THE idea of continental Europe in regard to the productive scholars of the New World can be as easily as briefly stated : there is none. A widely read German history of civilization says this about American scholarship : “ American universities are hardly more than ordinary schools in Germany. It is true, they receive large sums of money from rich men ; but they cannot attain to anything, because the institutions either remain under the control of the church, or the professors are appointed on account of their political or personal connections, not on account of their knowledge. The professors therefore have, naturally, more interest in money-making than in the advancement of science. Not a single one of these institutions has reached a scientific position.” And if this expresses the opinion of the public at large, it must be admitted that the scholars are seldom much better informed. They see hundreds of American students coming over to Germany every year, and feel sure that they would not come in such streams if America had anything of comparable value to offer. American publications cross the ocean in a ridiculously small number ; in the world of letters no Columbus has yet discovered the other side of the globe.
Is it necessary to defend myself against the suspicion that I share this European prejudice ? I have my witnesses in print. Since I resigned my German professorship to enter Harvard University, I have heartily welcomed every opportunity to write for German readers about my delightful surprises in the academic world here, and about the contrast between the facts here and the fables current over there. Last summer I had a glorious opportunity. A wellknown naturalist of Switzerland, whose voice is often heard in German magazines, came here for scientific purposes, and spent his vacation in various places. When he returned, he gathered his impressions in an essay published in the most widely read review, and condensed his opinions on American universities as follows : “ The American universities are of unequal value ; some are simply humbug. They are all typically American, illustrating in every respect the American spirit: they have an essentially practical purpose. The American wishes to see quick returns in facts and successes ; he has scarcely ever any comprehension of theory and real science. He has not yet had time to understand that scholarly truth is like a beautiful woman, who should be loved and honored for her own sake, while it is a degradation to value her only for her practical services : a Yankee brain of to-day cannot grasp that,”—and so on. I published at once, in the same magazine, an extended reply. I demonstrated therein how easily the foreigner is misled by the use of the word “ university ” for institutions which are nothing but colleges, and that, therefore, a fair comparison with German universities is possible only for the dozen institutions which are adjusted to postgraduate work. I pointed out that in these leading universities the opportunities offered students are not inferior to those abroad ; that the theoretical courses, not the practical ones, are favored by the students ; and that, especially in unpractical fields, as astronomy, geology, ethnology, Sanskrit, English philology, philosophy, very valuable work has been done. I claimed with full conviction that the doctor’s degree of our best universities is superior to the average degree in Germany, and that our libraries and equipments are not seldom better than those on the other side. I showed with enthusiasm what an increasing number of scholarly magazines is sent out by our institutions, how great is the output of new books in every field, how the academies and scholarly associations flourish. Yes, I became pathetic, and sentimental, and ironical, and enthusiastic, and my friends maintained that I made my point; and yet in my heart I was glad that no one raised the other question, whether I really believed that American scholarship is to-day all that it ought to be. I should have felt obliged to confess that I did not believe it; and as I speak now to Americans only, I may add here all that I forgot to tell my German readers.
I do not want to disclaim a single word of my German plea for the American world of learning. The situation is infinitely better than Europeans suppose it to be, — in certain branches of knowledge excellent work has been done; and yet I am convinced that the result stands in no proper relation to the achievements of American culture in all the other aspects of national life, and the best American scholars everywhere frankly acknowledge and seriously deplore it. Yes, America now has scholarship, as well as Germany, but it is just as when the Germans claim that they, as well as the Americans, play football; to be sure, they do play it, but in cutaways and high collars. Many Americans consider that there is no harm in the condition of scholarship here, and some are even proud of it: a nation which has to “ do ” things ought not to care much for knowledge. But there are others who see the dangers of such an attitude. They believe that there is no ideal of learning and searching for truth which is too high for the American nation. They think, as Emerson said, “ our days of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands draws to a close; the millions that around us are rushing into life cannot always be fed on the remains of foreign harvests.” And as the first necessary condition of such a change they seek, a clear insight into the causes which lie at the root of this shortcoming. To these it may perhaps appear not quite useless to try to throw light on the causes from the one standpoint which is most natural to me, — from the standpoint of a comparison between the American and the German conditions for productive scholarship.
In America, as in Germany, the question of productive scholarship is essentially a university question, as in both countries the chief advancers of knowledge have been at the same time professional daily teachers of academic youth. This relation is in itself not at all necessary, and certainly does not hold true for other countries, such as France and England. In England and in France, a great part of the finest scholarly work has been done by men who had no relations to academic institutions ; and if they filled university positions, their rôle was, on the whole, a decorative one, while the real daily teaching was done by minor men. Here, as in Germany, the union of scholar and teacher in one person is the rule ; the scholars who are not teachers are in both countries the exception. I do not overlook the fact that such exceptional cases exist on both sides ; historians like Rhodes, Fiske, Lodge, Roosevelt, and others stand outside of academic life. In a similar way, we have some economists and some naturalists, especially those connected with the government institutions in Washington; there are some physicians and some inventors, some lawyers and some ministers, who aim, outside of the institutions of learning, toward real advancement of knowledge, and yet they form here, exactly as over there, such a small minority that they do not determine the character of the scholarship of the country, while in England and France they are its most important factor. Here, too, the work of the outsiders will be measured by the standards set by the universities. Every advantage and disadvantage, every reform and every danger for scholarship, is in America, therefore, as in Germany, first of all a university problem.
