1896 Fredericton Encaenia

Alumni Oration

Delivered by: Rand, Theodore Harding


"The Educational Ideal. Able Address of Theodore H. Rand on behalf of the Alumni of the University of New Brunswick--Masterly Address From a Former Resident of the Province" The Daily Telegraph (29 May 1896): 1. (UA Case 67a, Box 1)

It seems like coming home to be present on this festal occasion. Greetings of former companions-in-arms quicken the beating of my heart, yet the reverend touch of years seen on hair and cheeks is an admonition that some of us are well past the long reach and are nearing the river's mouth. We shall not complain if only we are well assured that the river is increasing in volume, and carries something of benediction to our fellows and the world. I miss, and so do you, some noble spirits who delighted to honor this University by their presence at this annual festival, and whose richly freighted lives were full of help and blessing to the institutions of New Brunswick and to all Canada. They have crossed the bar and gone out upon the grand, vast sea. Their memory remains with us as an aspiration. As I recall the time when I was actively engaged in the educational service of this Province, may I not gratefully say of those who remain, as of those who have passed from our sight:

"Another race hath been, and other palms are won."

Historically, the University preceded by centuries the public school. Oxford and Cambridge date from the 12th century, or earlier; the public schools of Winchester, Eton, Harrow and Rugby followed in the 14th and 15th centuries, while the elementary schools of England are much more recent, are in fact chiefly the development of our own time. A tax was levied for the support of Harvard College, in 1636, but it was not till eleven years later that funds were appropriated for the establishment of common schools in the old colony. Contrary to popular impression, the highest institutions were organized first; then in process of time the secondary schools, and finally, but only after a long interval, the common schools. This is, in general, the history of education. It is the history of its growth and development in New Brunswick. Considered, therefore, either as the head of a system of public education, or by virtue of its function in the educational realm even if not outwardly a part of the public organism, a university is bound to note the movement of thought and activity in behoof of progress. "Progress," says a French author, "is propagated from above downwards, and this even to the furtherest limits; for science never ascends." It is eminently fitting, therefore, that in discharging the duty cast upon me by the Associated Alumni, I should use this rostrum at this hour in manifesting to the public the interest of university men in every phase of educational endeavor.

Every now and again during the last 30 years, we have been told that the people are being over-educated. The schools and universities, it is said, are educating the youth out of their proper spheres; the boys are leaving the farms for the city; the professions are crowded; manual labor is at a discount; it is difficult to obtain servants; the notion is widespread in town and country that a liberal education is for anybody and everybody. Recently, these notes of warning have been heard with increased frequency and earnestness. The purpose of public education, we are told, should be to teach the young how to get their living; we are on the wrong track, and it is time to call a halt.

We shall not have any clear light on this momentous question till we get down to fundamental principles. There are antagonisms, there is conflict, but we  are not warranted in hastily inferring, however, that these prove that we are not in the way of true progress. They may be inevitable incidents of the forward movement. What is it to educate? It is to draw up, to train up, To what? To some end. To what end? The early history of education is a history of unconscious ends pursued by peoples as they move forward from barbarism to civilization. As age succeeds age, the ideal becomes more and more clearly defined. Society begins to propose to itself more and more specific aims--the development of certain definite faculties which it desires to see active in all its citizens--vigor of body, courage, endurance, skill in the use of arms, skill in this or that industry, obedience to civil law--all excellent, but neither separate nor combined, an ideal of man as a living spirit in a living body, a being of large and varied  capacity, of rich possibilities, and whose life and acts have infinite issues. Man as man, man for the sake of man, is the true ideal. Not what man is, but what man may become, this is the problem of the educational ideal. So far as this is kept in view, whether in the public school or in the university, a "liberal," as opposed to a mere tool--or technical education is given. A man is more and greater than an intelligent tool. He exists for that something more and greater. He is not a means, but an end. Material civilization is a true civilization only in so far as it makes the higher end possible for the individual and for the community. To speak of "over-education," therefore, indicates some confusion of thought. Nature and moral law forbid that education be limited to this class or that, to this clever boy and that promising girl, or arbitrarily limited in its range and amount. The claim to education is the possession of educable faculties, and its ideal measure is determined by capacity.

