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´╗┐Title: A Broader Mission for Liberal Education - Baccalaureate Address, Delivered in Agricultural College - Chapel, Sunday June 9, 1901
Author: Worst, John H. (John Henry), 1850-1945
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Broader Mission for Liberal Education - Baccalaureate Address, Delivered in Agricultural College - Chapel, Sunday June 9, 1901" ***

A Broader
Mission for
Liberal Education...

_Baccalaureate Address,
Delivered in
Agricultural College Chapel,
Sunday, June 9, 1901._


A Broader Mission for Liberal

Baccalaureate Address, Delivered in Agricultural
College Chapel, Sunday, June 9, 1901.


North Dakota.

[Illustration: J H Worst]


JUNE 9, 1901.


In America we recognize no aristocracy except that of genius or of
character. Our countrymen are all citizens. Our government was founded
upon the principle that "all men are created free and equal" and though
intellectual endowments differ widely in individuals, yet special
privileges are accorded to no one as a birthright. Therefore the college
graduate, as well as any other aspirant, must carve his way to fame and
fortune by energy and perseverance, or lose his opportunity in the
tremendous activities going on about him. His only advantage is superior
training which must nevertheless be pitted against practical minds in
strenuous rivalry for every desirable thing he would accomplish. The
mere fact of education is considered no badge of merit. Education
represents power, but until it manifests itself in action, it is merely
static, not dynamic, potential, not actual. It conveys to its recipient
no self-acting machinery which, without lubricant or engineer will reel
off success or impress mankind, as a matter of course.

The question is no longer asked by practical men "what does a man know"
but "what can he do?" Knowing and doing have thus become so intimately
associated by common consent as to be inseparable; for knowing without
doing is indolence and doing without knowing is waste of energy. The
former is sinful, the latter wasteful. For many years progressive
educators have been striving against the culture-alone theory and
advocating the education of the whole man--hand as well as head, body as
well as mind. As a result the ancient educational structure is pretty
well broken down, and the erstwhile curriculum has become a
reminiscence. Many wealthy parents still educate their children for the
larger pleasure which they believe education of the old type will afford
them in life, but parents generally have come to look upon life as a
period of intense activity rather than a brief round of pleasure, and
hence provide an education for their children that will fit them for the
every day demands that duty or necessity may make upon them. Since it is
a matter of common observation that wealth is easily dissipated,
especially when inherited, farseeing parents prefer an education for
their children that is adapted to some useful end rather than the
education that is largely ornamental or fashionable.

The vicissitudes of life are many. Fortune is fickle and but few young
people can hope to command perpetual leisure even should their bad
judgment make such a thing desirable. There can never be real
independence of thought and action apart from one's conscious ability to
cope with others on equal terms in any human emergency. The young man
who rejoices in the provident hoardings of his ancestors which exempt
him from strenuous exertion on his own part has but a small mission in
life. Work is the normal condition of man. The stern necessity that
compels him to labor, to think and to plan, lifts him into the
pleasurable atmosphere of usefulness and imparts zeal and ambition to
his energies. There can be no "excellence without great labor", and
"hard work is only another name for genius."

A young man cannot begin life with a richer heritage than good health,
good habits and a liberal education--an education that imparts culture
to his mind and power to his body. If he should never have occasion to
use his hands in some useful vocation, the training they have received
will never prove burdensome. On the other hand, the fact of being in
possession of reserve powers will prove a source of pleasure. It will
dispel many a dark cloud and remove positive forebodings of possible
want. The world is strewn with the wrecks of men who inherited fortunes
before they had developed the mental poise or business experience
necessary to estimate money at its true value. If they had earned their
money by honest effort they would not have fallen into habits that led
to unbridled extravagance and ultimate disgrace. The inheritance of
unearned wealth quite frequently proves a curse rather than a blessing.

God never intended, however, that parents should provide a property
inheritance for their children that will deprive them of the natural
advantages which reasonable labor and its restraining influence afford
both body and mind. Parental drudgery and self-denial for the purpose of
relieving children from the necessity of wholesome effort is mistaken
generosity. It makes parent and child alike fall short of the high
purposes for which life is given. For life is intended for more
important purposes than mere money-getting or the pursuit of objects
from which man is utterly divorced at death. Poor indeed must be the
soul if, at death, it must part from all it loved in life. But this
frenzy of excitement in which parents live in order that their children
may be heirs leaves no time for the consideration of higher and better
things. How much more lamentable, too, is such striving in the light of
the fact that those who are to be benefited by these inheritances are in
reality harmed and checked in their development. Said Senator Dolliver:
"If I had a son and $100,000, I would keep the two apart."