To give to our inquiry narrower limits, I shall omit from consideration the law school, medical school, and divinity school. The law schools especially are, on account of the differences of law, so absolutely unlike, here and abroad, that they must be totally eliminated. If we thus confine ourselves, on the whole, to the humanistic and scientific studies, to philology and history, economics and philosophy, literature and the fine arts, mathematics and physics, biology and chemistry and geology, and so on, we compare similar matters. And on this basis now arises the question at issue: Why has Germany’s productive scholarship attained the power to mould the thoughts of the world, while America’s, so far, has not ? Why are the German universities such fertile ground that in them even the smallest talent comes to flower, and the American universities such sterile ground that here often the finest energies are destined to wither ?
One reason offers itself at once: in Germany, the very idea of a university demands productive scholarship as the centre and primary interest of all university activity ; in America, it is an accessory element, a secondary factor, almost a luxury, which is tolerated, but never demanded as a condition. But this fact itself has deeper reasons, and we must understand the whole spirit of the universities there and here to understand why it is so, and why it must be so under the conditions that obtain today. In Germany, the spirit of the university is absolutely different from the preceding stage, the gymnasium ; in America, the university work is mostly a continuation of the college work, without any essential qualitative difference. The postgraduate work is more difficult than the undergraduate work, the teachers are expected to know more, the subjects are more advanced and specialized; but all the changes are of quantitative character, and there is nothing new in principle. The university is a more difficult college, — a college which presupposes a greater amount of information, and where the best informed teachers of the country are teaching; but its spirit is exactly the college spirit, merely on a more elaborate scale of instruction.
In Germany, there is no greater difference than exists between the spirit of the university period and that of the school time. The gymnasium furnishes education and information; the university brings to the younger generation the scholarly scientific spirit. The gymnasium distributes the knowledge which has been collected; the university teaches the student to take a critical attitude toward all collected knowledge. The gymnasium teaches facts and demands textbooks ; the university teaches method and presupposes all that can be found in books. The gymnasium gives to the boy of nineteen nothing different in principle from what the boy of nine receives ; the university offers to the student of twenty something absolutely different from what he received a year before. The teacher of the gymnasium must therefore be a man who has learned a great deal, and has a talent for imparting what he has learned ; the teacher of the university must be a master of method. But there is only one test to prove that a man has mastered the methods of a science: he must have shown that he is able to advance it. The teacher of the university is therefore, above all, a productive scholar, while to the gymnasium teacher productive scholarship is something non-essential.
This higher type of institution, this qualitatively new principle of instruction, has thus far not been completely realized in America. I am speaking, of course, of the ideal and of the theory. In practice, there are many German university professors whose lectures run down to mere school-teaching, and there are many brilliant American professors whose invaluable scholarly lectures and research courses are fully inspired by the highest university ideal. But while the former simply do not fulfill their duty, and remain below the level of public expectation, the latter transcend the official and generally accepted ideal of university life. The official ideal of the American university is, as it has been expressed with emphasis, an institution in which “ everybody can learn everything.” And yet nothing is farther removed than this from that other university ideal, where not every one is admitted as a student, but only the one who has reached a maturity in which he can go over from mere learning to criticism; and where not everything is to be learned, but one thing alone, the highest intellectual grasp of the scholarly spirit. A young man who is mature enough to enter the university ought to be able to learn “ everything ” for himself ; but the method of dealing with anything, not as a fact, but as a problem, he can gain only from a master. The college may teach “ things ; ” the graduate school ought to teach the solution of problems. The college teaches dogmatically ; the graduate school ought to train in critical thinking. The college is for intellectual boys; the university ought to be for intellectual manhood; as the college makes the students dependent upon the authorities, while the university ought to teach them to be self-dependent, to stand on their own feet.
This is the point where American intellectual culture betrays its limitation : American institutions do not show sufficient insight into the fundamental fact that the highest kind of knowledge is not wide, but self-dependent. Yes, Americans, who are so proud of their spirit of initiative and independence, too often overlook the fact that the highest independence of character can go hand in hand with the most slavish intellectual dependence, and that all which is merely “ learned,” all textbook information, all knowledge without mastery of method, is good for boys, but poor for intellectual men. And yet such a self-dependent attitude is never the result of a mere skeptical incredulity or of defiant contradiction of the authorities, but can be gained only by the fullest training in methodological criticism. No one, even in his special field, can really examine everything himself, but he is not self-dependent till he fully knows how to do it; that is, till at least in one point he has proved to himself that he is able to go beyond all that mankind has hitherto known about it. If he is able to master the methods for one problem, then he has the power to do so for others ; he may now follow others, but he knows that he does not follow simply because there is a chain on his leg which pulls him along. No amount of information can be substituted for training, and a university course which deals with the history of ten years from a really critical point of view is therefore more important than another which pictures a thousand years from a dogmatic standpoint. Self - dependence in knowledge thus never means ignoring the authorities, and even in the natural sciences does not come from a direct appeal to Nature, as the science teachers of the schools too often believe. Nature answers always only those questions which we ask her; and the whole history of science — that is, the authorities — must teach us first how to ask our questions of Nature. Self-dependence means the power to understand the authorities, and to deal with them critically.
As I have said, the only possible teacher for this highest kind of intellectual activity must be a scholar who is himself a master of scientific method, and as such a master only is the productive scholar tested. That is the reason why productive scholarship is the very informing spirit of German universities, and why no teacher is ever appointed as university docent who has not proved his power over methods by publications which have at some point advanced human knowledge. Productive scholarship will never reach a really high level in America till it becomes the informing spirit of the American universities also ; and it cannot be their spirit till the difference between the ideal of the university and the ideal of the college, between the dogmatic and the critical attitude in knowledge, is fully grasped by the community. As long as the university is essentially a better equipped college on a more elaborate scale, the appointment of university teachers must be determined by the same considerations that influence the usual choice of a college teacher. As it is, — given, of course, the moral qualities, — a man is sought who has learned much about his subject and is a fine teacher. But whether he has produced anything of scholarly value is, on the whole, a secondary question.
