Southern Colleges and Schools

ONE sentence of the article on Southern Colleges and Schools, published in the Atlantic Monthly, October, 1884, is perhaps liable to misinterpretation ; namely, that “ there has been no great advance, if any, in college work in the South since the war, and in preparation for college there has been a positive decline in most of the States.” That refers to the whole field and to general tendencies; but it does not mean that there are not some colleges and universities better equipped with professors and apparatus of all kinds, with higher ideals and more thorough scholarship, and more diligent and earnest students, than any institution, except the University of Virginia, could boast before the war; nor that there are not some fittingschools, especially in Virginia, better appointed in every respect than were any prior to 1860. It will be my great pleasure in this paper to speak of some of these.

First, however, it may be asked, was I too severe in criticising the South on the score of number of colleges as an index to the higher education ? Two letters from Virginia sources, received April 11th, intimated as much. That same day I was visiting a classical training school one hundred miles from Nashville, Tennessee. Its history in brief was this: Up to four years ago it had been a “ college,” with a course beginning at “abc ” and ending with “ A. B.” Two Vanderbilt graduates, who had had the benefit of a thorough training for college at the Culleoka Academy, then took charge, promptly surrendered the charter, and turned the “ college ” into a fitting-school. They left in the field, however, a rival college of the same character; for this little town of one thousand inhabitants boasted two colleges. Reaching home, I found on my desk the circular of another institution in Tennessee whose primary course ends with the Fourth Reader, — it is not stated where it began, — and this too had as the easy goal of the whole curriculum A. B. or B. S. The next day I was told of an excellent college in Missouri, which had organized several academies as feeders for itself, but has seen within a few years three of these schools, without endowment, or anything else that belongs to the outfit of a college, except a charter, become its own rivals. It is the old story of the frog that tried to swell to the size of an ox, except, unfortunately, they are not as likely to burst. The principal of an excellent high school writes me of a boy who left his school two years before finishing the course which leads up to the Freshman class, but was entered as Sophomore at a neighboring college, and graduated with second distinction ; and another principal tells of a graduate of a college who came to a Virginia university high school “to get the finishing touch” before going to the university, and made thirty in his Latin examination. A Vanderbilt undergraduate was last year invited to become “ joint-principal ” of a college in Tennessee, and another student was called immediately after his graduation to a professorship in a college where he was expected to teach chemistry, physics, mathematics, natural history, and geology. He attempted to do it conscientiously, but in less than a year his brain was threatened, and he was compelled to resign. But some men’s heads are harder than others, evidently, for I once heard of the incumbent of what should have been nine chairs in a female college who flourished for years, and grew in favor with men, being considered “ a many-sided man.” He was perhaps never excelled but once, and that was the well-authenticated instance of the man who held the presidency and all the professorships in a male college.

No man need be without a “ professorship ” these days, for the number of “ cross-roads colleges,” as a correspondent aptly terms the lowest grade, is constantly increasing. Within two years I have noted eight colleges, or universities in prospect, founded or revived in the South alone ; one of these, it is true, the University of Texas, for the like of which there is always room. But I know of only one or two fitting-schools of high grade established during the same period. A defunct college in Texas is, I am informed, to be brought to life on $10,000, and hardly is the ink that records that fact dry before I read of another college in that State worth $10,400.2 I am credibly informed, furthermore, that there is a university in Texas, the faculty of which consists of a father and two sons, and that some time ago the sons conferred LL. D. on the old gentleman, who returned the compliment by making each of his sons Ph. D.

With regard to female colleges, too, we find the same absurd rage for numbers— only more so; for instance, of 142 so-called higher institutions for women in the United States, 111 belong to Southern and Southern central States; and of 904 degrees conferred on women in 1882, 684 were given in Southern female colleges.

I call a thing “ Southern ” simply because I know that section best. A Harvard man sends word from “ out West,” that “ Northern ” is as applicable to the state of things described as “ Southern,” and several suggest “American” as the best predicate. Something must be wrong in at least one Iowa college, if we may trust the following from an Iowa paper : “ A few years ago there was to be a lecture in the town, and one of the professors announced, from memory, the title to the school: ‘ Rome as I seen it.’ The gentleman who occupied the chair of modern languages, a young man of perhaps one and twenty years, spoke of the great German philosopher as Go-e-the.” There is some consolation, as Thucydides says, in " suffering along with the many.”

