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The Hopkins University
by [?]

The Baltimore American, discussing the plan of the Hopkins University in that city, says: “The Nation suggests to the Board of Trustees a university that would leave Latin, Greek, mathematics, and the elements of natural science out of its curriculum.” This is so great a mistake that we are at a loss to understand how it could have been made. The Nation has never suggested anything of the kind. The university which the Nation has expressed the hope the trustees would found is simply a university with such a high standard for admission on all subjects that the professors would be saved the necessity of teaching the rudiments of either Latin, Greek, mathematics, or natural science; or, in other words, that the country would be saved considerable waste of skilled labor. The reason why we have ventured to expect this of the Hopkins trustees is that they enjoy the all but unprecedented advantage of being left in possession of a very large bequest, with complete liberty, within very wide limits, as to the disposition of it. In other words, they are to found a university with it, but as to the kind of university they may exercise their discretion.

That this is a very exceptional position everybody familiar with the history of American colleges knows. All the older colleges are bound to the state, or to certain religious denominations, by laws or usages or precedents which impose a certain tolerably fixed character either on the subjects or on the mode of teaching them, or on both. They have traditions to uphold, or denominational interests to care for, or political prejudices to satisfy. The newer ones, on the other hand, are apt to have incurred a bondage even worse still, in having to carry out the wishes of a founder who, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, had only a faint notion of the nature and needs of a university, and in endowing one sought rather to erect a monument to his memory than to found a seat of learning. In so far as he was interested in the curriculum, he probably desired that it should be such as would satisfy some want which he himself felt, or thought he felt, in early life, or should diffuse some social or religious or political crotchet on which his fancy had secretly fed during his years of active exertion, and on the success of which he came to think, in the latter part of his life, that the best interests of the community were dependent. The number of these honorably ambitious but ill-informed and somewhat eccentric testators increases every year, as the country grows in wealth and the habit of giving to public objects gains in strength.

The consequence is that we are threatened with the spectacle during the coming century of a great waste of money by well-meaning persons in the establishment all over the country of institutions calling themselves “universities,” which are either so feebly equipped as rather to hinder than help the cause of education, or so completely committed by their organization to the propagation of certain social or religious theories as to deserve the appellation of mission stations rather than of colleges. Education is now an art of exceeding delicacy and complexity. To master it, so as to have a trustworthy opinion as to the relative value of studies and as to the best mode of pursuing them, and as to the organization of institutions devoted to the work of instruction, a man needs both learning and experience. The giving him money to employ in his special work, therefore, without leaving him discretion as to the manner in which he shall use it, is to prepare almost certainly for its waste in more than one direction. To make the most of the resources of the country for educational purposes, it is necessary above all things that they should be placed at the disposal of those who have made education a special study, and who are free, as we understand the Hopkins trustees to be, from any special bias or bond, and are ready or willing to look at the subject from every side. Their liberty, of course, brings with it great responsibility–all the greater for the reasons we have been enumerating.