It may be urged, however, that the aim or ideal which I have affirmed has been substantially held since the time of Plato, and especially since the advent of Christ, and that in English-speaking countries, to say nothing of Europe, the last quarter of a century has witnessed the removal of a thousand hindrances to the operation, on a grand scale, of forces controlled by this ideal. All our Canadian provinces have systems of public education, in most respects, and most places, highly efficient. If, therefore, the ideal is a true and sound one, how is it that the social equilibrium is being rather destroyed than rendered more stable--and that the times are out of joint? I think that the answer is not far to seek. The leaven of this great educational ideal has been gradually leavening the lump. A peaceful revolution has been going forward, and with great rapidity in recent years, and society has reached the point where impinging forces are about equal in strength. The old time apprenticeship is past; machinery is applied to every branch of industry; and directive mind and skill is the growing demand. Mere manual labor is less and less, and the problem of the supply of general and domestic servants indicates in a very practical way that things are not as they were. There is a steady, a universal movement forward to wider life-horizons. Irrespective of "class" or "sphere," human life is becoming universally self-conscious; and many of the incidents of the transition from yesterday to to-morrow are not wholly pleasant to the domestic, industrial and social life of to-day. We are not on the wrong track, if the issue is the enriching, broadening and uplifting of human life. In the nobler sense of the term, we are aiming to equip youth for getting a living, to make men citizens of the realm of thoughtful and humanized life, and to put them in working relations with the race. Who is the man, or what the "class," that takes the responsibility of calling a halt? However eminent and powerful that man, or however privileged hitherto that class, he or they will be swept away before the irresistible enfranchisement which has come to society, vivified and informed by the great ideal of which I speak. There is only one thing to be done—to recognize intelligently, and as gratefully as possible, the mighty fact, and adjust ourselves to it. Herein lies the field of sympathetic and helpful criticism. Herein is the way to wise and effective co-operation and direction, which shall serve to the full the interests of society, and keep Canadian life abreast with the advancing life of the race.

Let me advert in detail to two or three of the more obvious incidents of our present situation. Take the problem of general domestic service. I acknowledge at once, that in the nature of the case, it is unsolvable on former lines, and increasingly so. When all cordially recognize this truth, the problem is half solved. When we recognize, further, that all of us will be the healthier and sounder, because more human by sharing in light domestic and manual labor, we shall have taken another important step towards its solution. Mechanical appliances and conveniences carry us a long step further, and in many cases complete the solution. In the cases that remain we must have "help"--the word was significant in early colonial days, and carried a prophecy in it of times to come--"help" which may share the conditions and even fellowships of our own lives. What is the upshot of all this? Simplicity of life, relinquishment of unnecessary or foolish luxury, the sharing of natural and gracious life--activities, well-ordered homes, good food, moral health in the community, and the complete subjection of material things to high ends. As rapidly as this ensues we may reasonable expect that education shall have fitted both ourselves and our "help" for companionship and fellowship.

But take the problem of rural life, says someone. Your ideal "liberal" education is sweeping the boys and girls into the professions and into the cities, and the farmers have no outlook. The conflict of interests may indicate how potent is the ideal which has entered the lives of the young; it does not indicate that farming is incompatible with the true human life. But this much is evident enough, the calling must bring to its service intelligence, and science must have its applications more fully to this primal and necessary industry of the people. Let farming become, as it is rapidly becoming, an occupation which lays under tribute for its successful prosecution the knowledge of the schools and the intelligence of quickened mind to a degree approaching that of the professions, and there will be no lack of farmers' boys and girls—cultured sons and daughters—to delight in the activities of rural life. Machinery, directive mind, and companionable "help" will solve the labor problem on the farm, But so long, and so far as the great agricultural interest shall proclaim that agriculture is a calling that does not need educated men and women to conduct its operations, and to nourish and direct the social and public life of the community, so long will boys and girls of disciplined and humanized minds regard rural life as uncongenial and irksome. Not less, but more education, is the lesson; not a narrow education, but a broad one. When farmers and mechanics are as well educated as others, all these will be socially equal, and the tendency will inevitably be that they become financially more nearly equal.

