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ABOUT DEGREES.

A SKETCH OF THEIR HISTORY AND OF SOME MATTERS CONNECTED THEREWITH.

[Rv Henry Betctiep..]

(Subject concluded.)

So far, then, about the degrees called “bogus.” Of this word Mr Hosea Biglow offers the following derivation : “ Bogus, in the sense of worthless, is undoubtedly ours, but is, I more than suspect, a corruption of tho French bapassc, which travelled up the Mississippi from New Orleans, where it was used for the refuse of the sugar caue.” If this be so, bogus is connected with our English word “ baggage,” used of a worthless woman, a trull, a virago, or, playfully, of idle little minxes—as when Dr Primrose speaku of his daughters Olivia and Sophia as two arrant little baggages. There are many parables in words, and if the learned Hosea Biglow has hit upon the real derivation of the word, bogus is an expression fraught witli meaning. The fraudulent traffic sketched in the previous remarks has produced an effect likely to arise under the circumstances. The general public do not distinguish very accurately between the various sources of academical titles, so that, except in the case of very eminent persons, these bogus degrees pass as well iu the eyes of the majority as degrees conferred for the sake of distinction by universities or institutions of university rank. The question of honorary degrees is difficult; the bestowal of them has enjoyed long prescription, and has proved in many instances of high # utility. Take tho case of the now famous editor of the New English Dictionary. Dr Murray is a Bachelor of Arts of the University of London. He holds half a dozen other distinctions conferred by various universities. Hia own university has done nothing further for him. Dr Morris, again, whose ‘ Historical Outlines of English Accidence’ was an epoch-making book in the teaching of English was created LL.D. by the Archbishop of Canterbury and is an honorary Master of Arts of Oxford, but he is not a member of any university. Mr Jowett, the Master of Balliol, is an honorary doctor of some German university. Mr Jebb, Professor of Greek in the University of Glasgow, is a doctor of an American university. Mr Matthew Arnold, Mr Freeman, and Mr Fronde belong to the class of honorary doctors. Ido not reckon of how many faculties Mr Gladstone is a doctor, or Mr Ruskin, or Mr Herbert Spencer. Mr Huxley is an honorary doctor of three universities— Cambridge, Dublin, aud Edinburgh—but he did not rise high in the ranks of his own university. According to Johnson, Dean Swift came into university rank by the back stairs. “It must disappoint every reader’s expectation,’.’ says Johnson, “ that when at the usual time Swift claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the examiners to be too conspicuously deficient for regular admission, and ootaineci his degree at last by special favor, a term used in that University (the University of Dublin) to denote want of merit.”

The most striking personage recently created a doctor of divinity is Prince Bismarck. Dr von Bismarck should draw very large congregations wherever he undertakes the sermon. Since the days of Constantine there has keen no more remarkable soldierprelate than the great Imperial Chancellor. Next to him may rank that other doctor of divinity who, by the side of his brother William, pounded our forefathers at Hastings. In all these, and many other instances, great men have conferred lustre on the distinction by accepting it. No valid objections can be found why a learned society or institution should not admit to its rank by a suitable title men whose position in the work and progress of the world has already been amply vindicated. If a university desire to acknowledge the work of its own graduates, especially in the case of men who in their student days showed signs of ability and gave proof of industry, that it should do so by promotion in the faculty to which the graduate belongs seems to be an irreproachable proceeding. Men cannot go on passing examinations that constitute an ordeal through which after a time many men refuse to pass. Some dread the mental torture ; others shrink from facing the risk. The University of London laid down, many years ago, the principle of examination for every step in graduation: but this University has been compelled to abandon tho principle. It was found that outside the professional degrees, no one ventured on the highest examinations. Accordingly, a principle has been laid down which seems to bo based on common sense. The new doctorates of science and literature were established in the hope of promoting the study of certain branches of knowledge ; but because candidates were compelled to undergo a severe course of bookwork, rather than allowed to follow the bent of their minds in speculation. these doctorates have beep, until recently, of little or no avail for the object in view. Tho, whole system having been recently revised, the question raised by previous failures has been settled by a change of tactics. What is now required from persons aspiring to become doctors in a faculty is that they should submit proof of original work in some subject allied to the general studies comprised by the faculty; and further, undergo a test in the subject of their choice.

Under this arrangement it is expected that men, by utilising spare hours, may be able to compose, or compile, something representing skill, judgment,, and toil, which may win for them the coveted distinction. The fact is an ugly one, that all severe examinations have a tendency to degenerate into cram. Cram is a word that has done so much yeoman’s work in the service of the classes or ■people who have a veiled disltltc to education that I am somewhat loth to press it into service. The fact, however, remains that to pass a severe and protracted examination a man must cram. It is quite impossible to reduce wide knowledge into manuals and analyses, yet, for thepurposes of examination, knowledge must be compressed into a compact shape. Like the new gunpowder, it must be formed into handy cubes that will boar close packing. Accordingly, abstracts, compendiums, selections are by the nature of the case imperative—the student makes thorn for himself. Memory is somewhat impatient of dry facts, and to allay her impatience the facts must be arranged into something like dependence and sequence. It is a great feat to carry in the mind the dictionary of a language not one’s own ; the extended nomeuclatme of a science, such as chemistry, of" which the terms used are so absurdly disordered ; the classifications of a science of common obser vation, such as botany. It is also a fact that at some point of a man’s mind-life this feat becomes impossible, that h:s acquisitive powers gradually weaken ; and because his functions now tend to reflection, inference, and deliberate judgment he can no longer cram. Now, to be a doctor signifies that a man should be a teacher ; one who has powers of creation, of adaptation, of expansion, of application—powers that plude the violent methods of examinations, but may be exemplified in the fulness, exactness, and perspicuity of authoritative statement, A university fails to secure its full share of utility if its demands in the direction of higher examinations are very severe. Examinations tend to develop knowledge at the expense of wisdom; they seem to quench men of the prophetic order in favor of men who do nothing but absorb, and tend to check and repress the gradual and natural ripening of the mental powers. It is essential that the higher work of the great world should be done by the students who think. To our universities the public look for the perennial supply of the students who think. The colonial universities, having no traditions to infringe and no obsolete practices to clear away, will find it easy to introduce a plan of making the degree of doctor a sign of the fruit of knowledge. For this purpose degrees may be divided into two classes—the professional and the academical. By professional degrees I mean degrees given in the faculties of medicine, of law, of music. Academical degrees will include degrees in arts and in science. This classification is clear enough for practical purposes. In the case of professional degrees, the subject matter of study is also the subject matter with which the graduate’s time and thought are subsequently occupied. A lawyer, a medical man, a musician acquire in their daily experience the Ifnow-