But teachers of preparatory schools complain not only of the humbug colleges, but make the charge against the higher institutions generally, that they have almost invariably a preparatory department in direct competition with the schools. The complaint is just. I find from the report of the Commissioner of Education for 1882 that, as nearly as can be estimated, the 115 colleges and universities for whites in the South had 9898 college, and 7474 preparatory students, that is, an average of 86 college, and 65 preparatory students.

Dr. E. S. Joynes, of the South Carolina College, makes this defense for the colleges: “The training schools do not exist in the South ; for the most part the war swept them clean away. The old colleges survived, at least in buildings, in some remnants of apparatus, in their alumni, in a certain clientèle, denominational or other, and so somehow they have been generally restored, or are at least struggling back into life. The preparatory schools which had been private property, the surplus capital generally of men of fortune, went in most cases along with the Confederate bonds, without redemption or restitution. The few that remain are crippled in resources ; the means do not exist for the establishment of others. Thus our Southern States are almost wholly without secondary schools. The few good fitting-schools that exist are private property, and must be made to yield a fair profit, and hence they are expensive. The people are poor, few can avail themselves of these fittingschools, and the most of those who do use them rather as a substitute than as a preparation for college. By far the larger number of students come to college from the public school, not from the academies ; oftener still from the shop or the counting-house, where they have been trying to save a little money to go to college with. And the great majority can afford to go to college only for a year or two.3 The number that enters on a continuous course for graduation is very small indeed. Our young men, partly by necessity, partly by the spirit of the age, drive through college and out into business, or into the professions.

“ Now, if all these things are so, ‘ what are we going to do about it?’ It is easy enough to say, ‘ Put up your standards, and reject all that do not come up to them.’ But that is easier said than done. What then would become of the rejected ? If sent away from the college, they are either remanded to schools which do not exist, or else to a few schools so expensive and so remote from their homes that they cannot attend them. If not in the college, then nowhere can the great majority of Southern youth get even the elements of a liberal education, or any of the liberalizing influences of even a remote contact with a liberal education. That is surely the case in South Carolina ; I believe it is generally so in the South. Moreover, a Southern college which should refuse admission to all applicants not fully prepared would so limit its numbers as to restrict greatly both its usefulness and its reputation, and there are few colleges that can afford— or even dare — to make this sacrifice on an ideal shrine. I see no remedy, except in time. For the present I deem’it to be a matter of public necessity, and hence of public duty, that Southern colleges shall admit ill-prepared students, and make the best of them. Only let them see to it that they do make the best of them, give them honest classification, honest teaching, call them by their right names, and deal honestly with them and with their own standards. At the same time I think that the preparatory classes, while they should be frankly confessed, and honestly organized and taught, should always be regarded as a temporary burden, to be reduced and ended as rapidly as possible. The end will come when our colleges themselves shall put forth competent men to teach the local schools; that is, the rem edy must come from the colleges, but I think gradually and not peremptorily, indirectly rather than directly. There is one other remedy, but even this would be useless until such teachers are supplied, and that is the gradual growth of free high schools in each county in connection with the public school systems. But this, though it will come, is perhaps too remote a blessing to enter into any present calculation.”

I give this opinion thus at length because it is the best and brightest view of that side of the question, and commands attention since it comes from one who has devoted many years of constant effort toward raising standards and accomplishing thorough work. My own opinion as to what is best differs in the main from this ; for it seems to me that the experience of the West and South proves very clearly that this departure of the colleges from their proper sphere has resulted in more harm than good. With the most of the colleges, I think, boys are trained in a preparatory department of the college, not because they could not be fitted elsewhere, but because they might not otherwise go to that college. But the other side of the question shall be stated, in the main, by the teachers of some of the best preparatory schools in the South.

Colonel Hilary P. Jones, M. A., of Hanover Academy, Virginia, says : “ I do not see how the preparatory departments attached to colleges can do the best work. If the government of the two is different, there must always be more or less friction, as the younger boys will be constantly struggling for the rights and privileges accorded to the elder. If the government is the same, the younger will have too much liberty. Moreover, and this to me is the gravest of all the objections, the younger boys are more inclined to copy the vices than the virtues of the older ones.

“ The large number of the so-called colleges and universities must continue to have a most injurious effect on true education. They are as a rule not endowed, and hence dependent for support on the fees received from the students. It is inhuman nature, therefore, to wish to have as many boys as they can get. It, follows, as the day follows the night, that the standard of admission will be made in actual practice — not in profession, however — so low as to exclude none. It follows just as absolutely that boys will be received — nay, encouraged to come — who in educational training and advancement are much below the plane from which a true college should start. So, then, to meet the wants of these boys, the college must descend from its plane; but its organization and system prevent this. It does not do the work of a high school ; it cannot do the work of a college. Bear in mind that these institutions set up to be finishing schools, with but the general public to pass judgment on, or examine into, the character of their work. With the preparatory schools it is different. We fit for college, and know therefore that the character of our work will be not only closely scrutinized, but the results of the examination made public.”