Yet, as a matter of fact, it is a false assumption that sons of farmers should remain on the farms, and sons of professional and business men in the cities. The best interests of all would be promoted by interchange. My observation is that country boys and girls have the finest mental and moral stamina, and usually take the most kindly to the severer studies. There is a tendency to deterioration in the city. I should not regard it as a calamity if the city boys and girls, as well educated as if for professional life, found their calling on the farms; while the country boys and girls found free scope for their simpler and firmer lives in the city. Civilization would be advantaged if such an interchange were constantly going forward on a generous scale. The suggestion, however, that we in Canada should educate for given localities, or for given classes of society, ignores the fundamental ideal of which I have spoken. It ignores, also the obvious truth that the age is cosmopolitan, and that facilities for intercommunication are on every hand. Our youth will move freely throughout all Canada, and freely in other lands as well. The vast majority of the youth in process of education in New Brunswick to-day will fight their life-battle in communities in which they were not reared; and most of them, in truth, all of them, will run their race in competition with those who have received their education in other provinces and other lands. We must ally ourselves with nothing below the highest ideal.

And what of industrial education? Do you rule it out? This is a pertinent inquiry and brings me to another stage of my subject. Time will not serve me, nor is it necessary to enter into full details. I have no doubt that general education should be the aim of our public schools. The first and greatest service that we can render to every child is to insure that the elements of manhood within him are quickened, developed, energized, and rightly directed. I have as little doubt that the secondary schools and the arts department of our universities should be chiefly concerned with mind building and character building, and the inspiring of true ideals. The subjects of study best adapted to make an all round appeal to the sources of power and life in the individual in behalf of discipline and culture are the subjects from which the materials of instruction should be selected in the University arts' course. I take the liberty of saying that the range of suitable subjects, both real and formal, is now so great that I know of no sound educational reason why the arts course should not present many of varieties without sacrificing any important element of a symmetrical culture. This would bring the central work of the universities into touch with a much larger number of young men and young women. It is only a question of sufficient professional staff--a financial question, in fact. It could not be other than the gravest of mistakes to subvert the leading function of general education, whether in the public schools or in the universities, by substituting instruction for special callings. In primitive days education was, of necessity, mainly what is now called technical; that is to say, such instruction as fitted the young as they grew up to supply their bodily wants. Lack of communication, the elementary state of the useful arts, the difficulties in the way of regular intercourse between individuals, prevented the division of labor, and the development of industrial interdependence such as now characterizes civilized life. But there were many true educational compensations. Each man, with the aid of his household, would become master of many, if not all, necessary arts. From childhood upwards he would be in training to these. Professor Laurie has said that family which not only milked its own cows, made it own butter and cheese, and ground its own corn, but clipped its own sheep, cleaned, combed, dyed and spun the wool, and then wove it into cloth and made its own clothes; which raised its own flax and prepared its own linen, tanned its own cowhides for the feet or the target which made its own rude articles of furniture and moulded its own pottery--had no small skill. There was a varied mental appeal and a training of various faculties. Were we in these days to educate a man merely with a view to the adaptation of his powers to certain finite uses--some industry--we should be recurring to the education of primeval time without the advantages of our remote ancestors. For there is now a minute division of labor in most industries, and the breadth and variety of primitive technical education is gone for ever. To master some one industry would be a species of education altogether below that of the primitive settler, for it would have definite and restricted reference to mere finite and bodily uses. But the education to which we have committed ourselves presupposes that in man there are germs of a possible growth to something to which we cannot set limits,—and this something is our ideal. There are elements of technical instruction given by the public schools without sacrificing their true function,—the elements of natural science, the keeping of accounts, practical applications of geometry, and industrial drawing. These are at once the basis of technical training and valuable elements in the education of all children. Sewing and the elements of agriculture have also had a place in many schools. All the same, it remains true that specialization is not only narrow but narrowing unless general education precedes or accompanies it. There is need for special schools where training in agriculture, or other industries, may be had by those who have already received a more or less complete general education. The state may properly teach any branch of knowledge that may promote the public welfare. But the means of the state are limited. When the providing of one kind of knowledge would exclude more important educational provision, the state is not under obligation to provide it. Perhaps we do not sufficiently bear in mind that the state has no monopoly of education. The family, the church, and the individual, have the right to teach, and every human interest may organize and support schools for its promotion and benefit. That which may be safely left to voluntary or private effort is, as a general rule, best left to such agency. I am not seized of the facts of the existent provision for special instruction in agriculture in this province; but so great an industry may assuredly claim the assistance of the legislature in this behalf, either in the conduct of a special school or as a special department connected with this or other university. A school of practical science and a school of mines, should be part of the educational equipment, if not of New Brunswick, then of the Maritime Provinces. Something special has already been done for these interests. Nova Scotia has a school of horticulture, carried on by a voluntary association, and assisted by a legislative grant. The field for voluntary and private beneficence in behalf of special and technical instruction is an inviting one, and I believe the system of general education would be rendered more effective by encouraging efforts in this behalf. Any people that falters in its educational work is doomed to fall in the rear. New Brunswick has her public and secondary schools, her Normal School, and Provincial University. Unquestionably the first duty of her Government and her people is to make these adequate to perform with growing efficiency the mighty function they aim to discharge.