The situation in our colleges is similar to that in the German gymnasiums. The gymnasium teacher is not at all unproductive. Most of his productions, to be sure, are just as in the colleges here, merely textbooks ; but many gymnasium teachers publish scholarly investigations, and as almost every one has written his doctor’s thesis, many go on with their productive university studies; some have published excellent books. And yet their publications are in a way their private affairs, not their official duty; their professional work can be conceived as complete without any effort in that direction; there are even principals of gymnasiums who look with a certain suspicion on the too productive teacher, because they are afraid that he may neglect his class duties, or may raise the level of instruction too high for the boys. But in any case, if productive scholarship were in the hands of these gymnasium teachers only, science and scholarship would he the same lukewarm affair that it is here in the hands of college men, — a professional luxury, relegated to the scarce leisure hours of an overworked man, who has little to gain from it, and whose career and professional standing are hardly influenced thereby.
How different the university man, if university instruction is rightly understood as the teaching of method, of criticism, of self-dependence ! What other way is open to prove the possession of a power than the use — and the successful use—of it? A singer who does not sing, a painter who does not paint, and a university scholar who does not advance human knowledge stand then on exactly the same level. Of course it is not necessary that the productive work should appear directly under the name of the author ; here, as in Germany, some of the finest scholars put forth their thoughts through the publications of their advanced students, for whose work they take the responsibility. But if he does not publish in one way or another, directly or indirectly, theoretical assurances will not suffice. To say that a man might have advanced human knowledge, if he had not preferred to give all his time to teaching by lectures or by popular books and articles, is absurd, if he never had an opportunity to be tried. He might just as well say that he would have been skillful in walking the tight rope, if he had not preferred his life long to walk on the floor. The fact that he is a good teacher has, of course, no bearing on the point. If we want to find a man who is a master of critical methods, we cannot be satisfied if the man shows that he has much information, and skill in imparting it. For that we need the original mind, while the merely imitative thinker may make a most excellent teacher. Any one who has a personality, a forcible way of presentation, and an average intellect will be able to be a fine teacher of any subject at six weeks’ notice. The student cannot judge whether the thoughts brought forward in the lecture are the instructor’s own thoughts, or a rehash of the contents of half a dozen textbooks; or even if they are his own thoughts, whether they have any legs to stand on. Whether the teacher’s thoughts are cheap reproductions or valuable critical studies can be determined only by a jury of his peers, and the only way to communicate with them is by publications. The teacher’s papers and books alone decide whether he is or is not in possession of that power of scholarly grasp which the university student is to learn from him, and thus whether he is or is not fit to be a university teacher.
No one ought to interpret this to mean a lack of appreciation for the receptive scholarship and the fine teaching qualities of a good college instructor who wants to be teacher only, or of a writer of pleasant and helpful popular books. I do not at all claim that his function is less noble, or that his achievement is less important for the community, and I know, of course, that “ distribution ” of knowledge is not at all an easy or mechanical task when it is well done ; the really good teacher needs many gifts and qualities which may be absent in great scholars. I maintain merely that the two professions are different, — as different as that of the photographer from that of the artist. A good photographer is certainly a more useful being than a bad artist; but no photographer understands the meaning of art who thinks that he and Sargent are in principle doing the same thing. As long as productive scholarship is not recognized by the public consciousness as something absolutely different from receptive scholarship, its development must remain an accidental one, and can never reach the level which American civilization has reached in so many other directions, and which might be expected from the large external resources of the higher institutions of learning. That the outcome in important work is disappointing no one can deny ; nor will any one seriously doubt that the ignorance of Europe in regard to American work will disappear rapidly as soon as really fundamental work is done. As soon as a Darwin or a Helmholtz, a Virchow or a Bunsen, a Spencer or a Pasteur or a Mommsen, speaks in the smallest New England college, the whole world will find him out and listen; but he must speak, as his European colleagues have spoken, in the service of productive scholarship only, while he will remain unheard if he follows the leadings of his surroundings, becomes merely a good teacher, writes textbooks and magazine essays and popular lectures.
There is another point on which I must not be misunderstood. In Germany, the gymnasium, as the place of receptive scholarship, and the university, as the place where the productive scholar teaches critical method, are sharply separated. I do not mean that this external separation is in itself necessary, or, under American conditions, either desirable or possible. Such a complete separation can be made only where the government guarantees an equality of standard, and where conditions are equal throughout the land. In the United States, the system of sliding scales, of infinitesimal differences, of transitions from low forms to higher ones without sharp lines of demarcation, has shown itself to be the soundest in all educational matters ; the smallest institution must have the possibility of growing up to the highest requirements, and each local foundation must be able to adapt itself to special needs. In a country where the greatest educational progress comes through private initiative and through the slow raising of the standards of requirements in the social consciousness, the system of sliding transitions offers the best chance for healthful development; and the raising of the graduate schools to the plane of real universities can come only as the fruit of such a system, just as the present graduate school has developed itself naturally by that system out of the average college. What is necessary is only the development of the new ideal in the social mind. On the other hand, so long as the real principle is not acknowledged, the mere imitation of external forms or the artificial construction of new schemes cannot bring about an improvement. For instance, the dropping of the college department represents no progress at all, if the remainder is in itself on no higher level than the average graduate school. The claim of an institution that it is in the lead because it has no college is without basis as long as its teachers are in no way superior, as productive scholars, to the average instructors of other universities. The omission of the lower forms is no gain, and has at present great disadvantages. I do not believe that the development of the highest forms is to be expected along this line. I remember I once saw in the Far West two rather poor little institutions in the same county. One called itself, modestly, a college ; the other, a university. As I saw clearly that the university was lower in its standards of graduation, I asked the director about the designation ; and he answered that they called themselves a university because they were of so much higher grade than the neighboring college. I asked him in what respect they were of higher grade, as they had no graduate school, no law school, and no medical school. “ No,” he said, “ we have not all these, but we are higher because we have no preparatory school.”
