Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/401

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397
COLLEGE CONDITIONS

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS CONCERNING COLLEGE CONDITIONS
By Professor JOHN J. STEVENSON

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

AN ever-increasing proportion of the community seems to be convinced that every youth, male or female, on American soil, has a natural right to collegiate and even to professional education at nominal or no cost. That so many have been deprived of the opportunity to acquire a college degree is one of the saddest of the world's many tragedies; good men and women, having exhausted the joy of conscious usefulness in the ordinary philanthropic operations, find new zest in contriving methods whereby those excluded from college attendance may secure the coveted parchment with a minimum of expense and inconvenience. Their efforts to increase the roll of "American nobility" find ready support on the part of college authorities, who are always prompt to aid any good work which promises to increase the enrollment. This popular conviction surprises no one who is familiar with the history of American colleges. In the early days of this country, when schools of any kind were few, clergymen were compelled to educate their successors or to have none. Those devoted men extolled the honor of their profession, they cultivated respect for knowledge, they awakened ambition in young men as well as in their parents; and they undertook the labor of instruction when candidates for the ministry presented themselves—many times taking them to their homes and sharing with them their scanty fare. No one imagined that any credit was due for this self-denial and added labor. The work had been, so to say, thrown in; it had cost the teacher nothing; he had parted with nothing material and the teaching had produced nothing tangible; at most, he had utilized only spare hours, which, in any event, belonged to the people who paid him a small stipend. In fact, the parents of the young men thought that the loss sustained by deprivation of their sons' services entitled them to credit equally with the pastor; and they were not far wrong, for the education was to fit the son not to gain a livelihood, not to gain higher social position, but to enter a profession which at that time meant little more than poverty and an opportunity for service. When population became denser, pastors opened academies to increase their incomes, but the shrewd people succeeded in turning this to their advantage; the writer has seen a "call" offered more than a century ago, in which the right to have an "academy" was noted as an