Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/12

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ment is more familiar than the idea for which, it stands. It is the purpose, then, of the present article to state briefly—as becomes the importance of the subject—just what university extension is, somewhat of its history, and what claim it has for a permanent place in our intellectual life.

University extension has been well defined as a university education for the whole nation by an itinerant system connected with established institutions.

I confess that this sounds ideal, the proposition to educate the whole nation on higher lines, but that is precisely what the movement means. It means that any one in any place and at any time may take up advanced work in any department of human knowledge, and that qualified men stand ready and willing to help him. I feel that this is a most significant statement—so significant. Indeed, that I may be pardoned for having said the same thing twice.

Our people as a whole are not intellectual and are not culture-loving. They are not given to what Emerson calls the reasonable service of thought. The majority of them are the servants of a much less noble master. It can not be expected, therefore, that so large an idea as forms the germ of university extension will meet with anything like immediate fruition. But it is a leaven which is well worth setting to work. The success of the movement is already well enough assured to demonstrate that in any community there are unsuspected numbers with a turn for higher education, and such an attitude of mind is apt to spread.

That is the end—to permeate the nation, the whole American people, with a taste for culture, and then to provide means for satisfying it. It is admitted that such a taste does not generally exist, but it is believed that it can be brought into being. No right-minded person, I think, will quarrel with this purpose, provided it can be shown that the proposed culture is genuine and not merely a veneer. The method, too, is correspondingly simple, and it seems to me quite adequate. It would be an impossible task to civilize all America at once. The Philistine element is much too strong for that. If the movement attempted such a task it might well be regarded as overly optimistic. But it is really as practical in its methods as a paper-box factory. It is going to attempt no regeneration in the lump, nor to force its wares where they are not wanted. What it is doing and going to do is simply this, to put the higher education within reach of those who care for it, and through these to stimulate others also to want the same thing. It might be well described as a missionary movement conducted on scientific principles.

Unharnessed to events, the scheme would read somewhat like a dream. It will be better, then, to give an account of it by telling