1897 Fredericton Encaenia

Address in Praise of Founders

Delivered by: Raymond, William Tyng


"Encoenia of the University of New Brunswick--Orations by Prof. Raymond ... His Address on Behalf of the Faculty of the U.N.B." The Daily Gleaner (27 May 1897): 1, 2.

May it please your Honor, Mr. President and Members of the Senate, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am going to try to institute a comparison between the curriculum of this college in the first four years of its existence and the curriculum pursued here at the present day, and also to state some considerations to which this comparison has given rise.

This college was nominally established in the year 1800 as the college of New Brunswick. But the first president was not appointed until 1820, and no class graduated until 1828. On Thursday, the 21st February, 1828, the degree of bachelor in arts was conferred on Timothy Robert Wetmore, (already B. A. of Windsor College,) on Danile Hailes Smith and Samuel Deny Lee Street.

In addressing this, the only class that ever graduated from the college of New Brunswick, Dr. Somerville, the first president--whose portrait hangs upon the wall in front of you--gave a summary of the amount of work they had done during their four years of study. In greek, of Homer's Iliad they read the greater part, of Euripides four plays, of Sophocles the seven extant plays, of Herodotus a part, of Xenophon's Cyropaedia seven books, of AEschines one oration, of Demosthenes four orations, of Aristotle the Rhetoric in part, of Lonquinus the Treatise on the Sublime. In Latin, of Virgil they read the Georgics, of Horace the Ars Poetica, of Sallust his extant works, of Livy four books, of Tacitus the Geomania and two books of the Annals, of Cicero the De senectute, De Amicitia, De Officiis, the Somnium Scipionis and two books of the De Orators, of Quintilian five books of the Institutes. In mathematics, they read Eculid, books I to IV, Algebra to Quadratic Equations, the elements of plane and spherical Trigonometry, the Calculus.

Logic, the elements of Moral Science and "a few lectures on Universal Grammar" completed the course.

Thus Dr. Somerville summed up for this graduating class the amount of work they had done to secure their degrees. He was telling them what they had actually read. We can rely on the truth of it. It is not a prospectus portraying the labors of the coming years in glowing colors that a distant view lends to arduous toil.

It is interesting to compare this curriculum with that of the college at the present time. The most obvious comparison is that between the number of subjects studied. Then the student had Classics, Mathematics, Logic, and Moral Science. Now he has (taking the order from the college calendar) Classics, Mathematics, Physics, Natural Science, English, Logic, Philosophy (both mental and moral), Economics, French and German. Let us next try to compare the amount of work done then with the amount done now. At present the amount of Greek read is about 9,000 lines; then it was about 40,000, or about 4 1/2 times as much. The amount of Latin now read is about 9,000 lines; then it was about 38,500 or over 4 times as much. Now Greek is a difficult subject, demands as much time for preparation as any subject in the curriculum. Consequently the amount of Greek read in the old course was the equivalent of the Greek of the present day and of three and a half other full subjects. And the amount of Latin was the equivalent of the Latin read to-day and of at least three other solid subjects. If the Mathematics, Logic and Moral Science of the old curriculum be accepted as equal to the required Mathematics of to-day and one-half subject more we find that the amount of work done by the first class that ever graduated from this college was the equivalent of ten substantial subjects at the present day. The number of subjects now required of the hardest worked class is seven. The obvious conclusion is that graduates of 1828 did nearly one and a half times as much work for the B. A. degree as the graduates of the present day.

An increase in the number of subjects and a decrease in the amount of work done by the students, have attended the change from the old to the new. These two important points lead to many interesting considerations.

The increase in the number of subjects will still continue, as the means of supplying them is secured. There are already more than most students can take and options must be allowed. "Da mibi, domine, seire quod sciendum est (grant that the knowledge I get may be the knowledge that is worth having)" is a prayer for the bewildered student of to-day. And if we can find good reason for excluding some subjects, for preferring some to others and for making an intelligent choice of those we will ourselves pursue, we shall do much toward gaining confidence and surety where these are greatly needed.

