Practical Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 252 pages of information about Practical Essays.

[Footnote 14:  This Society has since been dissolved.]

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VI.

THE UNIVERSITY IDEAL—­PAST AND PRESENT.[15]

GENTLEMEN,

By your flattering estimate of my services, I have been unexpectedly summoned from retirement, to assume the honours and the duties of the purple, and to occupy the most historically important office in the Universities of Europe.

The present demands upon the Rectorship somewhat resemble what we are told of the Homeric chief, who, in company with his Council or Senate, the Boule, and the Popular Assembly, or Agora, made up the political constitution of the tribe.  The functions of the chief, it is said, were to supply wise counsel to the Boule (as we might call our Court), and unctuous eloquence to the Agora.  The second of these requirements is what weighs upon me at the present moment.

Whatever may have been the practice of my predecessors, generally strangers to you, it would be altogether unbecoming in me to travel out of our University life, for the materials of an Address.  My remarks then will principally bear on the UNIVERSITY IDEAL.

[THE HIGHER TEACHING IN GREECE.]

To the Greeks we are indebted for the earliest germ of the University.  It was with them chiefly that education took that great leap, the greatest ever made, from the traditional teaching of the home, the shop, the social surroundings, to schoolmaster teaching properly so called.  Nowadays, we, schoolmasters, think so much of ourselves, that we do not make full allowance for that other teaching, which was, for unknown ages, the only teaching of mankind.  The Greeks were the first to introduce, not perhaps the primary schoolmaster, for the R’s, but certainly the secondary or higher schoolmaster, known as Rhetorician or Sophist, who taught the higher professions; while their Philosophers or wise men, introduced a kind of knowledge that gave scope to the intellectual faculties, with or without professional applications; the very idea of our Faculty of Arts.

So self-asserting were these new-born teachers of the Sophist class, that Plato thought it necessary to recall attention to the good old perennial source of instruction, the home, the trade, and the society.  He pointed out that the pretenders to teach virtue by moral lecturing, were as yet completely outrivalled by the influence of the family and the social pressure of the community.  In like manner, the arts of life were all originally handed down by apprenticeship and imitation.  The greatest statesmen and generals of early times had simply the education of the actual work.  Philip of Macedon could have had no other teaching; his greater son was the first of the line to receive what we may call a liberal, or a general education, under the educator of all Europe.

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