university open to the light from arc or lamp, no matter where shining, but conscious of its own opportunities and obligations it is developing. Vivat, crescat, floreat! May it live, grow and flourish—into ever greater usefulness as the months roll on and the years lengthen!
The University or Chicago.
- The "Convocation address" at The University of Chicago, July 1, 1895.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.
The author died in 1923, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.