Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/707

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A NATIONAL UNIVERSITY.

the bettering of conduct can be effected, not by insisting on maxims of good conduct, still less by mere intellectual culture, but only by that daily exercise of the higher sentiments and repression of the lower, which results from keeping men subordinate to the requirements of orderly social life—letting them suffer the inevitable penalties of breaking these requirements, and reap the benefits of conforming to them. This alone is national education.

 

A NATIONAL UNIVERSITY.[1]
By CHARLES W. ELIOT,

PRESIDENT OF HARVARD COLLEGE.

I TURN next to my third topic, the true policy of our government as regards university instruction. In almost all the writings about a nation's university, and of course in the two Senate bills now under discussion, there will be found the implication, if not the express assertion, that it is somehow the duty of our government to maintain a magnificent university. This assumption is the foundation upon which rest the ambitious projects before us, and many similar schemes. Let me try to demonstrate that the foundation is itself unsound.

The general notion that a beneficent government should provide and control an elaborate organization for teaching, just as it maintains an army, a navy, or a post office, is of European origin, being a legitimate corollary to the theory of government by divine right. It is said that the state is a person having a conscience and a moral responsibility; that the government is the visible representative of a people's civilization, and the guardian of its honor and its morals, and should be the embodiment of all that is high and good in the people's character and aspirations. This moral person, this corporate representative of a Christian nation, has high duties and functions commensurate with its great powers, and none more imperative than that of diffusing knowledge and advancing science.

I desire to state this argument for the conduct of high educational institutions by government, as a matter of abstract duty, with all the force which belongs to it; for, under an endless variety of thin disguises, and with all sorts of amplifications and dilutions, it is a staple commodity with writers upon the relation of government to education. The conception of government upon which this argument is

  1. Closing argument of a report by President Eliot to the National Educational Association at its recent session in Elmira. The first part of the report gives an account of what had been done by the Association about the project of a national university since 1869; and the second part examines the two bills on the subject which were brought before Congress in 1872.