The functions of the student stand, of course, in immediate relation to the functions of the instructor. If the instructor gives information, the student is expected to learn facts; and he shows best by examinations whether or not he has succeeded. If the task of the instructor is to teach the method of scholarly criticism, the student aims at getting a scholarly grasp ; and whether or not he has succeeded he can prove only by showing that in one little point, at least, he can advance human knowledge. Original research then becomes the backbone of his university work, and the publication of a doctor’s thesis its natural goal. This aspect of student’s work grows among us from year to year, and yet it has not won sufficient strength to stand alone against all attacks. There are still institutions which do their research work as a concession to a doubtful fashion, imported from Germany, and necessary as an advertisement in the struggle of university competition; there are still a majority which do not believe in it at all; and there are still leading universities here which do not require the printing of the doctor’s thesis. It is a very curious fact that the most effective argument brought forward here again and again, in the fight against the doctor’s thesis, is the cheap scholarship of many of the German doctor dissertations. At the basis of this there is a misunderstanding, as the German doctor’s thesis cannot be compared with the American one. In Germany, the doctor examination is, on the whole, a purely decorative affair for the gaining of a title which has not the slightest consequence for the career of a man, but only the social value of a personal address. All openings to the career of teacher, as well as to that of lawyer or physician, are dependent upon the very severe state examination, which shows clearly whether or not the candidate has acquired the scientific view of his subjects. The man who has passed the state examination may thus pass with a low mark the doctor examination, even if he presents merely a hasty, superficial piece of research, just to satisfy traditional regulations. As the degree has no practical bearing, and as it is always given with one of four marks, there is no danger in sometimes letting the thesis work run down. In America, however, the doctor examination is the one goal of the postgraduate studies ; it is the one entrance gate to the best positions ; and it has thus the function of the German doctorate together with that of the German state examination. The small group of men for whom the doctor’s degree in Germany has a practical bearing is the circle of those who enter the university career; that is, those who seek to become privatdocents of a university, and not teachers of a gymnasium. The entrance upon a university career is indeed dependent upon the “ doctor ” only, and not upon the state examination ; but for this purpose it is required to gain the doctor’s degree with one of the two highest marks, and no thesis which has been marked with summa or magna cum laude is of that cheap kind of thoughtless research which is so often shown here as a dreadful example. Only these excellent theses thus can fairly be compared with those in question for American universities, and they are certainly of a kind to encourage production and publication.
But more than that. Even if the dissertations were in themselves valueless for human knowledge, if they were unworthy of publication, if they were unnecessary as tests for the students, original research, with the goal of a definite special problem to be settled by really scientific methods, should continue to be nowhere more needed than here, as the one great stimulus which our graduates get to active scholarly interest. In Germany they find these incentives through all their lives, in a hundred forms ; here everything comes together to work in the other direction, and to keep men away from the really scientific attitude. The small tasks of original research of the students in the university time are the little fountains in the woods, whose waters unite in the brook which is seen by the world; and only if they are plentiful will the brook ever become a river. It is well known that the beginnings of productive scholarship in this country, thirty or forty years ago, were due to those who came home from such research work in German universities, and that these beginnings have been reinforced and developed by the hundreds who have gone abroad for their studies during the last decades, till only recently the time has come when the American graduate can find the same opportunities in the best American universities. These stimulations of the student time are the real influences which will decide the future of American scholarship ; and whoever belittles the value and retards the development of the students’ research and of the doctorate must understand that he is helping to destroy the real scholarship of the country, or to make it dependent upon that of other nations. At present there seems no occasion to fear for the standard of the degree ; the standard is kept high, but the number of those who seek it is far too small. No one who intends to teach in a college, or even in a high school, ought to end his academic years before he has attained the degree. He has not, like the university teacher, to teach the methods of scholarship, and therefore is under no necessity to lead the life of a productive scholar, but the spark of active scholarship must have touched him ; if he has remained throughout merely a receptive scholar, merely a good college boy, even with his Master of Arts, his teaching will be sterile drudgery.