Every man owes a duty to God, to his country, to his family and to
himself. To discharge these obligations honestly, fearlessly and with
credit should be his earnest purpose. No ambition should be entertained
that does not embrace these fundamental duties and no career should be
considered worthy that even underrates their sanctity. The fact that men
occasionally become prominent in business, social and political affairs
by subordinating conscience and character to position or gain should not
swerve a young man from the strict path of rectitude. Victories won by
strategy or injustice, whether in business or politics, seldom remain
permanent and never afford substantial enjoyment. Society has but little
use for the man who wears a mask.

In this busy world there is honest work for every man to perform.
Civilization has multiplied human wants and also developed the ingenuity
necessary to gratify them. But it requires labor. Not such, however, as
was performed by the slave, but skilled labor--labor where the hand is
guided by an intellect, quickened by the agency of class-room and
laboratory for the task assigned; labor, such as will reflect credit
upon and elevate a gentleman. For there is no honest work a gentleman
may not do. Work elevates a man. It perpetuates the manhood he
inherited, which was built up by labor and thought in the flesh and
blood of his ancestors. The necessity for labor, therefore is heaven's
blessing and to repudiate it is to invite physical and mental decay.

Liberal education should take a far wider range than has ever been
assigned to it and exert an influence affecting matter as well as mind.
It has a double mission, that of facilitating earning power to provide
for physical comforts and also to prepare them to live.

In a republic where every able bodied citizen is an equal factor and
where one is possessed of mutual privileges and obligations, society
demands that each shall do his part. To be consistent society also
should afford equal educational facilities for all; facilities having as
direct bearing upon vocation as upon profession, and for those desiring
it, an educational training as liberal for manual pursuits as is
required for law, medicine or theology.

The standard of manhood must advance to meet the new conditions and the
tremendous responsibilities of the century we have entered upon. Within
the present boundaries of the United States there exists the requisite
area, soil fertility and other resources sufficient to support a
government of five hundred million people. Our patriotism, therefore,
must be directed toward realizing the largest possible destiny for our
country. We should strive so to conserve the natural resources of the
nation that with six or seven times our present population there will be
no abridgment of opportunity to make a living and to fulfill the purpose
for which life was created. The experiment of self-government will have
to withstand severer strains in the future than in the past unless our
education is as democratic as our politics. The educational energies of
the nation must be so diffused as to uplift all classes, reducing to the
smallest possible minimum the army of unskilled workmen. Through skill
and training, labor must become pleasure. Steam and electricity must
take the place of human energy, lessen waste of raw material and elevate
the hand that guides the machine.

The present generation is sinfully extravagant. Forests, mines and soil
fertility are wasted with wanton prodigality. We speak of our coal
deposits and oil and gas wells as inexhaustible. We simply mean that it
will be impossible for this and probably for the next generation to
exhaust them. But coal mines are not inexhaustible. Oil and gas wells
are problematical as to the length of time they will yield their
products. To such an extent have the forests been destroyed that
substitutes for timber are already sought for building purposes and
manufactures. Timber that would be worth millions of dollars to our
grand children is burned in a day to provide a sheep pasture on some
western mountain. We seem determined to waste and destroy what we cannot
consume or turn into ready money.

European countries abound in sad memories of wasted soil fertility and
forest destruction. Slowly but surely they are rebuilding and
rehabilitating worn out tracts at tremendous expense. The ruin which
ignorance accomplished with alacrity, education is slowly and painfully
undoing. Americans should heed the lessons of history and profit by the
mistakes of other countries. The production of food, clothing and other
necessaries of life which is of vital importance to a nation, cannot,
with safety, be left to blind forces or to revered but ignorant
traditions. For it is a singular fact that science had quite as much to
do with ridding agriculture and the manufacture of commodities of
debilitating superstitions that not only retarded progress but were
positively injurious to both man and material, as it had to do with the
introduction of rational ideas. The rapid increase of the world's
population and the very general occupancy of arable lands throughout the
world, presupposes that the maximum of food production will soon be
reached. A liberal and general diffusion of scientific information among
agriculturists alone can augment the productive power of the soil and at
the same time conserve its fertility for the support of future
generations. This subject demands a real awakening of public sentiment
as to its importance. Provision must be made for thorough training that
will direct the labor which produces the fruits of the earth. Thus to
broaden the scope of liberal education it must be divested of all
aristocratic limitations and rendered sufficiently democratic to meet
the wants of the sons of toil.

The question naturally arises, will the general introduction of science
studies in American schools tend to lower the standard of scholarship?
If so, will the more democratic and hence utilitarian influence it
exerts, compensate for the change? To the first question the classical
schools will quite generally and naturally give an affirmative answer.
But the answer must not be considered as conclusive in settling the
question even if believed to be true, in view of the contention that
surrounds the second question. More than scholarship is needed to direct
and control the affairs of men. Mere scholarship--book-learning--is
seldom effective in the solution of intricate national and economic
problems. For profound judgment and constructive ability, such as
frequently become imperative in great crises are qualities which are not
evolved through classical investigations. They are born rather of
experience and contact with the rugged every day affairs of life. To
exert a guiding influence in the affairs of state one must feel the
throb of living forces and come in touch with the great heart of

The study of ancient languages has long held the honored place in the
universities of Europe and America as peculiarly essential to mature
scholarship. They answered the purpose intended, for the sciences were
unknown or in the infancy of their development and there was but little
besides the ancient languages with which to train the student mind. But
should they dominate the curricula of the twentieth century? Do they
meet the requirements of this intensely practical age?