Dr. A. Toomer Porter, of Charleston, South Carolina, says further : It is in my judgment very inexpedient that a boy should grow up and be educated in the same intellectual, political, social, and climatic atmosphere, as a schoolboy and as a student. It. tends to throw him into grooves and produces narrowness. He should be thoroughly prepared and then sent out into another circle with new men, new methods, new thoughts.”

The opinion seems to obtain very generally in the South that college preparatory departments furnish better instruction than independent preparatory schools, but the fallacy is evident ; for, besides the fact that professors, if required to carry this extra burden, become mere drudges, college and university methods do not suit the schoolroom. The professor shoots over the heads of the boys, and his assistant — generally an older student — offers, perhaps as often as not, only a caricature of the professor’s methods. Add to this that professors cannot naturally be expected to be very strict in admitting students from their own preparatory departments, and that every such preparatory department, by bidding against the graduates of the college for pupils, tends to drive first-class men out of the business of teaching, except as a temporary makeshift, and it would seem that generally the only good excuse for such departments is that so many colleges could not live without them.

What, then, do the preparatory schools claim from the colleges ? “ All that we ask,” says Principal Bingham, of the Bingham School, North Carolina, “ is a fair field and no favor, Raise the standard for admission into the colleges as at the North ; or for exit as at the University of Virginia; or for entrance and exit; exclude children and mere boys by limit of age — say sixteen or seventeen ; and there will be preparatory schools enough to do all the work without any endowment but brains.” “ But number,” he adds, “ is made in the South generally the measure of success, and a preparatory pupil of ten or eleven looks as big in a catalogue as anybody.”

It is difficult to say what practicable remedy can be applied to the state of affairs described, but so much at least is clear, that, as Dr. Joynes says, it is a matter alike of privilege, of duty, and of policv, in the case of the few institutions that are strong enough to be independent, and to control instead of being controlled by the situation, to have strict entrance requirements, and to foster rather than compete with the preparatory schools. Such an institution would have fewer pupils for a while; it would be criticised by those who apply only the number test; but if it held to this policy a few years its reward would be, first, better students, and finally more students, than by any other course,4 The most that well - endowed colleges and universities could legitimately do for students deficient in any branches would he to approve certain licentiates from whom they could secure proper private instruction by paying for it; and it is easy to see that such licentiates, having no connection as teachers with the college, but depending for pupils simply on their success in coaching men, would do much better work than the ordinary teachers of preparatory classes, whether professors or tutors. An association, too, of the best Southern colleges, such as the New England Association, with a view to securing something like uniform requirements for admission, would be practicable and prove of great benefit both to colleges and preparatory schools.

In making some statement of what is favorable in the preparatory work, I can merely allude to the fact that, according to the best information I can get, there is an upward tendency lately, in this work, in Alabama, Missouri, and North Carolina; while I know that in South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee a few men are striving to make our high schools more thorough than ever before the war. It will be best to confine attention to a few of the very best schools. Indeed, the gain, where there is any, throughout the South is not in number of schools, as compared with the period prior to 1860, but in the aims and efficiency of a few schools.

The famous Bingham School, in North Carolina, was founded in 1793, by Rev. William Bingham, grandfather of the present principal. He was followed by his son, William J. Bingham, and he by his sons, successively, William and Robert. The school has seven teachers. Within the past five years twenty-two States of the Union and four foreign countries have been represented there, and attendance increased from 103 in 1876 to 251 in 1884. It is, and has been from the beginning, a private enterprise, depending solely on the brains and energy of the remarkable family that has been at its head since the foundation. The pride of the State, as well known in North Carolina as the old university of that State, and even better known abroad, it seeks in vain for a rival in the South outside of Virginia, and the name alone is anywhere in the South a sufficient guarantee for a thorough preparation for college. Much like this fine old school are its offspring, Horner’s School, North Carolina, now in the second generation, and Culleoka Academy, Tennessee.

