Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/263

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By A. L. BENEDICT, A.M., M.D.,


COLLEGE faculties have, within the last few years, conferred postgraduate degrees with conservatism and even reluctance. The time is long past when there was a germ of truth in the assertion that A.M. was a decoration for principals of preparatory schools who sent a sufficient number of students to college, or for young alumni whose interest in their alma mater persisted after graduation. The free distribution of honorary degrees, always a possible source of evil, is especially dangerous in the case of professional degrees, since the latter indicate the completion of an apprenticeship rather than the attainment of learning and confer privileges of practical commercial value and subject to abuse.

Unfortunately, the reaction against the old custom of applying degrees 'honoris causa' and with no very definite requirement of scholarship, has led the majority of colleges to insist that the master's and the doctor's degree shall be reached only by courses of study pursued under the immediate supervision of the faculty and has closed the path to these honors for all who are unable to protract their residence in a college town, except those who have distinguished themselves in the most signal manner. It is, doubtless, presumptuous for criticism of an educational system to emanate from one who has no closer contact with education than the training of a professional student and the practice of a profession, yet the general tendency of colleges to adapt their methods and aims to conform with the demands of practical life, encourages the writer in pleading in behalf of the worker in the great university of the world, who still desires to keep in touch with the scholarship of the college.

Through long custom, we have one degree which is admirably adapted to use as a decoration. This is the title of Doctor of Laws, which has come to be the patent of practical success in any line of activity, not incompatible with a reasonable degree of refinement and intellect. Its significance is executive ability and wide influence of the highest kind. If deservedly applied, it can never add materially to the dignity of the recipient, while any tendency to its abuse is checked by the reflex discredit cast upon the donor.

The master's and doctor's degrees in arts and sciences, on the other hand, represent purely educational attainments, of higher order