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THE SPIRIT OF THE STATE UNIVERSITIES.*
HENRY SMITH PRITCHETT.
In no other form of popular activity does a nation or a state so clearly reveal the quality of its civilization as in the system of education which it sets up. The schools of Prussia, the school system of France, the universities and schools of Scotland epitomize Prussian, French, and Scotch civilization.
The school system is at once the result and the cause of the forces which make for intellectual and moral progress. Sometimes the idealism of the people outruns its expression in the schools; sometimes the school gives a new birth to popular ideals and a new quickening to the popular conscience. The school system of any state is the surest barometer of its intellectual and spiritual atmosphere, and there will always be a constant interaction between the educational system of a commonwealth on the one hand and the forces of civilization for which education stands on the other.
It is also true that nations, like individuals, are temperamental in their moral and intellectual attitudes. And in no way is national temperament more clearly shown than in the expression of a nation in its schools. The German people are essentially nationalistic in their temperament; they prefer to do things under definite conventions and by formal organization. The English are essentially individualistic.
* Address delivered at the Charter Day Exercises, March 23, 1910.
In what way are these lasting qualities of national temperament so clearly set forth as in the school systems of the two peoples? The Universities of Berlin and Oxford comprehend German and English conceptions of civilization in smaller compass than they can be represented in any other way. And in each case the university is at once the effect and the cause of the very influences which it sets forth.
What may be called educational consciousness is a much later growth in some nations than in others, a result depending in large measure on the fact that civilization is a product of national temperament no less than of national thought. By an educational consciousness in a given people I mean that such a people have come to a stage in civilization in which they conceive of education as a natural and necessary activity of the state itself. They assume the obligation of its support as a necessary part of the cost of progress, and they look upon the schools which represent education, from the highest to the lowest, not as isolated or individual enterprises seeking each its own good, but as parts of one related national effort. All stages in the progress toward such an educational consciousness can be noted among the nations of to-day. And however true it may be that there are dangers in pushing this ideal too far, however necessary it is to retain the individualistic point of view, it must be admitted that the attainment of such a national consciousness in the matter of education marks a high plane not only of intellectual and moral ability, but of efficiency as well. No nation is likely to be educationally efficient until it has grown into some fair possession of a national educational consciousness.
Perhaps in no other nation are there more marked inequalities in the progress toward such an educational consciousness than among the commonwealths of our American Union. Our older New England states began their educational history under the influence of the English traditions, which retained in the attitude of the colleges and academies of the New England all that individualistic idealism which
has been at once the strength and the weakness of the old England. Each college and academy was a separate and independent unit, having little or no relation to any other school. Such a school system does not necessarily mean the failure to attain in time to an educational consciousness. In fact, the process of development has usually been through such individualistic schools which, in a new country at least, form almost the necessary starting points for any system of education. In New England, however, individualism is strong, and for two hundred years the progress in education has been strongly influenced by the conceptions of a college with which its schools began. No one can say what would be the form of the school system of to-day in New England had it started with a Scotch university instead of an English college. However this may be, it is interesting to note that the stirring of an educational consciousness larger than that of loyalty to a single college is already being felt in the New England states. This is partly the outgrowth of new industrial conditions which present new problems in civilization, but it indicates also the coming of an educational conception larger than that of any one college and based on the conviction that all institutions of learning are part of the state's system of education. Maine has already a state university and Massachusetts is beginning to demand one. It is not likely that a state university will be set up in the old commonwealth, but its coming will depend in great measure on the wisdom and farsightedness of the existing institutions of higher learning, upon their ability to relate themselves effectively to each other and to the general school system, and upon their success in meeting the new questions in education opened up by the modern industrial life. A modern democracy will not permanently be satisfied with an educational system into whose higher schools the sons and daughters of the plain people can enter only through payment of burdensome tuition charges or upon scholarships which at least suggest charity. Education as a charity is essentially foreign to any state whose people have risen to
a true educational consciousness. Such a democracy claims the opportunity to the highest form of education as a right. The contrast in the rapidity with which this spirit has been developed in the older states and in our Central and Western states is one of the most interesting and suggestive phenomena of our national progress. The states of the Central West almost simultaneously adopted state systems of education, beginning with the elementary school and culminating in a university. No such exhibit of well-formed and definite educational consciousness was ever seen in the organization of new states or provinces. The ideal for which the people of Michigan and Wisconsin and Missouri and Iowa and California aimed in the establishment of these systems of education rested upon definite convictions-that ideal stood for a conscious duty of the state to open the door of education to every citizen, an education free of every political and ecclesiastical control. The men of these new states represented a stage in democracy which was half a century in advance of that of our forefathers of the Revolution. The democracy of that early day was intensely individualistic and suspicious. It feared to delegate authority to any agency. The fathers would have looked upon a state university which crowned a compulsory public school system as an autocrat dangerous to liberty. The men of that day believed that freedom could be preserved by infinite division of power, so that no one authority could be dangerous.
To-day in education, as in every other field of national activity, democracy must deal with the perplexing problem of preserving the spirit and the right of the individual, while at the same time creating agencies with the power to do the work of civilized life efficiently. The democracy of 1786 met this question by seeking to reduce all agencies to a harmless inefficiency. The democracy of 1850 had reached another step in the evolution of the government of the people by the people. As men of common sense they saw that the business of civilization could be done effectively only by agencies which had power. They therefore went ahead