The University of Virginia has, I believe, a larger number of fitting-schools — at least twelve that prepare directly and almost exclusively for it — than any other institution in the country. It might be expected that from these would go every year crowds of trained students to the university; but it must be borne in mind that many, if not most of them, prepare not for the lowest, but for the highest class in most of the departments of the university, it being the aim of their graduates to take M. A. in two, or at most, three years; that consequently in these schools the essentials of a collegiate education must be and are given ; so that the number going from each school to the university is comparatively small ; for example, last year from McCabe’s School, the largest of all, four men. But they furnish, if not a large, at least an excellent nucleus of well-trained men for the university classes, enabling the professors to put the standard so high that few besides these well-prepared men can take the degrees. The objections to the elective or school system do Lot apply to the graduates of the university schools.

As to the cause of Virginia’s exceptional good fortune in this line, Mr. Strode, of Kenmore University School, one of the best, writes : “ The number and character of the preparatory schools in Virginia I have always thought to be due solely to the influence of the University of Virginia. Except under its shadow we could not maintain the high standards which characterize what we call the university schools. There was an accidental help given, too, in the fact that the principal of the first one was a man of high social position, as well as of strong and unblemished character. Mr. Lewis Minor Coleman made for the first time, you might almost say, the teaching profession an honorable one In Virginia.” And Mr. McCabe adds: “ Since the days of Frederick W. and Lewis Minor Coleman the schoolmasters have been the best men of the university and gentlemen of high social position. This last has had a great deal to do with the high tone existing in the Virginia schools.”

The University of Virginia has never had a preparatory department, and the devotion of these schools to it is unparalleled. Most other institutions in the South have preparatory departments, but as a result only lukewarm allegiance, generally, indeed, open hostility, from the independent fitting-schools.

The course of study in these Virginia schools is essentially the same as that in the German Gymnasien, namely, English, mathematics, Latin, Greek, French, and German, with some elementary teaching in the sciences. In thus confining themselves within narrow limits, and having as their ideal thoroughness within those limits, they set a good example to other fitting-schools, and indeed to the smaller colleges, in the South. Ab uno disce omnes.5

“ When I came here twenty years ago, a paroled prisoner of war, with but one suit of clothes, expecting to prepare myself for the practice of law, if I could in any way make a living meanwhile, there were four or five flourishing male schools — one with eighty boys. I was most strongly warned against attempting to get up a school here, as the ground was fully occupied. But ‘needs must when the deil drives,’and I finally opened with seventeen boys. The other schools have long since ceased to exist. From the start I adopted the principles which to-day govern the school. The old vicious systems seemed firmly fixed. I announced to the school that I should take every fellow’s word as being as good as my own, and that in all matters touching personal honor a boy should be treated as any other gentleman ; but if, after such consideration on my part, he in any way forfeited his word, or even tampered with it, that he should not associate with me, nor with his honorable fellows. I drew the big fellows very closely to me. I was ‘ pitcher ’ in the school ‘ nine,’ and was happy one day when I accidentally overheard a boy say to another, as a knot of them were discussing some point of honor: ‘Well, I think any fellow who would tell McCabe a lie is a dirty blackguard.’ One of my old boys, a graduate of the University of Virginia, and a lawyer of some distinction, said to me only the other day : ‘I was six years in the school, and in all that time I never knew a boy to tell you a lie.’

“ The first boy I sent off was one of the most popular fellows in the school, and had a most powerful aristocratic connection. All sorts of family pressure were brought to bear upon me to save the family from such a stigma as expulsion. I never gave but one answer : ‘ His case must go before a jury.’ He was tried by a jury of twelve of his intimate friends. They begged and pleaded with me to be excused from serving. I said, He has a right to object to you, if he thinks his case will be prejudiced in your hands; otherwise you must serve.’ No one knew the circumstances of the case but the accused and myself. I stated the case, which he could not deny. Without leaving their seats the jury unanimously expelled him, and I confirmed the finding. The effect on the new boys was prodigious. They knew how high was the position of his family, and they knew I was dead in earnest. And I knew that my system, had proved itself a glorious success. Now, after all these years, the morale of the school simply gives no trouble. If a boy deceives a master about anything, or cheats in examination, a committee wait on me and inform me that a case has arisen which demands investigation. They give no names. At roll-call I state to the school that I have received such information, and wish the name of the accused. The boy accused rises and gives his name. A jury is empaneled after school and the case submitted to them. Boys are very slow and very reluctant to accuse their companions. Long before they report to me, if there is any doubt about the matter, they go to the boy and hear what he has to say. And as long as they are doubtful, all these preliminary steps are conducted with great secrecy, for they have a nice and proper fellow-feeling about the odium that even a suspicion of one’s honor casts upon a boy. Of twenty-one cases in twenty years submitted to juries, they have expelled nineteen, and in the other cases recommended probation in view of the fact that the boys were ‘ new fellows and not used to being treated as gentlemen.’

