Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lessly denouncing sin and wickedness, and day after to-morrow fighting a narrow-gauge railroad. In none of these pursuits, is he adhering to what I am informed is called a “curriculum;" and in the prosecution of these various labors he may not open a textbook for weeks together. And yet, he is all the time acquiring knowledge which mortal man never yet extracted from between the covers of any book ever written by man.

In these years his hands are hardening for the work they have yet to do; his shoulders are widening for the burden they have yet to bear; his sinews are strengthening for the race he has yet to run; his heart is enlarging for those he has yet to embrace in its sympathies; and his mind is acquiring that breadth and force, vigor and clearness which will at last be required in the instruction of- it may be you, young ladies and gentlemen! It is hardly necessary for me to say that the rough sketch I have just drawn is not intended as the outline of an autobiography. Far less useful and brilliant has been the career of your fellow-student of the evening. And yet it may be, that even in the experience of years spent in the enforced wanderings of a common soldier; of other years passed even in the humbler walks of a profession created within a century or two, specially to record day by day the progress of this busy world; of years filled in with a mass of reading, even though careless and unsystematic;- it may be that, in all these years, some knowledge which may be imparted to others has been acquired of that world which Shakspeare says is all a stage, but which, for this evening, we will consider is all a school.

If there is any one thing that there has been a settled endeavor to impress upon the minds of the students of this Kansas State Agricultural College, it is, that neither at this nor any other institution of learning, neither at Manhattan, nor at Göttingen, nor Tübingen, nor at any other place that ends in “ingen," can be acquired what some people are pleased to call a “finished” education. This institution does not, if I correctly understand its purposes, teach the young idea how to shoot. It merely endeavors to furnish him with powder and shot, and expects him to do his own shooting! All that is learned here is, as I understand it, only intended as a preparation for the student who is going out to become a gownsman, as the English would say, in that great university, the World.

I say "going out into the world,” and I use the expression advisedly. The young man or woman who has passed twenty years of life, who has known something of struggle and toil, incurred possibly to avail himself or herself of the advantages of this very institution, may think that he or she is already in the midst of the great world; but this is hardly the case. New York harbor is a part of the ocean; the water is salt and sometimes rough, and the breeze that blows over it is fresh and strong, and the tide rises and falls; but no ships are ever seen under full sail in its waters. They are towed about by steam tugs, and it is only when you are outside of the Narrows, and the tug has cast off and the pilot is gone, that you are at sea; and the difference is, that from that time, on her journey through light and darkness, through sunshine and storm, near the low reef or sunken rock, for thousands of miles, until the once-familiar stars are gone and even the heavens are strange, the good ship must care for herself alone. For days she sails the lonely deep, nor sees the faintest glimmering of a friendly sail. When the sky grows black, the waves grow white, and the vessel rolls and groans like a sick man in his sleep, she cannot run into a friendly harbor; her salvation depends on her keeping off-shore. If there are defects in her construction, if she is ill-manned, or if her rigging is worn when she leaves port, she cannot return to mend these defects. Courage and skill on the part of the officers must repair damages and provide against calamity. But there is no going back. She is at sea.

And this it is that makes going out from an institution like this really going out into the world, because it marks the limit between dependence and self-help. The student here obeys rules and regulations prescribed by others; he reads books placed in his hands by others; he receives opinions, to some extent, because they are promulgated by authority: but when he steps out of these bounds, all this ceases. He is his own man then. A Frenchman, relating an experience in England, and illustrating the omnipresence of the English officers of the law, said: "I was alone with God—and a policeman.” And so the newly-graduated is alone in the world - with a diploma.

That diploma is a good thing. Your speaker wishes he possessed one: he would prize it, even though it were written in newspaper English. But, after all, the parchment only tells what has been done- and it does not always tell the whole truth about that. In a healthy soldier's discharge from the service are the words, “No objection to his being reënlisted is known to exist.” I imagine that sentence might be written with propriety on an occasional diploma. The graduate might go back and go through the course again, without injury. But, admitting that the diploma has been well and fairly earned, it is only an evidence of work worthily done, so far-of a good beginning. It is, at the best, a certificate that John Smith or Jane Smith, as the case may be, has made a good start toward acquiring an education, and is prepared, as far as the institution conferring the diploma can furnish a preparation, for entrance in that greater, higher school, the World.

And right here, over the question what sort of preparation should be furnished, has been fought the battle of the educators. It is over this that the great educational gods have kept “this dreadful pother o'er our heads;" it is over this that it has thundered all around the sky; it is over this that usually mild-mannered men have shot wrathful glances through their gold-bowed spectacles, while every fold of their white neckcloths swelled with indignation. The result of the battle has been the establishment of two varieties of colleges: one teaching the classics, and conferring the information that “Achilles' wrath” was "to Greece the direful spring of woes unnumbered,” and also furnishing the truly gratifying information that Major General Zenophon, with ten thousand men, has fallen back from Richmond to the Chickahominy, and now has the enemy just where he wants him; and the other variety teaching the modern languages, natural sciences, agriculture and the trades. Possibly this may not be an exactly accurate statement of the case, but it must be taken as the account given by a passing reporter who took no part in the row himself.

But, seriously, men must take the world as they find it, and what kind of a world does the graduate find when he leaves the halls he has paced so long? Is it like an old-fashioned college ? The sinking heart of many a young man as he has stood in the midst of the surging, careless, seemingly selfish, rude, well-nigh merciless crowd for the first time, has told him that the world is no green college campus; that the men he must meet day in and day out, with whom and from whom he must earn his daily bread, are not professors or students; are not men of culture; that they are not interested in the woes of Greece, but are vastly concerned about their own woes, their own business and their own dinners. Stand where meet the thronged ways in a great city, and notice what men carry in their hands, under their arms, or in their breast pockets, and you will find out something about this world. Here goes a painter with his bucket of white lead; there goes a carpenter with his square; here passes an Italian with a board on his head, covered with plaster-of-Paris figures; here, one after another, pass a dozen clerks with pencils over their ears, and bits of paper in their hands and papers sticking out of their pockets; shop-boys pass repeatedly with bundles; here walks a roundshouldered chap with the end of his right thumb and finger discolored and worn off a little—he is a printer, and takes a brass composing -rule out of his pocket and puts it back again; men pass with hods, with mortar-boards, with trowels; there may pass once in a while a young gentleman, a smile irradiating his classical features — that is a reporter, going to congratulate with the coroner over an approaching inquest.

This little panorama shows how men live; how you, my friend, with the bright and shining diploma, must live. Suppose you wish to find out what these men know. Quote, if you please, something from Homer, in the original Greek; something affecting; the best thing there is in the book about Achilles' wrath and the woes of Greece. Try this on the most intelligent-looking man who passes, and if he is a Kansas man — as he probably will be, if he looks uncommonly intelligent- he will look at you in a

« AnteriorContinuar »