I have said that after the student days everything militates against scholarly production, in this country ; that our young man enters into a world which does not care for his original work. No one understands the conditions of productive scholarship here who does not consider the path which our young scholar has to follow. I have at present in my psychological seminary at Harvard twenty-six advanced graduate students, — on the average better prepared for scholarly work than the members of a seminary in a German university, as the men here are more mature from their more advanced age, and as the stricter regulation of attendance and course examinations has laid a larger basis of information. What can I now hope from these young men with regard to their chances of making use of their scholarly power in the next twenty years, compared with the chances which just such a set of young men would have in Germany ? Over there, the best of them, the more talented ones, the more ambitious ones, and, I may at once add, the socially stronger ones would choose the career of productive scholarship; and while the majority would be satisfied to jog along the road of the gymnasium teacher, doing the prescribed daily work, without any original effort, some would enter the university career as privatdocents. There might be only three or four in such a group who were ready to do so, but none would feel disappointed if he knew that there was at least one among them in whom the seed would bring fruit. Once admitted to the university as such privatdocents, they can teach as much as they want to, and, above all, can teach whatever they choose, it may be the most specialized topic they are interested in ; they live in an academic atmosphere, devoted exclusively to productive thought, and so they wait till a vacancy of a professorship occurs, knowing that it will be filled by the man who has done the most valuable piece of scholarly work. Their whole ambition is thus directed toward the advancement of science. Of course the choice has to be made by men, and thus human prejudices and passions must enter. It is not always the best scholar who gets the place, — cliques and parties obscure the ideal there as everywhere; but at least the principle is safe, and certainly a local candidate has no advantage over any one else, for the outlook covers all docents who have entered the arena of scholarly literature. And further, while in democratic America the appointments are made by the president and by the trustees of the institutions, without the official coöperation of the faculty, in monarchical Germany no government can appoint a professor who has not been proposed by the faculty; that is, by the professional scholars, who have no more important interest than that of keeping high, by their coöperation, the level of productive scholarship in their university. All the academic premiums await there the young scholar who develops his scientific powers, and thus the institution of docents becomes the real backbone of German university work.
How different here ! Our young men, when they have left our research courses, some of them with a fresh Ph. D. degree in their pockets, have no other prospect before them than to enter as instructors in a college. I do not speak of those who choose another profession, become perhaps school superintendents or technical specialists ; nor do I speak of those whose work was not satisfactory enough to secure them a college position, and who must be contented with lower school positions. I speak of the best, — those who get all our blessings in the form of superlative letters to teachers’ agencies and college presidents. Even these are satisfied when they get decent instructorships or assistant professorships in a college; and they are delighted if the college is by chance not too remote in the Southwest, and if it is not so denominational that they have to sacrifice their convictions, and if it is not so deep in debt that half of the promised salary cannot be paid on time. Let us take, again, the best cases. A good man goes into a good college. We all know what he has to expect.
He finds an abundance of work, which crushes by its quantity his good will to go on with scholarly interests. The young man who has to conduct twenty “ recitations ” a week, and to read hundreds of examination books, and to help on the administrative life of his place, begins by postponing his scientific work to the next year, and the year after next, when he shall be more accustomed to his duties. But after postponing it for a few years more his will becomes lame, his power rusty, his interest faded. The amount of work, however, seems to me the least important issue, and I think it a mistake to regard it as the chief obstacle to production. After all, the day has twenty-four hours, and the year has fiftytwo weeks; a young man with full vitality can carry a heavy burden. I have known men who taught more than twenty hours weekly, and yet considered the teaching as filling the leisure hours between the periods of real work, which was their scholarly production. Much more essential seems to me the quality of the duties. A young scholar ought to devote himself to special problems, where he can really go to the sources ; instead of that, our young instructor has to devote himself to the widest fields, where it is impossible to aim at anything but the most superficial acquaintance. The experienced master can remain scholarly even when he gives the general elementary courses; the beginner, who has no chance ever to focus on one point, but must all the time teach merely the outlines of his subject, will quickly sink to a cheap, undignified interpretation. At first he is troubled in his scholarly conscience, remembering the spirit of the graduate school; but soon he grows accustomed to the prostitution of science, shame disappears, he gets satisfied with a method of thinking which makes his courses effective and his work easy, and the possibility of his own production fades out of sight. And he has plenty of excuses on his lips: the library of his college is so poor; his small laboratory gives him no opportunity ; his salary is too meagre to let him buy books for himself. Above all, he wants to earn a little additional money. Scholarly papers in scientific magazines are not paid for. But several convenient roads are open. He may write a short textbook ; as the students must buy it, the publisher can pay for it. Now the scholar knows that there is nothing more difficult, and nothing more easy, than to write textbooks. The great scholar, who has tried his power in scores of special investigations, may try, at the height of his work, to connect his thoughts about the whole field into one system, and to translate it into the simple terms of a book for beginners. That is the sort of textbook which helps the world : nothing is more difficult and more noble; every line written therein stands for pages. But if a beginner comes and adds to twenty textbooks the twentyfirst, it is scientific reporter work, enervating and ruinous for the scholarly seriousness of the author. Another way is that of popular lectures — preferably before women’s clubs — and articles for popular magazines. All that is poison for the beginner, who loses the power to discriminate between what is solid and what is for effect increasingly as he moves away from the criticism of scholars, and addresses audiences which uncritically applaud every catchy phrase.