Whatever may be said against the materialistic tendency of the present
time, the scholarship of the idealists at least did not retard its
growth. Materialism abounds everywhere at present. The object sought by
introducing scientific in lieu of classical studies in some of the
higher institutions of learning is that facilities may be afforded the
children of the productive classes, such as they can accept and which
will have a directing influence upon labor. Whether such change will
tend to increase or lessen materialistic tendencies, remains to be seen.
The conditions will certainly be made no worse. For to balance
educational forces and more nearly to, equalize educational
opportunities can only result in improvement. Equilibrium of
intelligence tends to unify and harmonize American interests and to
strengthen patriotism. And should liberal scientific education thus
extend its beneficence to all conditions of men, especially to those
hitherto unprovided with facilities for preparation for their vocations,
we can at least endure the innovation, for it does not aim at the
impairment of educational opportunities so long maintained for students
able or desirous to take classical training. Some of the foremost
educators of the day admit that the study of the sciences possess as
much disciplinary value as that of the ancient languages, and the
information obtained, even though incidental to the culture sought after
is of inestimable value in the practical affairs of life. The fact that
but few instructors are prepared to teach the sciences as creditably as
they are to teach the ancient languages, does not weaken the claims set
up for scientific education. In the opinion of many sound educators, the
cultural advantages of the dead languages, all things considered, are
received at the expense of more important subjects. Says The World's
Work: "The easier and better way of retaining, restoring and greatly
broadening the culture-studies of a college course is to recognize the
culture of our own language and literature. A broader and saner and more
humane and thorough and loving study of the literature of our own race
is the obvious way out of the dilemma. And it is more than an escape
from a dilemma. It is a better means of broadening and deepening our
culture than we have over utilized or tried."

The ancient classics as taught in high schools are of but little
cultural value. Not one student in a hundred reaches the degree of
attainment that presupposes a positive benefit. If the time were devoted
to acquiring a more thorough understanding of our mother tongue it would
be more creditable. To give time to translating good Latin into poor
English is paying an extravagant homage to a fetish. Training in the
ancient languages must be long-continued and far-reaching, or it seems
to be of little value. The needs of culture cannot be satisfied by mere
discipline any more than they can be satisfied by merely utilitarian
subjects. But where the training is essentially practical and directly
helpful in discharging the highest of all human duties, that of
providing the necessaries of life, while at the same time affording
abundant opportunity for the study of the language and literature of our
own race, the blending thus of cultural and practical training should
possess a clientage immeasurably larger, because more useful, than where
only the purely cultural is sought. Where the head is educated away from
the hand and the number fitted for ministerial and professional duties
far overruns the demand for service, a heavy burden is imposed upon the
producing masses. At the same time thousands are graduated every year
for positions that have only a prospective existence. The professions
are overcrowded to a degree that challenges the sanity of the country's
educational energies. And were it not for the gravity of the theme, the
strenuous defense that is set up for the system and the efforts put
forth every day to still further augment the number of neophytes for
professional honors, it would seem ridiculous.

But why this overcrowding? Because the atmosphere of the professional
institution fills the student with prejudice against physical labor. It
is menial. His education has fitted him for something nobler than to
toil in the field or in the work-shop. Institutional rivalry also does
its share, sending out alluring advertisements and thus filling the
college classes with recruits from the farms and from the homes of labor
with candidates for positions in life of greater respectability than
their parents were able to enjoy. The seeds of prejudice against rural
life and manual labor are often scattered in the country schools by
teachers innocently imbued with the "ideal condition." The fascinations
and allurements of the city readily impress themselves upon the youthful
mind, and the fact that facilities for liberal education were not
offered for the relief of the toiling millions, unless to transform them
into a different social element, naturally turned the eyes of those who
were able to obtain a liberal education toward the cities.

It remained for the federal government to attempt to turn the tide that
was setting too strongly toward urban life. The government's remedy is
not prohibitive legislation, but what should have been afforded without
direct government interference--a liberal education with a direct
bearing upon agriculture and the mechanic arts for those who naturally
desire to fit themselves for such pursuits; to place the farmer and the
artisan upon an intellectual and social plane that will attract rather
than repel those who would develop the country's resources. At the same
time no effort should be made, for the sake of patronage or for
institutional advantage to influence a student from the calling his
heart honestly indicates as the one for which natural taste and native
ability, quickened by educational training, fits him. The thing to be
avoided, rather, is the inculcation of prejudice against useful
vocations and desirable pursuits as being undignified and consequently
beneath the notice or ambition of a gentleman.