“In regard to studies the school is not graded in the common acceptation of that term, but in fact is most minutely graded as to the actual acquirement of the pupil. For instance, a boy may be in third Greek, second Latin, fourth French, and sixth mathematics. I allow but twelve boys to a section, as my experience is that it is impossible to drill larger sections thoroughly. Of course very many of the sections are much smaller. For example, there are about ninety-five boys studying Latin here this year, and there are twelve sections.

“ In the languages the work is all the way from ‘ primary,’ to the senior class of the University of Virginia. To illustrate, my first Latin writes every year the senior Latin exercises of the university and reads the senior authors. My first Latin is now reading Tacitus and writing the exercises given two years ago to the senior Latin class at the university, with some of my own thrown in. I believe in giving boys idiomatic English to turn into Latin and Greek, and not Latinized-English or Hellenized English.

“In Latin, Greek. French, and German, every day save Monday, a lesson in grammar is recited before reading begins, and the author is read with minutest syntactical criticism. I will not read the old jog-trot stuff, but change every year, so as to keep myself fresh. I look over my lessons every night, and annotate very carefully with reference to the grammar, so as to make the grammar a living hook, having in the preparation of the text the best critical German editions. What is the outcome? The boys in my upper classes come to recitation every day with their books black with swarms of references made by themselves, for the failure to answer a question in syntax is counted to the full against them. I have had boys here who not only knew by heart all the rules in Gildersleeve’s Grammar, but all the remarks. Think what a tremendous syntactical preparation that is, after it has been practically exercised in the class-room every day for three or four years. In correcting exercises I am careful to make the most minute observations on the age and limit of words. This takes an enormous amount of time. In commencing each author, I deliver a short lecture on his place in the literature of the language, and dwell at considerable length on the salient peculiarities of his syntax. I require at the beginning of each year large maps of Italy and Greece from pupils in the upper forms. These maps are carefully examined and none received until they come up to a high standard of accurate and elegant execution. In these upper classes a study of the history and literature of the classic tongues is obligatory.

“ My highest classes are now reading Tacitus in Latin, Thucydides and Plato in Greek, Molière’s plays in French, Faust in German, and studying Todhunter’s Calculus in mathematics. I select my masters with the greatest care and for special excellence in some one direction. I never ask, and do not care, what church they belong to.

“ To test how the work of the school is going on, in addition to the two regular examinations, intermediate and final, I have ‘snap’ examinations; that is, without any warning, I suspend the work of the school, and announce that we will go into an examination in Latin, arithmetic, etc. The examinations are in writing, and of course have been carefully prepared beforehand to test a fair working knowledge of the subject. For a pass in the regular examinations 80 out of 100 is required ; 50 will give a pass in a ‘snap.’ No paper will be received under three hours, and six hours is the furthest limit allowed. No corrections of any kind are allowed under any circumstances, when once a paper has gone into the hands of an instructor. Papers are in all cases handed back corrected, so that a boy can see exactly where and how he was ‘ pitched.’ To instance what a high tone of honor exists here, I have within these twenty years had four or five cases in which the boy just made 80 — bare pass into first division — and the instructor had by an oversight failed to add up the values correctly. The correct value of the papers would be 77 or 78. And in every case these splendid fellows came forward and said : “ I am sorry to say, sir, I’m pitched. Here ’s a 2 (or a 3) which has escaped the observation of the instructor in his addition.’ That is what I call the genuine article! I always ‘pitch’ them of course, but I take occasion at roll-call to allude to the matter in such terms as to make the fellow feel better than if he had taken a ton of ‘ distinctions.’

“ I take no excuses from parents, or anybody else, for failure to attend examinations. Sickness alone excuses. At the foot of the printed lists is the ‘ black list ’ containing the names of all absentees. They bate this publicity of shirking to such a degree that last year of one hundred and twenty-five boys there was but one absentee.”

I know nothing better that the South can do in her schools than to take this school as a model. As a preparation for most institutions, except the University of Virginia, it might perhaps be better to attempt less than Mr. McCabe and fit for Freshman or Sophomore simply, but the methods and thoroughness of this school, and of such schools, are worthy of imitation anywhere. I have satisfactory proofs of the excellence of others of the Virginia schools, of which Mr. McCabe’s is taken only as representative, namely, capital examination papers from Mr. Blackford’s School at Alexandria, than which there is none better ; the fact that at the University of Virginia, one session, one fifth of the graduates in the solid subjects of Latin, Greek, mathematics, and modern languages were Hanover Academy men, etc.; but there is not space to speak of them.