An effort to find some reasonable basis for assigning a place in a curriculum to the study of Greek and Latin ended in an effort to find a basis for placing all subjects of study. And naturally so, for every subject must be placed in its proper relation to others. Some have tried to solve the problem by construction elaborate tables which profess to tell us what per centage of the cultivating power of each subject makes for the development of each of our faculties that comes within its range. These tables have an air of scientific accuracy, what Mills calls " a false air of nice adaptation," and at first they seem impressive. But they are too mechanical, too cumbersome, and after all shed little light upon the subject of our enquiry. It is hard to see why, on this basis, Sanskrit would not press Greek hard as an instrument for the development of almost all the powers that language and literature reach, or why French and Euclid should not find formidable rivals in Chinese and chess. If a man's object were merely to secure the development of his son's powers of observation would it be better to send him to the teacher of science where the penalty of neglect is trifling, or to a man, milliner, or Broadway, where the slightest variation between two shade of color would mean the loss of dollars?

But we can find much more light from another way of treating the subject. Roughly, but for the purpose accurately enough, all knowledge may be divided into knowledge about God, knowledge about man and knowledge about nature. From the curriculum of our University, which is part of a public school system, the first of these is by the vey circumstances excluded. Of the remaining two, knowledge about man is certainly the most important, and the subjects that come under that head ought to occupy the decidedly larger portion of the student's time and interest. Language, literature, history and philosophy on the one hand, the sciences in the widest sense of the word on the other hand, give us two groups of subjects from which every student ought to study a number of branches if he is to deserve the name of bachelor of arts. For us of English-speaking race can there be doubt that the English language, literature and history ought to occupy the first place in time and interest? Further, a man cannot know English so well who knows no other language. What other language shall we first study? Which will bring us the greatest profit? The educated world for generations has fixed upon Latin. It is the most efficient instrument for this work because no language which has any reasonable claim to a place in our curriculum differs more from English, and because it contains one of the great literatures of the world and was the language of the race that more than any other--perhaps not even saving the Greek--has influenced the history of mankind. Then at least one modern language and literature besides English ought to be studied. The choice lies between French and German, if both cannot be taken. For these two have the greatest significance for the advancement of civilization, the greatest interest for the intellectual world. The place of Greek is more in question than that of any other subject. In the past a B. A. degree has meant that a man had some knowledge of this greatest literatures and of the history of the most brilliant civilization the world has known. the tendency on the part of growing numbers to drop Greek is too strong to be ignored. How then shall it be met? In some quarters the question has been admirably settled by giving the B. A. degree as before to men who have some knowledge of Greek, and establishing the degree of bachelor in science for those who wish to omit Greek.

If in addition to this work in language and literature the student takes a course in Philosophy and Economics he will have given enough attention to the first of our two groups of subjects. In the second group he will have to answer in mathematics and in the natural and physical sciences.

The sciences are now perhaps attracting more attention than the humanities. They are making more demands and obtaining them. But after, knowledge about man is more important to men than knowledge about nature and "the best that is known and thought in the world" is rather to be found in literature than in the study of nature. A man may be well educated who has no knowledge of Greek but he is not so well educated as the man who knows Greek. The B. A. degree is a token that a man has had a chance to receive the highest and fullest culture. The bachelor of science degree should be reserved for those who have not cared to aim quite so high. There is a very real distinction here and one great enough to be marked by a difference in the kind of degree given.

We saw that the new curriculum differs from the old in two important points, namely the increase in the variety of subjects studied and a decrease in the amount of work required from the student. The increase in the variety of subjects now open to students has raised important problems wherever colleges exist. that has been a universal movement. But I do not think that the reduction in the amount of work required for the B. A. degree is also a universal attendant of the other change, but that it is rather a local manifestation. That second point I shall leave untouched. Others perhaps may be ready to explain it and to answer the questions to which it naturally gives rise.

Addresses may be reproduced for research purposes only. Publication in whole or in part requires written permission from the author.