Do scientific inquiry and scientific knowledge generally diffused
augment human greed? Do they tend to promote avarice? Most certainly
they do not. The man of science can see so much beyond--so much of
beauty and design that even the drudgery of toil is forgotten in
contemplation of the forces which he aids or controls.

No thoughts can arise above the thoughts of God as written in the
growing plant or painted upon the bow that arches the sky. To the man of
science, even the raw material which he reconstructs into useful
commodities contains a revelation in every grain and fiber. The swelling
bud, the opening flower, the growing plant, the greeting shower, each is
a chapter from Nature's open book, full of inspiration. Beyond them and
above them he sees the hand and hears the voice of God. And since he
lives and works thus close to Nature's throbbing heart and in close
communion with forces that link the finite to the Infinite, who dares to
spurn the dignity of his toil or characterize his associations as

To live is man's first duty; to live well his privilege. But the world
has its severe as well as delightful aspects. The divine law which
commands man to subdue and replenish the earth is not less mandatory
than that other law which commands him to "lay up treasure in heaven."
And just as material wants antedate the soul's awakening or reason's
dawning, so throughout all life, physical well-being precedes and
contributes to the growth of the higher life.

But, in the language of Herbert Spencer: "That increasing acquaintance
with the laws of phenomenon which has through successive ages enabled us
to subjugate Nature to our needs, and in these days gives the common
laborer comforts which a few centuries ago, kings could not purchase, is
scarcely in any degree owed to appointed means of instructing our youth.
The vital knowledge--that by which we have grown as a nation to what we
are, and which now underlies our whole existence, is a knowledge that
has got itself taught in nooks and corners; while the ordained agencies
for teaching have been mumbling little else but dead formulas."

But we may hope for better things. We may, some of us, live even to see
liberal education divest herself of exclusive restrictions and
eighteenth century idealism and walk hand in hand with twentieth century
progress; this will be when the "overwhelming influence of established
routine" shall give way to practical knowledge and love for the
ornamental in education shall no longer override the useful.

E. P. Powel, in The Arena for April, most beautifully and expressively
contemplates the schools which are to be. He says: "I will picture what
I believe to be the common school of the twentieth century. There will
be handsome schoolhouses in abundance, placed in the center of large
gardens. The children will study books half a day, and things the other
half. The brain will not get any more training than the hands. Manual
culture which is already a part of the school life of a few towns, will
be a part of school life everywhere. The school will have its shops and
its gardens--and to use tools will be the chief end of culture. Man got
away from the monkey by his power to make and use tools. He goes back to
the ape when his hands have to be cased in gloves and his brain is
ashamed of decent labor. In these school-gardens botany will be applied
to horticulture. In the shops our boys and girls will learn to create
things. The trouble with education now is that it divorces knowledge
from work--the brains from the hands. In the twentieth century the glory
of American education will also be a thorough knowledge of economics,
civics and history, applied to good citizenship. Colleges will surely be
a part of the common school system, and just as full of modern life. I
believe we shall see the day when boys and girls who are in the common
school together; without damage, can be co-educated in all other grades
of school life. The farmer will then not have a separate and specific
college for agriculture, while the rest have one for 'mental culture;'
nor will college boys in those days be ashamed to look ahead to farming
as a profession. There is no occupation that requires so much wit and
educated tact, and so much positive knowledge as farming. When we get
the schools, we shall get a style of farming that will be as keenly
intellectual as our present style is wasteful and unintelligent."

And yet, strange as it may appear, the mission and purpose of an
agricultural college must be constantly defended in a state almost
wholly devoted to agriculture.

In conclusion I quote from Herbert Spencer again: "How to live?--that is
the essential question for us. Not how to live in the material sense
only, but in the widest sense. The general problem which comprehends
every special problem is--the right ruling of conduct in all directions
under all circumstances. In what way to treat the body; in what way to
treat the mind; in what way to manage our affairs; in what way to bring
up a family; in what way to behave as a citizen; in what way to realize
all those sources of happiness which nature supplies--how to use all our
faculties to the greatest advantage to ourselves and others--how to live
completely. And this being the great thing needful for us to learn, is,
by consequence, the great thing which education has to teach. To prepare
us for complete living is the function which education has to discharge;
and the only rational mode of judging of any educational course is, to
judge in what degree it discharges such functions."

        Transcribers Note: The following words were changed from the
        author's original spelling:

        _problemetical changed to problematical_
        _neophites changed to neophytes_

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Broader Mission for Liberal Education - Baccalaureate Address, Delivered in Agricultural College - Chapel, Sunday June 9, 1901" ***

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