And now it is in place that I earnestly call public attention to the one condition apart from which all means of education, private or public, in the general schools or in the university will be unfruitful; but with which and in proportion as it is present, even the desert will blossom as the rose. Need I say that our educational ideal implies the presence of true men and women in our schoolrooms and in our professional chairs; men and women of superior native endowments of mind and heart, of sterling character and life-giving quality. These are first qualifications. Scholarship and acquaintance with the principles and practice of education, while they are second, are no less essential. To disregard this sine qua non is a crime against our youth, against society, and against humanity at large. Such disregard is the educational sin of the day. The Board of Education of New Brunswick long since set a noble example to the other provinces of Canada, in being the first to place a special emphasis upon professional training for the teachers of her public schools. Yet there is ground to fear, indeed we know, that multitudes of the school sections of the province have but indifferently appreciated the efforts of the Board. Instead of denying themselves, if need be, in order to provide as generous a remuneration as possible for the teachers of their schools, they have valued their services as they would those of unskilled manual laborers. I say it advisedly, I have seen a larger proportion of men and women of superior life-quality in charge of the schools of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia than I have ever seen in any other countries. The people of the Maritime Provinces have had a splendid race-stock to draw their teachers from. I do not know how it is today in this province, but I have often feared that the lack of appreciative response by way of a just, not to speak of a generous, support for such men and women, must result in depriving the schools of that quality of life without which your completest educational machinery can count for little, and the work of vital education cannot be done. There is nothing which would so vitalize the entire system, from the rural school to the University, as the open and honest recognition of the transcendent importance of qualified teachers. This should be the determining factor in all educational expenditures. If there is to be a choice between life-equipment and fine class-rooms, fine apparatus, or any material equipment whatever, whether in school or university, our ideal requires that we choose upwards. Efficient men and women, and as many as the service needs! The teacher, the staff, the personnel. There are no other essentials. Said President Garfield: "Let Mark Hopkins sit on one end of a slab, and give me a seat on the other--that is the university I want." May I suggest that the University of New Brunswick owes an obligation to its offspring--the secondary and public schools of the provinces--which it has not yet sufficiently discharged. Historically, their foundation and base, it is to-day their roof and crown. Universities--to change the figure yet again--are not made, but grow, and, as a rule, they grow slowly. Nevertheless, university progress is constant, and has its justification in the nature of things, either in response to some new need, or in the development of some historic factor that has fallen out of sight. "No rational plea," says Herbert Spencer, "can be put forward for leaving the art of education out of our curriculum. Whether as bearing upon the happiness of parents themselves, or whether as affecting the character and lives of their children and remote decedents, we must admit that the knowledge of the right methods of juvenile culture, physical, intellectual and moral, is a knowledge second to none in importance. The topic should occupy the highest and last place in the course of instruction passed through by each man and woman. The subject which involves all other subjects, and therefore the subject in which education should culminate, is the theory and practice of education." (Mr. Spencer italicizes this last sentence). The most effective way of emphasizing the value of the Normal School, and of extending its field of usefulness, is by the university recognition of the teaching profession. It would be out of place to discuss here how this might be best effected, whether by a chair of Education confined to the University, to be developed within twenty-five years into a School of Pedagogy on these ample grounds, the work being confined to undergraduates and graduates; or whether the head of the Normal School should be created Professor of Education in the University, with functions to perform in behalf of each. To build is simply to co-ordinate. Whatever the well-devised plan, it could not but give an impulse to the profession, and to the work of education. The more fully the principles of education are understood by all graduates of our universities, the more rapid will be the spread of a sound and influential public opinion on the one subject of commanding interest to every family in the land.