ledge from wLich ripe judgment may fairly he expected to arise. Graduates in arts or science it is highly probable may, on leaving the University doors, close their books for ever. A very large number of men seek an arts degree merely as the crooning effort of a liberal education. Very wisely, I think, in the system of many universities, examinations close with the attainment of the Master’s degree. The University of Melbourne admits all Bachelors who have graduated with honors to the Master’s degree without further examination. Our own University will, I trust, before settling down into the condition at which institutions become conservative, do something to render its degrees more logical as to their course, and more stimulative in operation. For one thing, the University may endeavor to revive the study of Greek. The course of study now in force seems as if it had been drawn up with the deliberate intention of discouraging Greek. If it were not for the few persons who hope to serve in the Christian ministry, it seems to me that the knowledge of this noble language and its literature would die out of the land. Sir Robert Stout has recently adverted to the lines of study desirable for the higher cducatiou in cur country, and, unless I misapprehend his meaning, seems to think our secondary education medieval because, among other things, it retains Greek. Actually Greek is a Reformation study, unknown to mediaeval life, and was not allowed to enter either college or school until after a fierce struggle. The battle of Greek seems like an event in modern life—it reads like a detached page of contemporary history. Fitzjames, Bishop of London, would have sent Dean Colet to the flames because he advocated the teaching of Greek. I will recall to Sir Robert Stout’s recollection Seebohm’s book, ‘The Oxford Reformers,’ and he will remember the view our forefathers took of this subject and of its teachers. Even in Ben Jonson’s time it was looked upon with disfavor. ‘ ‘ Ananias,” in the ‘Alchemist,’ stigmatises Greek as a heathen language not fit for Christian men. The study of Greek came about with the Renaissance ; is due altogether to the discovery of printing ; and has done, I make bold to say, more for the elevation of the people, more for liberty, more for enlightenment, than any other study whatever. And here I will quote the magnificent passage in Macaulay’s review of Mitford’s ‘ Greece,’ which Sir Robert Stout will, I am certain, be sure to appreciate :

If wo consider merely the subtlety of disquisition, the force of imagination, the perfect energy and elegance of expression which characterise the great works of Athenian genius, we must pronounce them intrinsically most valuable. But what shall we say when we reflect th;t from hence have sprung directly or indirectly all the noblest creations of the human intellect; that from hence were the vast accomplishments and the brilliant fancy of Cicero, the withering Are of Juvenal, the plastic imagination of Dante, the humor of Cervantes, the comprehension of Bacon, the wit of Butler, the supreme and universal excellence of Shakespeare? AU the triumphs of truth and genius over prejudice and powo •, in every country and in every ago, have been the triumphs of Athens. Wherever a few great minds have made a stand against violence and fraud, in the cause of liberty and reason, there has been her spirit in the midst of them, inspiring, encouraging, consoling—by the lonely lamp of Erasmus; hy the restless bed of Pascal; in the tribune of Mirabeau; in the cell of Galileo; on the scaffold of Sydney.

There is little doubt in my mind that no civilisation is complete which is not consciously influenced by Greek thought and culture, and that no university is true to its mission which fails to encourage to this end the study of Greek. In our University it is highly desirable that some change should take place in the direction of giving higher prominence to this language. I believe Sir Robert Stout advocates the remodelling of tire science degree course, so as to exclude literature after matriculation, and of the arts degree course so as to make Greek compulsory. If such a measure of reform can be carried out it will be highly beneficial. Let our University go further by placing the doctor’s degree on a uniform basis, following the principles laid down by the University of London in all the highest degrees, and adopted by the University of Cambridge in the bestowal of the degrees recently established—D.Litt. and D.So. These principles arc, practically, the encouragement of research by adequate academical rewards and the discouragement of very severe examinations.

As regard honorary degrees, I believe colonial universities, like the recent English academical foundations, have not allowed themselves freedom of action in this respect. The sagacity of such a proceeding will be a matter for very open opinions. My own feeling has set in the direction of making all degrees representative of a proportionate amount of work, and has been opposed to handing them to men as mere compliments to, or granting them in token of lapse of time, (in the other side it may be urged that every university is the best judge of its own duties, and functions, and rewards. Any reasonable man will be satisfied if a university takes due care to do nothing which may conduce to degradation and disrepute.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890518.2.39.5

Bibliographic details

ABOUT DEGREES., Evening Star, Issue 7910, 18 May 1889, Supplement

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2,323

ABOUT DEGREES. Evening Star, Issue 7910, 18 May 1889, Supplement

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