Strange to say, though the amount of beneficiary work done is as extraordinary as their thoroughness, none of these schools are endowed. But for the encouragement of those who would make preparatory teaching a life-work it may be stated that these schools, though their charges are proportionately the highest for education in the South, are generally well attended and pay better than the best professorships in Southern colleges. And the idea cannot be too strongly impressed that the only hope for the higher education in the South is in the multiplication of such schools. If we cannot have them, our colleges and universities will be ridiculous caricatures of good things ; and we cannot have any great number of them so long as we have one hundred and thirty-five colleges to nineteen million people, a number which cannot exist without making at very many, if not at most colleges, A. B. or A. M. the reward to anybody for three or four years’ stay, — as cheap as a female college diploma.

In the higher institutions, some of the recent signs of progress are the following : The establishment of two well-endowed universities, Tulane and Texas; the reopening of the South Carolina College (1881) on a broader basis than ever before, offering now thirty-four courses of study as against twenty-two in 1860 ; at the University of Alabama the establishment, within five years past, of a department of civil engineering, and the erection of additional buildings at a cost of $60,000; at the University of North Carolina an increase of $15,000 in the yearly appropriation by the State, and the consequent appointment of four more full professors, one of these in pedagogy, the first in the South, three assistant professors, and a librarian. At Vanderbilt University may be mentioned Mr. W. H. Vanderbilt’s endowment (1883) of the Institute of Technology, the excellent work in practical astronomy, the growth in English and modern languages from one professor and one assistant to two professors and five assistants, and above all, that for two years past its high requirements for admission to regular courses have been strictly enforced with the best results. At the University of Virginia the quotable gain since 1867 has been $931,000 in gifts, six complete schools or departments, in addition to the thirteen previously existing, with six full professors and five assistant instructors, a chemical laboratory, museum of natural history, and astronomical observatory.6 Dr. W. Le Roy Broun 7 gave a remarkable proof of its thoroughness prior to 1860 in the statement that as the result of examinations of candidates for appointments in the ordnance department of the Confederate States during the civil war, “ four fifths of those recommended were graduates in some form of the University of Virginia.” And we may infer its influence from the fact that “ of the students of a single session eleven have been invited to professorships elsewhere, and the total number of its alumni in professors’ chairs is known to approach, if not to exceed, two hundred.” I hear good reports of several institutions in Missouri, notably of the University of Missouri, Central, and Westminster, and couple that naturally with the fact that of the gain to Southern college incomes from 1880 to 1881 of $109,000, more than $60,000 was credited to Missouri. Did space permit I might speak of the universally recognized thoroughness of Davidson, North Carolina; the enthusiasm for study at Randolph Macon, Virginia, and Wofford, South Carolina, if we may judge from the large number of their graduates who go elsewhere to pursue post-graduate and university courses ; the uplift which Dr. Haygood’s energy and Mr. Seney’s money have given to Emory, Georgia; the sound classical work at Sewanee and the University of Tennessee ; and other favorable features in other institutions. But my purpose is only to give from my own limited knowledge some indication of the upward tendencies in Southern education, since only an elaborate array of statistics, which belong rather to the province of the Commissioner of Education than to my present plan, could properly present the subject.

The greatest gain in Southern college work generally has been in the study of English. Courses in that department have been remodeled in nearly all the better institutions, and the tendency is, wherever possible, to establish specific chairs of English. The prevalent idea is to give to the mother-tongue at least as thorough attention and as much time, both in preparation for college and throughout the course, as to any other language. So great is the change that it is generally called the “ new method ” of studying English, the honor of first putting the idea successfully into practice being, I believe, generally accorded to Professor Thomas R. Price (now of Columbia College), during his connection with Randolph Macon College, Virginia (1867—77). It must be mentioned also that, according to a paper by Professor Joynes, read at the last meeting of the Modern Language Association, the growth in modern language study in the South in the last few years has been very encouraging.

But no sign in Southern higher education is so hopeful as the character of the men who are being attracted to the better professorships, and, best of all, the opinion, fast becoming the prevailing one, that long and thorough preparation in special directions at the best centres of learning is the surest guarantee of success. Young men thus trained are nearly always the successful com petitors for vacant professorships, and never in the history of the South have so many chairs in the higher institutions of learning been filled by young men. This means a great deal. It means new methods, progressive policy, enthusiasm, hard work on the part of professors and students, more liberal views on all subjects, less sectionalism, and the hastening of the time when the South shall be brought into direct and full sympathy with the whole country. It may be added that in matters of state, as well as of education, the policy of bringing young men to the front would be a great gain to the South.