In closing, let me call your attention to a far-going and strenuous life-regulating truth contained in our educational ideal,--man for the sake of man, actualization of capacities in order to service I know that I shall be thought extreme by many when I say that the realization of this ideal in its fullness is the only solution of the social and economic problems of our civilization. I remember that when I was justifying before some wealthy men, not a hundred miles from this spot, assessment for the support of free education, I was told that the law in this regard was merely a leaf cut of the creed socialism. The truth is, systems of free education are bulwarks against crass forms of socialism. Yet the life of society cannot be made full and complete by systems or by legislative enactments. These can at best but condition the individual for self-realization. as we near the close of this wonderful century of scientific and material progress, the impression is general and deep that important changes in our social system are rapidly maturing. The claims of capital and labor, individualism collectivism are pressing for adjustment. On the one side, corporation, syndicates and combinations of capital; and trades unions and federations of labor on the other. These are all ethical questions, at bottom, and can find no permanent answers save such as are ethically conceived and ethically realized. Man for the sake of man, actualization of capacities in order to service for humanity. Under the mastery of such an ideal no one could enter upon a calling that made against one's own, or man's best welfare. One would be active in some worthy calling that he might nourish his true self and serve his race. One must support one's self and one's family. This is a prime duty, and a condition of effective service. One must determine for one's self how much shall be sufficient for this. In the nature of the case the life will be simple. Such an one will be sympathetic with his fellows. Little by little, as prosperity comes to him, he will delight in the promotion of all noble and humane interests. He will not indulge the thought of hoarding that he may have great wealth, for selfishness as the end of life is excluded by his ideal. Service to our fellows and to humanity, the greatest that our cultured endowments are capable of rendering, is the ethical aim and expression of human life. Doing is essential to fulness of being. In the process of intellectual cultivation, those do most who set thought free. University life is nothing if not free handed and virile, an ethical atmosphere in which inspiring personalities generate not only thought stuff, but a philosophy nobly humanized, and deep-rooted in the heart of man. Love of truth, its reality, its transcendence above all human conceptions of it, and its nutritive value to the human mind; the power to think rationally and ethically; more regard for man than institutions, for any and every kind of man, because he is man, on whom God has put a divine valuation in the exercise of redeeming love—these are fruits society has a right to look for as the products of the educational ideal. The tree of knowledge must become a tree of life whose leaves tremble with the spirit of reverence for God, and for man, whom He made in His own image. This is the divine optimism to which we must adjust ourselves. It breathed in the words and deeds of the Son of Man.

"Ah, when shall all men's good
Be each man's rule, and universal peace
Lie like a shaft of light across the land?
Slow speeds the glad year
Told by poet and seer,
Yet I catch the far hum—
It will come, it will come!"

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