« AnteriorContinuar »
where that of a man, who has achieved breadth without depth, ends. He is curious, his relative ignorance of other subjects than his own, and their freshness to his mind, make him so, whereas the other is satiated with imperfectly appreciated subjects which he thinks he knows, and he becomes dull.
I do not express myself on this matter as strongly as I might, because I know that I am against a tradition which in the past has paid. If I express an opinion at all it is because I cannot see, in the more strenuous times of the future, any chance of its continuing to pay, either in Scotland or elsewhere. The day of the amateur-Jack-of-all-trades and master of none-whether in government and administration, teaching, industry or commerce, seems to be definitely terminating as each country becomes less and less a self-contained community and more and more open to the competition of the world. If specialists are not turned out we shall be dependent upon them for the foreigner. I have no great assurance, in spite of the present revulsion of feeling, that ten years hence will not see our industries dominated by foreign chemists again, not because of any defect in the British chemist, but because of the appalling ignorance on the part of his employer and his total inability, engendered by his training, to appreciate what is new, not as something to be added on and made to accommodate itself to the old, but as replacing and totally expunging it.
The bursary system is one of the most potent factors in preserving the education of so many of our students upon traditional lines. Intended as an encouragement to picked students to come to the university to continue their studies and complete their preparation for life, it has become a bribe to them to continue studies which otherwise would attract only a few, and those mainly to whom the
necessity of earning a living in the modern world is not paramount.
The linguistic and historical group of studies are a common part of all general education. It is not these subjects in themselves but the spirit in which they are taught that the cause lies for criticism. Many people must have felt the humiliation abroad of being conversed to in their own language by a foreigner who has never set foot in this country. I envy the lads in modern technical colleges who are given a grip of the calculus, as a tool rather than a philosophy, at the time when my own efforts were being dissipated on the most useless and uninteresting parts of mathematics. I often say that I could not without a serious preparation pass the entrance examination into any university in the kingdom. It is idle to pretend that these are in any sense tests of a decent general school education, as they should be. It is supposed to be general, but is too often so highly specialised that no one, whatever his education, could pass it ten years after leaving school or college, without specially studying for it. Once, in some spare time, I entertained the idea of sitting the London University Matriculation Examination until I found that the English demanded was not what an ordinary man would think was meant, but an obsolete form of it, dating from the time of Chaucer and earlier, a most excellent and repaying subject no doubt for those who require it, but as far removed as Latin and Greek are from being evidence of a general education.
If the school curriculum were entirely recast along modern lines and subjected by unprejudiced experts to a thorough investigation, as is being done in some of the institutions for educational research in America, in order to eliminate what is unnecessary and retrograde, the school period ought to suffice to give
every child of the standard of intelligence admitting to the university so thorough and sufficient a general education that, at the university, the serious life-work could be entered upon at once. A modernised school curriculum, finally and completely liberated from the deadening influence of the Middle Ages, would bring a child up to the university with something of that enthusiasm and passion for knowledge for its own sake which, of yore, was the pride of Scotland's poor scholars.
“Cultural” subjects would remain, throughout life, the natural recreation from professional or highly specialised studies. The chief charge against the old curricula is that they destroy in youth the enthusiasm and aspiration for learning, without which educational systems are but useless machinery without motive power.
In experimental science in Scotland the greatest need for reform exists. The association of the Honours M.A. with the B.Sc. so favours certain subjects, especially mathematics and applied mathematics, by giving two degrees for little more than the work of either, that it has been a powerful factor in the neglect of experimental science. It is nearly incredible, but, until very recently here, and possibly elsewhere still, those who took this combination and were for the most part going to be science schoolmasters, were turned out to teach chemistry in schools without, of necessity, ever having worked in a chemical laboratory. What sort of chemistry, I wonder, is it that they hand on to their pupils. The science of the mathematical arts man with M.A. (Hon.), B.Sc., is too often such as is calculated to bring science into disrepute.
But it is on the financial side that this university is most open to criticism in its treatment of science. An investigation of the published accounts for 191314, the year prior to the war, explained much that
SCIENTIFIC BENEFACTIONS DIVERTED
hitherto had been a mystery to me and left me frankly astounded. I have formed the deliberate opinion that it is useless for benefactors, like Mr Carnegie, to give money for science and scientific research, because under the existing system it will be diverted. Chemistry here would have been actually better off under the system that was in vogue before 1889. The wealth that has poured into the coffers of the university, either from the Carnegie benefaction or from State grants, passes it by.' It supports itself practically by hard teaching, and the money it is stated in the published accounts to get, and which, if it did get, would enable something to be done on the research side, are mere book-keeping transactions. Either this must be rectified or, before science can take its proper place in Scotland, new universities for science and modern subjects must be founded.
But apart from the petty tricks and sophistries by which those who claim to guard the eternal verities against the encroach of modern heresies have secured to themselves the benefit of monies intended for scientific study and research, the general attitude of this country toward science, whether from dullness, ignorance or antipathy, is unworthy of it. Of all the great nations of the earth none have benefited more by scientific discovery, and none have repaid the debt in more beggarly fashion. To boast of what this country has done in science as compared with other nations would be to follow the bad example of Germany. To boast of what this country has done for science as compared with other great powers would be impossible. But it is legitimate patriotism to be very proud and satisfied that, in spite of the lack of adequate encouragement and support, this country can claim no mean or subordinate share in scientific developments even up to the present day.
1 See Appendix.