On one point, I am glad to say, all my correspondents in most of the Southern States agree most heartily ; namely, that “ the spirit of earnestness and work on the part of students is incomparably greater than before the war. A different aim is before the majority of our young men, and to most of them education means working capital rather than ornamental polish.” My own experience has been that Southern students, while their preparation in most sections has been far inferior to the general average in New England, and therefore the odds against them much heavier, show since the war at least as great devotion to study as the Northern students, and they are even more willing to undertake the hardest tasks. “ In a Virginia college, poor and feeble as it was,” writes one who has had extensive experience in both Northern and Southern colleges, “ I found the widest and deepest enthusiasm for true education that I have ever found in any American community, the most perfect spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion in president and professors, the liveliest spirit of diligence and honesty and brotherhood in the undergraduates, and relations of personal affection and intimate association between teachers and pupils that made reform possible.” Whatever of enthusiasm for study may exist in Southern colleges is generally a spontaneous growth, for it has been possible to offer little in the way of extra stimulus. I know, for instance, of a Southern professor who at one time had submitted to him papers in mathematics from a Virginia college for a thirty dollar gold medal, and from one of the leading Northern colleges likewise papers for a six hundred dollar scholarship. The examination in the first case “ was over a greater range of mathematics, was equal in the searching nature of the equations, and greater in extent” than the last, and the work was “excellent and thorough, showing capital training.” 8

Our educational benefactions, it is true, do not compare with those of the North; we are obliged gratefully to acknowledge, but with shame confess, that nearly all the great endowments given to Southern colleges since the war have come from the North. In 1882 the North gave in educational benefactions $6.266,190 ; the South, fifteen States, including the District of Columbia, $421,263. Of the amount, the North expended at home $4,517,778, and sent to the South $1,748,412, giving to the whites $443,830, and to the negroes $1,304,582; the South expended, of her benefactions, $414,813 on the whites at home, gave the North $4950, and about $1500 to the negroes.9 This is perhaps a sample of all the years. Poverty is generally alleged as the excuse ; but it cannot be denied that the South gives more in her poverty than she ever gave in her prosperity.

But not even here are we without hopeful signs. Giving princely gifts to education is a thing of comparatively recent date and is the result generally of poor men getting rich ; and as poor men can now rise as easily in the South as in the North, we are beginning to see something of this spirit. Joseph E. Brown, of Georgia, is about as well known in the South for his benevolence toward Southern colleges, as for his common sense and honesty in the Senate at Washington. Samuel Miller, of Virginia, gave a few years ago $1,000,000 to found an industrial school, besides $100,000 to the University of Virginia, Mrs. Atkinson, of Memphis, Term., three years ago left all her property, $50,000 at least, to Vanderbilt University. Jacob Thompson, Buchanan’s Secretary of the Interior, left recently to the University of the South a legacy of $100,000. Central College, Missouri, has received during the past year at least $60,000. Colonel E. W. Cole, of Nashville, gave last year $25,000 to found an industrial school, and Samuel Watkins, of the same city, left a few years ago $150,000 as the beginning of a Southern Cooper Institute; and I read only lately of $50,000 bequeathed by Colonel McGee for a library in Knoxville.

The New England idea, embodied already in the statutes of Connecticut, 1644, and Massachusetts, 1647, that the State should look after and provide for “ popular elementary education, so as to fit all, and especially the poor, for the duties of citizenship,” and leave the higher education to be maintained by private benevolence, aiding only in exigencies, where such help seemed necessary, was quite different from the Southern course which left the question of schools to individuals, asking the State, not to educate the common people, but to found a university. The sequel has, I think, abundantly justified the New England plan, and the higher education can be very safely left there to private benevolence ; but it would hardly be wise to try this just now in the South. In most Southern States a good state institution, with large means conferred upon it by the State, may serve as a model and spur for all the weaker, denominational and other, institutions, and in some sections these are a necessity. For in some places ideas of proper standards, apparatus needed, and means required to make a college or university are so crude that higher education cannot be safely left to church or private enterprise.

