Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/134

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124
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

prominence in this university. But it is certain that the Bishop either meant simply to express his satisfaction that so large a number of students still continue to pursue classical studies, notwithstanding the inducements held out by the scientific courses, or, what is perhaps quite as likely, he himself was not fully aware of what the University is doing for the encouragement of scientific pursuits. In one instance, at least, the Bishop ran squarely athwart all the traditions and usages of the University. The orator indicated certain studies which he would not permit the student to pursue. The University, on the contrary, has long held up as its ideal: "All learning and that of the best"; and entire freedom of choice on the part of students as to what they would pursue.

You remark: "This great institution, with its fourteen hundred students, seems just as much enslaved by vicious traditions as the older schools. Middle-Age studies are still in the ascendant. The sciences are taught there, but the classical course is the one encouraged by the whole weight of the University influence."

I think a few facts will be enough to show you that this assertion is totally and comprehensively incorrect.

1. As many as twenty-eight years ago the University of Michigan was the pioneer in the work of raising scientific studies to a footing of absolute equality with the old classical curriculum. At that moment there was not a single college or university in the country that had a scientific course of four years. Such a four years' course was then established here; it has ever since been maintained, and the requisites for admission to it have been raised as rapidly as the condition of the preparatory schools would permit.

2. The work, thus early begun, has gone steadily on to the present day. Besides the various professional degrees in engineering, the University now confers four degrees as the reward of four years of successful study, viz.: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Philosophy, and Bachelor of Letters. The ancient languages are required for the first of these degrees only; and even for A. B. the amount of Latin and Greek required aggregates only about one solid year's work, while the amount of science required aggregates scarcely less, and the amount of science the student may elect in addition aggregates the work of two full years. Thus, even in the classical course, the student with his one year of classics may, if he choose, take two and a half years of science.

3. The number of courses of instruction in Latin and Greek offered to students the present semester is twelve (12), while the number of courses offered in the sciences is forty-four (44). The number of teachers employed to give instruction in Latin and Greek fifteen years ago was four; last year the number was four; fifteen years ago the number of teachers in the sciences was five, last year the number was twenty-four.

4. The means of illustration in the classical courses have remained almost stationary; while the appliances for the pursuit of scientific studies have spread out in every direction. The physical laboratory affords constant occupation to a considerable number of original investigators. The botanical laboratory is daily occupied by a crowd of students pursuing advanced microscopical researches. The physiological laboratory is positively overrun with students from the beginning to the end of the year. The chemical laboratory last year offered to our students a hundred and seventy-five tables for personal experimentation in applied chemistry, but the number was so inadequate to a supply of the demand that the building at the present moment is in process of enlargement by nearly as many tables more. It' you were to wander through these busy rooms, and see the hundreds of students clad in their scientific aprons and carrying on their researches with scalpel and microscope and test-tubes you would not fail to reform your opinion that the "whole weight of the University influence" is devoted to the encouragement of the classical course. Other universities have reared grander dormitories and memorial halls; but, if any other institution in the country has done more for the direct encouragement of scientific study and research within the past fifteen years than the University of Michigan, I have yet to learn which one it is. If you will point us to a better record than that indicated in the above facts, we will then endeavor to emulate our superior.

As your facts were at fault, of course it is not necessary to point out the error of your conclusion. I trust that the facts given are sufficient to justify you in modifying your intimation that the institution "deserves to be suppressed as a public nuisance."

I ought perhaps to correct one or two further errors of your article. But I content myself with saying that the University has not been "maintained from the first by public taxes"; that it was not until after it had already acquired strength, and renown even, that the first dollar of taxes was levied in its behalf; nay, that the first taxes were not levied for it until long after a fundamental law had been passed prohibiting the requiring of Latin and Greek as a condition for admission to the full privileges of the University.

You conclude your paper by comparing the University of Michigan with Cornell, and pointing to the difference, as evinced in the