Yet the young sufferer who has all these motives consciously as his excuses, and who thinks that he could do original work if he had less lecturing and more money, is mostly unconscious of the strongest factor which pulls him down, as it is a negative factor, which is felt merely by comparison with the situation abroad. This negative factor is the absence of a decided premium upon scholarly production. If he is a fine man, with vitality, he wants to get on; the safest way is to climb up in his own institution, since the possibility of being called to other places depends largely upon chance. But in any case here the advancements and the appointments are made almost without any reference to original production. The men who busy themselves with administrative troubles, who are favorites with the elementary students, who are pleasant speakers, who show themselves industrious by manufacturing books for class use, win the premiums in the competition. And all these are merely the ideal factors: there are plenty of factors the reverse of ideal working besides. Yes, with the exception of the leading universities, he sees productive work so lightly valued that he must consider it a very unsafe investment of energy; and if his passionate zeal and ardent delight in searching out truth hold him fast to the path of scholarship, he feels dimly that he is damaging his chances with the trustees of his little college, and thus, in the majority of cases, working against his own interest. What can be expected from the productive output of a young generation laboring under such conditions, compared with the possibilities in Germany, where in the twenty-one universities more than seven hundred privatdocents are at present working, every one of whom adjusts his teaching to his pleasure, — perhaps one or two hours a week on a subject in which he is absorbed ; every one of whom has no other ambition, and really no other hope, than to draw the attention of the scholarly public to his scholarly productions, knowing that he loses his chances for advancement if he indulges in superficialities ? It is just on account of this period of trial which lies before our young doctors that it becomes so essential to require the printing of the doctor’s thesis. That little printed sheet has once for all brought the beginner before the scholarly world; and while his daily work belongs to his unappreciative surroundings, his intimate interests connect him in his lonely place with the great outer world of truth - seekers. He follows up the magazines to see the traces of his little publication, he remains interested to defend his budding theory, he goes on to develop the incomplete parts of it: and thus his dissertation becomes the one thread which binds him in his days of instructorship to the ideals of his graduate student time.
But let us take for comparison the most favorable case under our conditions. Our young man is vigorous and successful; he becomes a professor of a real university after ten or twenty years. Is he there finally in an atmosphere where the greatest possible output of all that his energies allow is encouraged by the conditions of the institution ? Of course the situation is now more favorable for his serious work than in the small college: the standard is much higher, the atmosphere more dignified ; the outer means for work, books, instruments, are plentiful; advanced students are ready to follow him ; his teaching is reduced to a very reasonable amount, — perhaps one or two hours a day. Everything seems encouraging, and yet he feels instinctively that the fullest stimulus which he had hoped for is even here not found ; he feels as if, under other conditions, more might be attained with his energies ; yes, even here it is as if he had to do his productive work, in a way, against outer influences which pull him back.
I return therewith to the point whence I started. Our friend who has successfully found his way from the little college to the university finds, perhaps with surprise, that, after all, here too, at all decisive points, the college spirit overcomes the university spirit; that the whole academic community is controlled by the ideal of the perfect distribution of knowledge, and not by respect for productive scholarship and the imparting of method. He sees that the vital forces here also are the good teachers, and not the great thinkers. He sees himself, perhaps, in a faculty where real scholars mingle with men who have not the slightest ambition to advance human knowledge, but who have simply done on a great scale all that the men in his fresh-water college did on a narrow scale. He feels as if his productive scholarship were merely tolerated, or at least considered unessential, as no one demands it from the others as an essential condition of their presence. How surprised he is when he sees the alumni of the university meet, and listens to their speeches in praise of the alma mater! He hears beautiful words about patriotism and liberal education, about athletics and gifts of money, about the glorious history and the gifted sons who have become men of public affairs ; but that the university is a place for productive scholarship he does not hear mentioned. He had thought that the advances of human knowledge by the members of his university were the milestones of its history, like the battles which a regiment has fought; he had thought that, as in Germany, the great scholarly conquests of the members of the faculties were the common pride of the old students ; and now he sees that here too no one officially values his cherished ideals. They still remain his private luxury, apart from human ambition and social premiums. And his greatest disappointment comes when he sees that even here activity of productive scholarship adjusts itself to the financial situation, and that all the material conditions push the teachers away from productive scholarship just as strongly in the large university as in the little college where the instructor was paid like a car conductor.
Whenever, in Greek-letter societies, among solemn speeches, someone makes an academic oration about the profession of the scholar, one feature is never forgotten : the scholar does not care for money. That is certainly very uplifting, but it seems hardly true to any one who sees how the great majority of American professors seek money-making opportunities that have a varnish of scholarship, but no pretense of scholarly aims. In a hundred forms, of course, the temptation comes, and by a hundred means does it creep into the scholar’s life, to absorb every hour of leisure which ought to belong to purely ideal pursuits. He will not do anything that will bring money, but he will do few things which bring no money; and as the really scholarly books never bring any income, he deceives himself by all kinds of compromises, — writes popular books here and works for an encyclopædia there, makes schoolbooks and writes expert’s testimonials, works in university extension and lectures before audiences whose judgment he despises. Some energetic men can stand all that without the slightest damage to their higher work ; for the greater number it means surrender as productive scholars. And yet it is all justified ; unjustified alone is the social situation which forces upon a serious scholar such self-destructive activity, and unjustified is the proclamation of the maxim that the scholar ought not to care for a better material fate.
