AMERICAN COLLEGES IN TURKEY PROVE INVALUABLE
The Reverend John Ernest Merrill, as President of Central Turkey College, Aintab, Turkey, since 1906, has been one of the leaders in new educational movements in the Near East. He has had to undergo all the trials of a Christian missionary in t
With the passing of emergency relief in the Near East, the attention of Americans will be directed to forms of assistance which promise permanent results. In the first rank stand the American colleges.
American colleges in the Near East are of two classes, the coast colleges at Constantinople, Smyrna and Beirut, which are relatively prominent, and the interior colleges, which are seen by fewer travellers and are less well known.
Coast Colleges in Contact With World
The coast colleges have the advantage of rapid communication with the world and enjoy other facilities of western civilization, but they suffer from unfavorable influences which characterize life along the coast in the Levant. The interior colleges are almost free from these influences, are in contact with normal native life, and have an unequalled opportunity for bringing influence to bear upon it directly.
Robert College at Constantinople and Syrian Protestant College at Beirut were the first of these American colleges historically. The first of the interior colleges, Central Turkey College, established at Aintab in 1876, came next, and it was followed by other colleges at Harpout, Marsovan, Tarsus, Konia, Sivas and Van.
This college at Aintab has proven unique in many ways, as it has adopted principles and followed policies which have not received such full recognition elsewhere in Turkey.
College Founded Because of Demand
At the beginning the college was established, not so much from a desire on the part of the Americans to expand their work, as in response to an urgent demand on the part of the people of the country for a college training for their preachers and teachers, primarily.
Such a college must require large assistance from America, financially and otherwise, yet here the native people resolved to bear their share and gave what was for them and for that time a gift showing wonderful faith in Christian education and in the future. They contributed 160,000 plasters, actually about seven thousand dollars, but in purchasing power in that country the equivalent of at least $30,000, not a mean gift for education in the early seventies, even in America.
The management of this college was projected on new lines. A Board of Trustees in America would be necessary, but it was planned that from the beginning the local management, and ultimately the entire control of the institution, should be vested in residents of Turkey, that the native constituency should bear an equal and finally a preponderant share in the privilege and responsibility of this management, and that they should exercise this power not as a gift but as a matter of right, guaranteed by the fundamental law of the college organization. A temporary Board of Founders and later a permanent Board of Managers, each consisting of four Americans and four natives, were organized in Turkey, and the authority to elect successors, whether Americans or natives, was vested in the native constituency alone.
It is easy to see that a sense of ownership would be developed and the native people would feel and say, "Our College". After twenty-five years of successful development, an advance along the lines foreseen was authorized, so that today the Board of Managers has four American and six native members, a native majority. This Board was ready in 1914 to accept responsibility for the financial solvency of the institution.
Native Faculty Necessary for Success
Such a college would fail of its objective, if manned by a group of foreign professors, however brilliant. A faculty, equal in training to a similar group of Americans, but themselves natives of the country, belonging to and understanding thoroughly the people, must be the ideal. Such a faculty had come into existence before the war, and already there had been a first generation of three such pioneer teachers, trained at Yale and Amherst. The professors of the second generation were men, graduated first at Aintab, who had taken postgraduate work abroad in America, France, Germany or Great Britain. One had his Licen, en Droit from the University of Paris, another his M.A. from Yale, another his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Columbia, another had graduated in Mining Engineering and another had taken his C.E. both at Sheffield Scientific School. Such men could not accept appointment in an interior college without great pecuniary loss. They have been marked by the sacrifice and devotion which have characterized instructors in pioneer institutions in America.
Circumstances, radical and political, have led to a distinctive method of study, recitation and lecture. The population of Aintab are Turkish-speaking. The text-books to be used are American. Students are obliged to learn English and French as well as Turkish and Armenian or Arabic, but, with the exception of language lessons, practically all the class room work is conducted in the vernacular. The texts are standard books in American Colleges, like Kimball in Physics, Alex, Smith in Chemistry, Weber in History of Philosophy, Gide in Political Economy, but recitation, discussion and lectures are in the vernacular. As a result, students are unable to memorize, and are compelled to understand the subjects in order to pass their work. Thought is stimulated in the students and teaching interest in the instructors. A trained native teacher, speaking in terms of "mother-thought" as well as in the mother-tongue, can achieve results with native students whose psychology he thoroughly understands, such as would be impossible for a foreigner without years of residence in the country and of experience.
Ideal to Train Natives
Definitely, the ideal of the college is not to make Americans or semi-Americans, but to train native leaders for the country of their birth. Therefore, instead of attempting to segregate students and impress them with foreign ideals, they are left in contact with their normal environment so that there may be a continual interplay and progressive and natural adjustment between new truth and the old life. The college is content to introduce germinal ideas, expecting them to become dynamic in natural, indigenous ways. It would be of little benefit to Turkey to turn out emigrants to America, men whose education simply has made them dissatisfied with their homes. Rather the aim is to produce men willing to go back to their homes and work out there in Turkey the indistinct visions of their college days. In securing such results, there has been a large measure of success. In the alumni list, two-thirds of the graduates figure as residents of Turkey, and three-fourths of these with justice can be said to have become the leaders of the people among whom they lived. For every two graduates who have gone into business, two have gone into the ministry, three into teaching, and four into medicine or pharmacy.
With the special animosity shown by the Young Turk regime to educated Christians, the college alumni have suffered heavily during the years of the war. Over fifty were murdered or met death through disease occasioned by war conditions. Over forty served as physicians in the Turkish Army.
Admission Requirements High
In 1914, Central Turkey College stood at the head of a system of native Christian education, without a parallel, so far as we know, in the empire, and comparable only to the system of the government. Six years in primary schools and five in secondary schools were required for admission in the Freshman class. Freshman and sophomore years were on a par with the last two years of the government lycee the government curriculum being modelled on that of the French, and by a new firman the work of the junior and senior years was recognized officially as of university grade. Permission was granted also to commence professional instruction, and beginnings were made in Education and Engineering.
The objective of the college has been much broader than the simple establishment of an institution where young men could secure an education. Rather there has been constantly in mind the social aim of assisting a native people in the development of the machinery of a higher education of their own, of accustoming them to its activities and administration by making them accept at once a share in the burdens of instruction and management, and of urging them to undertake as rapidly as possible responsibility for its financial support.
The college has exercised great influence indirectly upon the people of the city, both Christians and Moslems, it has given rise, partly by way of competition, to three local schools of Iycee ranking, one of them Moslem. When the college was founded, the excellent site outside the city was given by a wealthy Moslem, and though the attendance of Moslem students was prohibited under the old regime and interfered with under the new, the eyes of the Turks have been upon it continually.
Aintab falls within the territory of the French mandate in Syria, and seems to be the only interior city where there is an American college, where complete regulations and social freedom will be guaranteed to the entire population, both Christians and Moslems, by a foreign power. There is little doubt that Turkish students will take advantage of the new opportunity. A proof of the new spirit is seen in the fact that since the surrender of the Turks to the French on February 8, 1921, the Turks of Aintab have invited the Americans to take over the management of their common schools, a request without parallel in Turkey!