Colleges are not industrial schools

Colby Bicentennial Seal 1864-1913

The Colby Echo | Jan. 18, 1889

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So much is said and written now-a-days in adverse criticism of the modes and character of the education in our schools and colleges that it is worth the while to see what it is that calls it forth. We have seen editorials in newspapers deploring the unpractical nature of our college curricula. We have noticed one article in particular, which appeared not very long ago in one of our most intelligent magazines, headed “Our Colleges Behind The Times.” Its character may be seen best if we quote an extract from it: “Our civilization is chiefly industrial and the railway, the factory and labor organizations are the largest element in our social life. Would anyone believe a priori that under these circumstances our colleges would still be haggling over the Greek and Latin question and that only one of them in the entire county should give instruction on railway transportation, the most important subject now before the public? This however, is only one instance of the disgusting narrowness of the professional intellect as stimulated by endowments. Everywhere we find a total want of connection between the colleges and the life of its people.”

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The writer of this complaint was in all probability not a college graduate, as he fails completely to get the correct idea of the object for which colleges were instituted. He seems to think that colleges ouught to be industrial schools or centers of technology rather than what they are, centers of the intellectual culture. Here arises the question as to whether utility per se is the ultimate object of a true education. There is a cry for the abolition of Greek and Latin, of Philosophy, and of everything else that does not strictly have money in it. If all that was to be derived from a college course was a practical acquaintance with some business of trade, would not an early apprenticeship be preferable to four years in college walls? The tendency of our times is not altogether practical, but more or less philosophical. The aim of the college is to make the most of a man, to refine and broaden the intellectual in him, to make him a being best developed for thought and reasoning. The technical knowledge of some useful art the college does not profess to give; but the graduate who wishes to learn some business is supplemented in his efforts by the peculiar training which the college education alone can give. A training which, though not popular considered essential, is invaluable to those who have it.