Such was the state, of affairs in Virginia before the university was founded, “ the colleges for want of a high and advancing standard, such as the university afterwards furnished, having fallen into a state of well-nigh total inefficiency, with the lower schools lagging proportionally still farther behind. The opening of the university inaugurated a felicitous reform of these evils. The colleges and the schools soon caught the impulse. The course of instruction was enlarged, the methods of teaching were improved, schools of superior order were multiplied.”10 Randolph Macon College was possible, because the University of Virginia was a fact.

One thing only seems to justify in any measure the opposition to good state institutions ; namely, that they enter into unfair competition with the weaker colleges that receive no aid from the State, by offering free tuition, which the others cannot do.

It is now time to inquire, Has the South made any distinctive contributions to the educational ideas of the country? To the University of Virginia, which has led the way in educational reform in the South, must be credited, I think, the following: (1) the elective system, inaugurated more than fifty years ago by Mr. Jefferson; (2) the “ honor system,” which deals with the student as a gentleman, and substitutes for watching in examination dependence on his word of honor; (3) more rigid tests in passing from class to class and for graduation than had ever been known in American colleges ; (4) conferring the M. A. degree not in course, but for distinct acquirement beyond that for the B. A. degree, and not conferring any honorary degrees.

That the University of Virginia first introduced the elective system in this country is true beyond a doubt, but it cannot be shown, perhaps, how much that fact influenced the recent changes in this respect in the Northern institutions ; though as to the effect in the South there is no doubt whatever. The “honor system” has been introduced into many Southern colleges with most excellent results; and I believe all the best American institutions now require a higher course of study for A. M. Vanderbilt University and, I think, the University of Texas follow the good example with regard to honorary degrees.11

It may be stated further that the University of Virginia “ was the first university of an English-speaking people in which graduation in at least two modern languages of the European continent was made essential to the highest academic degree of the institution ; ” and there first Anglo-Saxon was recognized as a university study, having been taught in the school of modern languages from the foundation. So far as I can learn, no American institution before the University of Virginia had ever properly emphasized ability to turn English into Greek and Latin, as well as vice versa, as an absolute prerequisite to a thorough mastery of those tongues. Bur from the time of Gessner Harrison, who never graduated a man in ancient languages, “ who could not on examination put a blackboard of English into Greek and Latin without dictionary or grammar,” down to last year’s senior Latin paper — which I believe cannot be paralleled in this country — the University of Virginia has led all our institutions in attention to this subject, A claim for unusual thoroughness in mathematical instruction, too, must have a firm basis, if Professor Benjamin Pierce, of Harvard, could say of the course, as he once did, that the standard in mathematics for undergraduates was then the highest in the United States.

Charles Forster Smith.

  1. This article, like its predecessor,—Atlantic, October, 1884, —is largely the result of correspondence and consultation with prominent educators in different parts of the South. I have consulted especially Professors C. S. Venable, of the University of Virginia; N. T. Lupton and W. J. Vaughn, of Vanderbilt University; E. S. Joynes, of South Carolina College; G. T. Winston, of the University of North Carolina; W. Le Roy Broun, of Alabama Agricultural College; J. F. Latimer, of Union Theological Seminary, Hampden Sidney, Virginia; R. Bingham, of Bingham School, North Carolina; Dr. A. Toomer Porter, Charleston, South Carolina; W. Gordon McCabe, Petersburg University School, H. P. Jones, Hanover Academy, L. M. Blackford, Episcopal High School, J. R. Sampson, Pantops Academy, and H. S. Strode, Kenmore High School, all of Virginia ; and others whose names I am not at liberty to use. But no one is responsible for views not expressly ascribed to him.
  2. From which it must be inferred, perhaps, that a dollar will still go as far in a Texas college as a dollar in Washington’s time.
  3. Dr. Broun reckons the average stay at a little over two years.
  4. It is greatly to the credit of the University of North Carolina that it has decided to do away with all form of preparatory department or subclass.
  5. Mr. W. Gordon McCabe kindly wrote for my eye alone the statement here given, but yielded to my urgent request permission to publish it.
  6. Sketch of University of Virginia. 1885.
  7. Published address, 1868.
  8. The cheapest — and in the South, at least, a favorite — way of gaining immortality is to endow a gold medal worth ten dollars, especially for oratory. This secures mention in the catalogue, and at commencement sounds as big as if the benevolent man had founded a library.
  9. Report of Commissioner of Education 188283, Table XXIII.
  10. Sketch of University of Virginia. 1885.
  11. Only once has Vanderbilt broken the rule,— by conferring LL. D. on Professor M. W. Humphreys, 1883, under the circumstances a splendid compliment.