To be sure, it is most honorable in a scholar to accept such a situation in dignified silence ; but often, while it is bad to speak about a thing, it may be worse not to speak about it. It must be said in all frankness that a financial situation in which America’s best scholars — that is, those who are called to instructorships of the leading universities — are so poorly paid that they feel everywhere pushed into pursuits antagonistic to scholarship, thus crushing the spirit of productive scholarship, is not only an undignified state of things, but one of the greatest dangers to the civilization of the country. The scholar is not to be reproached as a greedy materialist for yielding. As long as the present situation of scholarship holds, the overwhelming majority of those who go into teaching will have only narrow private means, and yet they will seek a comfortable life, and they ought to seek it as a background for creative work. They do not envy the rich banker his yachts and horses and diamonds, but they want a home with æsthetic refinement, they want excellent education for their children, they want a library well supplied, they want pleasant social intercourse and refreshing summer life and comfortable travel: and they ought to have all that without doing more than their normal university teaching, being thus free to devote the essential part of their time and thought to the advancement of productive scholarship. Exactly that is the situation in Germany, and no similar freedom of mind can be reached here by the scholar if every university professor, called to his place for real university work, has not a salary which corresponds to the income of the leading professors abroad ; that is, as money has about double value over there, a salary three to five times higher than at present. But to reproduce the benefits of the German situation and its influence on scientific production, it is not enough to raise the level of salaries; it is, above all, desirable to stop the mechanical equality which exists here generally, and which shows most clearly that, administratively, the American university still stands fairly under the ideal of the old college type, where the schoolman reigns and the scholar is a stranger. The raising of the level of salaries may free the mind of the scholar from the search for opportunities to earn money, and thus from the corrupting influence of pseudo-scholarly temptations, but it is clearly a negative factor only ; the inequality of salaries is a positive stimulus, provided that the highest salaries are really given to secure the services of the greatest scholars. In Germany, it not seldom happens that the income of one member of the faculty is five times larger than that of a colleague. There the school-teachers of the gymnasium have equal salaries, and their income grows according to seniority. That is entirely suitable, and a college cannot do otherwise. But to apply that principle to the valuation of scholarly production seems to the Germans not more logical than to fix the prices for all portrait painters according to the square inches of their canvas and their years of service. With them, many professors have much higher incomes than the highest officers of the state, who are their administrative superiors. Germany would never have reached that leading position in scholarship which is hers if she had treated her scholars like clerks or school-teachers, for whom the demand and supply can regulate the price mechanically, because the demand exists as a necessary one. The demand for higher scholarship has to be developed, and the supply has thus to be furthered beyond the present demand by a protective policy.
But America needs to offer large, even very large salaries on still another ground. The freeing of the scholar’s mind from financial cares, and the stimulation of his productive energies, by a system which gives the highest rewards to the best scholarly work, the New World would share with the Old; but there is a third reason, which holds for America alone. It is to my mind the most important factor ; and I confess that I should not have cared to touch the difficult salary problem at all if this point, which will decide the future of American scholarship, were irot involved. We need high salaries because at present they offer the only way open to give slowly to productive scholarship social recognition and social standing, and thus to draw the best men of the land. Without great social premiums America will never get firstrate men as rank and file in the university teaching staff ; and with second-rate men productive scholarship which is really productive for the world can never be created.
The greater number of those who devote themselves to higher teaching in America are young men without means, too often also without breeding; and yet that would be easily compensated for if they were men of the best minds, but they are not. They are mostly men with a passive, almost indifferent sort of mind, without intellectual energy, men who see in the academic career a modest, safe path of life, — exactly the kind of men who in Germany become gymnasium teachers. But those who in Germany become docents of the university are for the most part of the opposite type; they are, on the whole, the best human material which the country has. They come mostly from well-to-do families, and seek the career because they feel the productive mental energy and the ambition to try their chances in a field of honor. Indeed, while the profession of the gymnasium teacher stands, in the social estimation of the German, below that of the lawyer and the physician, the banker and the wholesale merchant, the high respect of the German for productive science and art brings it about that the profession of the university teacher, together with the aristocratic professions of officer and diplomat, stands as the most highly esteemed socially. Titles and decorations, as symbolic forms of public appreciation, add another to the outer stimulants to the greatest efforts. Thus the social honor of the career, the large income, and, above all, the delights of a life devoted purely to the clean enjoyment of production work together to draw into the nets of the universities the very best human material ; and as, after all, personality is everywhere the decisive factor, the high quality of this human material secures the immense success of the work.
Nothing similar stands as yet as a temptation before the mind of the young American, and it would be to ignore the nature of man to believe that while all social premiums, all incentives for ambition and hopes, are absent, a merely theoretical interest will turn the youth to a kind of life which offers so little attraction. Can we really expect many brilliant young men of good families to enter a career which will for years demand from them superficial teaching in the atmosphere of a little college, with no hope, even in the case of highest success, of a salary equal to the income of a mediocre lawyer, and in a professional atmosphere in which the spirit of scholarly interest is suppressed by the spirit of school education ? Our best young men must rush to law and banking, and what not. The type of man who in Germany goes into the university career is in this country the exception among the younger instructors. Those exceptions must become the rule before the whole level of production will be raised. As soon as the first-class men are drawn to it, no quantity of work will harm them ; men of that stamp have the vitality to do first-class work under any circumstances. America cannot bring it about by means of decorations and titles and, as in England, baronetcies ; and it cannot start with social prestige, as social prestige is naturally only a consequence of first-class work and of the first-class men in it. High salaries are therefore, at present, the only means which the country has at its disposal.
I well remember a long conversation which I had with one of the best English scholars, who came over here to lecture when I had been only a short time in the country, and was without experience in American academic affairs. We spoke about the disappointingly low level of American scholarship, and he said : “ America will not have first-class scholarship, in the sense in which Germany or England has it, till every professor in the leading universities has at least ten thousand dollars salary, and the best scholars receive twenty - five thousand dollars.” I was distinctly shocked, and called it a pessimistic and materialistic view. But he insisted : “ No, the American is not anxious for the money itself ; but money is to him the measure of success, and therefore the career needs the backing of money to raise it to social respect and attractiveness, and to win over the finest minds.” My English acquaintance did not convince me at that time, but the years have convinced me : the years which have brought me into contact with hundreds of students and instructors in the whole land ; the years in which I have watched the development of some of the finest students, who hesitated long whether to follow their inclination toward scholarship, and who finally went into law or into business for the sake of the social premiums.
