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I HAVE the misfortune of being provided with money sufficient for my daily wants. Not that I realized my misfortune at first; it was not till I came to College that I was fully aware of the magnitude of the evil. And it is to pray for a last chance of reclamation for myself and my companions in distress, that I write this article. When the weed of indiscriminate charity becomes so vigorous as to crowd a decent fellow-sprig out of existence, the time were come, it would seem, for a little interference. So much humbug has crept into the charity of to-day, that "the greatest of these three" is at war with the chief purposes of a higher education.
A university should be a charitable institution in no way save where the interests of education can be promoted; but we have a monomania, here, for the assistance of the se facturi ipsi to the detriment of all others, which will some day reduce our College to a classical and scientific poor-house with aesthetic accompaniments.
The reference is to the method pursued as to scholarships and other baits for catching ideas and encouraging the development of brains.
The great, essential attainment which, with us, secures to a man a scholarship, is - indigence. If he has ability, tant mieux; but no supply of the latter rather important attribute qualifies him for winning a University benefice, save in one or two instances, while poorer men are in many ways encouraged to excel in all departments. The results are, first, that the absence of all men not dependent on college aid from the contest lowers the standard of excellence in College; and, second, that society is overstocked with unambitious gentlemen of leisure, unable to pursue professional studies, after graduating, with credit to themselves or to the sphere of life to which they aspire.
It should be a matter of entire indifference to the College whether a man with means or without attain a higher rank; its function is simply to bring out of students what is mentally valuable; beyond that it should have no concern. But, unfortunately, our College governors seem to take it for granted that, because a man is independent of their assistance, his brains are inconsiderable; it is quite enough to let him pass quickly by, - run down hill, if he choose (and this, it is thought, in all probability he will do); his efforts towards firmness of purpose and self-improvement are tolerated, but not warmly approved.
The man who needs College aid is particularly to be encouraged, - he must not be lost sight of, he is the mainstay of the land; but, if he is pecuniarily successful in after life, his children are snubbed in their turn, - they have their innings in the little game of College tag, and out go they: so that College tactics would seem to be directed to the admirable end of preparing men without means for the propagation of the loafing species.
It is said, of course, that if a student is worth making anything of, he should need no incentive so sordid as money; he should seek improvement for its own sake, and give his less fortunate brother a chance, - in other words, give him the race. For it is the more wealthy student, tempted by the pleasures of society, who needs the spur of emulation. The University has no business to assume that some men are less selfish than others; nor is it its province to see how many men of one class it can educate more than those of another. Res angusta domi is not necessarily a cause of merit.
There is another phase of this question, a political phase, important to us all. Education has no more important duty than to purify and improve our government, which has suffered for these reasons: the poorer class of educated men have not been able to take political office, because the salaries are insufficient to compensate them for the loss of their profession; the wealthier class are incapable or indifferent, partly on account of our system of education; and so ignorance must fill up the gap.
If the first-named class cannot go into public life, let the second be encouraged to do so; here is a sphere for them where their means will render them sufficiently independent to regard their political position in a light that is not one of money-making. Our great want in office is for men of intelligence, reputation, and social position, who, having honor to lose themselves, will have regard for the honor of their country.
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