Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/517

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517
A UNIVERSITY PENSION SYSTEM

That there is a measure of truth in this complaint no one who knows the educational situation will deny. And yet I fancy that no man is ready to advocate the abolition of universities in order to preserve the rights of the secondary schools. The real lesson, on the other hand, is that of a wise cooperation. No agency in civilized society, not even a university, can have absolute independence. What such an institution can have is freedom, to he gained however by due observance of its right relations to all other agencies in the social order. In a democracy the power of public opinion, as fast as public opinion is educated, will bring about such cooperation. The remedy for possible danger to the rights of the individual or of the single institution does not-seem to lie in reducing all agencies to ineffectiveness, but rather in the general education of the whole people to an appreciation of the observance of the law. In the last analysis an educated public opinion will regulate both the relations of centralized educational agencies to the universities and the relations of the universities to the secondary schools. Meantime, no man in either form of organization will object to sincere and discriminating criticism. It is such criticism which educates public opinion.

Notwithstanding the incidental difficulties, therefore, which arise in the administration of any system of pensions, I believe that the advantages which have resulted from the conferring of pensions have far outweighed the disadvantages and that, furthermore, the advantages on the whole seem likely to become stronger with time, while the disadvantages seem likely to diminish. The value of a pension system depends not only on the intelligence and conscience of those who administer it, but on the spirit and morals of those who are to benefit by it, and the dangers of a pension system lie mainly in those universal dangers which come from human weakness and human selfishness.

It is, to my thinking, a fair question whether the college pensions ought not, like other pensions, to carry a contributory feature. No one can be more sensible than I of the tremendous demands made upon the meager salaries of the American college teachers, and yet notwithstanding this, it is impossible to remove the college teacher from those social and moral obligations which affect all men. The experience of the world seems to point strongly to the conclusion that on the whole a contributory form of pension is likely to be most just and least harmful.