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EDITORS HERALD-CRIMSON :- Dear Sirs : The report of President Porter's recent lecture on European colleges and schools, as copied in the HERALDCRIMSON from the News, is likely to diffuse some very erroneous ideas respecting certain very important features of the English universities and schools, and I think you will not be unwilling to allow a little space for their correction. Let me premise however that it seems to me probable the News reporter may have misunderstood President Porter's remarks, as I should suppose a gentleman so eminent as a scholar and as the head of a great college would have taken pains to be more accurately informed. It is my purpose to ask him for a copy of his lecture, if published, as I hope may be the case.
He is represented as stating that "there are twelve great public schools intimately connected with the universities, one to one, another to another. The student passes from the school to the university without an examination. He is retained at the school six years. Add two years to our preparatory schools, and two to our college, and we have the English system." The italics are mine. Farther on is this passage. "Then, in aristocratic England a university man has great political and social advantages, which, in a democratic country like America, count for little."
Now both these passages, as thus (probably not quite correctly) reported convey decidedly erroneous ideas, of which the interest of your readers require the correction. It is quite true that both several of the more celebrated "public schools" of England, e. g., Winchesher, Eton, Winchester, Merchant Taylors' (London), Westminster, and also a very large number of "public" or "grammar" schools (founded three hundred years ago for teaching Latin grammar as the necessary key to all higher education in the revival period) were, by their founders' wills connected with, or placed under the supervision of certain colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, and scholarships and exhibitions at these colleges were endowed for pupils trained at such schools, provided they pass certain, by no means easy examinations. Great good has resulted to education from this fact, and great gratitude is due to those generous and wise men of the 15th and 16th centuries, who thus secured to diligent students of the humblest classes the means of obtaining at school and college sound classical and scientific education.
But it is not the fact that "students pass from any school to the university without examinations." At some of those named above, examiners-dis-tinguished fellows of the colleges-go down annually from Oxford and Cambridge to the schools, and examine, chiefly by papers,-as the Harvard examiners now do at Chicago, Philadelphia, and other centres-in English classics, mathematics, natural sciences and modern languages-and those who pass that examination with credit are awarded scholarships as exhibitions at certain colleges.
For instance, at King's College, Cambridge, besides many other open scholarship, there are, on one foundation, forty-eight of about L80 a year, of which 24 are appropriated to Eton School and College, whose successful pupils also get rooms and "commons" (board) free till the taking of the B. A. Degree. Subsequently, if their scholarship and conduct continues to be satisfactory, they have preference for certain fellowships at King's.
At Trinity-the chief college of Cambridge-most of the scholarships are open by competitive examinations to "all comers" of good character under nineteen years of age, and the winner of one of them must be a youth of no low order of scholarship as a long series of papers in my possession prove. But two or three (as the funds afford) are awarded annually to pupils of Westminister School in the way stated above. There are also at Trinity College sixteen sizarships, worth L100 sterling a year, open to all on like conditions of age and of a severe three day's examination.
At St. John's College, eight scholarships are appropriated to Hereford Grammar School, five to Manchester, five to Marlborough, and the examination is made at the schools by Cambridge examiners. In like manner at Oxford, at New College, six scholarships each year of L80 a year are secured to Winchester School at Balliol, ten "Snell" scholarships are given annually to Glasgow University ; at Christ's Church, three each year to Westminister ; at St. John's, fifteen are awarded to Merchant Taylors' School (London) after open examination by Oxford examiners at the school. I could mention many more, but this may suffice. No students pass into the university from these schools without a very searching examination. Let me add, while the school courses are generally six years, candidates are only required to be two years at most of the schools.
In regard to the other passage associating "aristocratic" with this school and college system, let me say-as I can without contradiction-the "public" or "grammar" schools of England, not twelve merely, but, large and small, more than 200, and the scholarships at the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, are the main popular or democratic safeguards of the social system of the country. They have been the means of enabling, for three hundred years, many sons of humble tradesmen, clerks and farmers to rise to the highest offices in church and state. not a few of England's Archbishops and Lord Chancellors have risen to their lofty positions through their own talents and diligence, fostered and assisted by the old free grammar schools and the college scholarships.
Yours etc.E. R. HUMPHREYS.Boston, Nov. 10, 1883
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