The first president of Johns Hopkins University, Daniel Coit Gilman, laid out 12 themes that should govern a university education in his inaugural address of February 22, 1876. Some of the themes are more profound than others, but it\’s interesting to consider which of these points would be emphasized by a current college president.
Is, then, anything settled in respect to university education? Much, very much. Can we draw a statement of what is agreed upon? At any rate we can try. The schedule will include twelve points on which there seems to be a general agreement.
- All sciences are worthy of promotion; or in other words, it is useless to dispute whether literature or science should receive most attention, or whether there is any essential difference between the old and the new education.
- Religion has nothing to fear from science, and science need not be afraid of religion. Religion claims to interpret the word of God, and science to reveal the laws of God. The interpreters may blunder, but truths are immutable, eternal and never in conflict.
- Remote utility is quite as worthy to be thought of as immediate advantage. Those ventures are not always most sagacious that expect a return on the morrow. It sometimes pays to send our argosies across the seas; to make investments with an eye to slow but sure returns. So it is always in the promotion of science.
- As it is impossible for any university to encourage with equal freedom all branches of learning, a selection must be made by enlightened governors, and that selection must depend on the requirements and deficiencies of a given people, in a given period. There is no absolute standard of preference. What is more important at one time or in one place may be less needed elsewhere and otherwise.
- Individual students cannot pursue all branches of learning, and must be allowed to select, under the guidance of those who are appointed to counsel them. Nor can able professors be governed by routine. Teachers and pupils must be allowed great freedom in their methods of work. Recitations, lectures, examinations, laboratories, libraries, field exercises, travels, are all legitimate means of culture.
- The best scholars will almost invariably be those who make special attainments on the foundation of a broad and liberal culture.
- The best teachers are usually those who are free, competent and willing to make original researches in the library and the laboratory.
- The best investigators are usually those who have also the responsibilities of instruction, gaining thus the incitement of colleagues, the encouragement of pupils, the observation of the public.
- Universities should bestow their honors with sparing hand; their benefits most freely.
- A university cannot be created in a day; it a slow growth. The University of Berlin has been quoted as a proof of the contrary. That was indeed quick success, but in an old, compact country, crowded with learned men eager to assemble at the Prussian court. It was a change of base rather than sudden development.
- The object of the university is to develop character — to make men. It misses its aim if it produced learned pedants, or simple artisans, or cunning sophists, or pretentious practitioners. Its purport is not so much to impart knowledge to the pupils, as whet the appetite, exhibit methods, develop powers, strengthen judgment, and invigorate the intellectual and moral forces. It should prepare for the service of society a class of students who will be wise, thoughtful, progressive guides in whatever department of work or thought they may be engaged.
- Universities easily fall into ruts. Almost every epoch requires a fresh start.