As soon as the best men are attracted and excellent work is really done, the development will be a natural one. On the one hand, the community will begin to understand the great meaning of productive scholarship, and its world-wide difference from receptive and distributing scholarship ; university work will thus get its social recognition, and the ambition to be a productive scholar — not merely a pleasant author — will be the highest stimulus in itself, anti will secure for all time the highest standard. Then, also, the question of salaries will become quite secondary. America has no difficulty in filling the positions of ambassadors, even though the expenses are not seldom three times greater than the salaries. In the same way, Germany would be able to fill its professorial chairs if they brought no salary at all; the honor of the place rewards its holder, but at first this honor must be made clear to the community. On the other hand, as soon as the really best men go into the work, they must break that too narrow form which is the relic of an unproductive past: teaching in a college cannot be then any longer the necessary preparation for a real university position. Something like the German institution of the docent, which keeps the young scholar from the beginning in the large university, with work according to his own taste, must become the rule. That would interfere with the present system of counting all courses as equivalent for the degrees, and thus such a change would indirectly bring it about that all counting of courses for the graduate students would stop. The difference between college and university would then become still more marked. The graduate school would become more and more the place for real intellectual independence, and that would reinforce in the university teachers the spirit of scholarly production. And this, again, would set higher standards for those college teachers who feel the stimulus to creative scholarship; as candidates for the university professorships, these men would stand in line with the docents, as every vacant chair would be filled by the author of the most important contributions to human knowledge. Thus a mutual stimulation would bring about a new academic situation, in which American scholarship would become equal to the best European production ; but that condition can never be reached as long as the university keeps up artificially the forms and the spirit of the college.
Of course all such considerations lose their power and meaning as soon as the end and purpose is contested. Whoever imagines that productive scholarship is a kind of dreamy idleness, which is of no use for a busy nation, can have no interest in anything which goes beyond a liberal education, and he will be quite willing to import from Europe the material of new thoughts for that liberal education. This is not the place to repeat all the commonplaces which point out the utter absurdity of such a view. I do not care to demonstrate here that even material welfare, industry and commerce and war, health and wealth, are from year to year increasingly dependent upon the quiet work of scholars and scientists,—work done without direct practical aim, done merely for the honor of truth. And still less do I desire to enter upon sounding declarations that the real civilization of a nation is expressed, not by its material achievements, but by the energies which are working in it toward the moral life and the search for truth and the creation of beauty. I have spoken here only to those who agree that America must not stand behind any nation in its real productive scholarship, in its intellectual creation, in its power to mould the thoughts of the world.
The only sound objection seems the familiar one that Americans have no talent for scholarship. It has been said that, just as England has no great composer, America will never have a great scholar. I do not believe that. At the middle of the seventeenth century all the nations of Europe had great philosophers, — Bacon and Hobbes in England, Descartes and Malebranche in France, Grotius and Spinoza in Holland, Bruno and Campanella in Italy ; and only Germany had the reputation of having no talent for philosophy. It was just before Leibnitz appeared on the horizon, and Kant and Fichte and Hegel followed, and Germany became the centre of philosophy. As soon as the right conditions are given, here too new energies will rush to the foreground. In carefully watching, year after year, American students, I am fully convinced that their talent for productive scholarship is certainly not less than that of the best German students. Compared with them, our students have an inferior training in hard systematic work, as their secondary school education is usually inferior ; but I do not wish to touch again upon that dangerous chapter. And secondly, they have infinitely poorer chances for scholarly work in their future, as I have fully pointed out. With a more strenuous preparatory training behind them, and a more favorable opportunity for productive work before them, these students would be the noblest material from which to develop American scholarship.
And I gain my strongest conviction and belief in American scholarship from the admiration for all that the scholars of the past and of the present have done. Indeed, it is with the fullest admiration that I look upon the personal achievements in scholarship all over the land. Not only in Harvard, where I see the memory of noble scholars like Agassiz and Peirce, Gray and Child, honored and imitated, and where in my own philosophical department colleagues of eminent creative power set the standard ; no, in the most different universities, and often even in small colleges, I have admired the productiveness of brilliant scholars. Yet I have always felt instinctively how much more of lasting value these scores of scholars might have produced, had not all the social factors, all the external conditions, all the public institutions and public moods, worked against them, and hindered and hampered their splendid work. Yes, I should not have written a line of these considerations did I not hope that it will be clear to every one that all my criticism is directed merely against the system, and never against persons. American scholarship as a whole is so far weak, and not to be compared with America’s achievements in technique and industry, in commerce and public education ; inferior even to its poetry and architecture. But it is merely because the institutions are undeveloped ; the best musicians cannot play a symphony on a fiddle and a drum. Yet it is wonderful how much they have done in the last twenty years against and in spite of the public spirit; how much, after all, has been produced while everything was crushing the zeal for production. This fact that America has done something, even under the most adverse circumstances, strongly inspires the hope that it will do great things when once the circumstances shall be as favorable as they are in Germany ; that is, when the university work is by its aims clearly separated from the work of the lower college classes, when the calls to university chairs are made first of all with reference to scholarly production, when the young scholar has a chance to remain as docent from the beginning in advanced university work, and when the social side of the profession is so developed that it attracts the best men of the country. The development of the institutions, on the other hand, has been such a rapid one in the last years that certainly the hope is justified that the last step will soon be taken : the time is ripe for it. Then the universities will become the soul of the country, and productive scholarship will be the soul of the universities ; the best men will then enter into their service, and the productive scholarship of the country will also be gigantic in just proportion to its resources.