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ANOTHER UNIVERSITY COLLEGE., Issue 7959, 15 July 1889
ANOTHER UNIVERSITY COLLEGE.
"There is, do doubt, a strong feeling " abroad that the instruction which is given " by the old universities is antiquated and " useless in the fierce struggle for existence. " We are told that we teach dead languages, "dead literatures, dead philosophy." These significant words, spoken recently by Professor Max Muller before a distinguished audience in London, have by no means lost their applicability to ourselves in this distant colony of the Empire. For, though Max Mulleb immediately exclaims with indignation : " As if there could be such a thing "as a dead language, a dead literature, a " dead philosophy !" the possibility of which this distinguished scholar at once setß ! to work to disprove with all the force of his [ eloquence and learning. Nevertheless we fear there can be little doubt that this impression of university education which Max Mulleb deplores exists to a wide extent, not only in Great Britain, but in ber colonies, New Zealand among the number—exists, moreover, not merely among the ignoble crowd of the illiterate who have never known the benefits of higher education, but likewise to a very considerable and increasing degree among the ranks of trained university scholars. Such a prejudice undoubtedly is deep-rooted and widespread in our own community—a community which has made greater sacrifices than that of many a far older and wealthier country in the cause of national e lucation. Jn spite of reiterated and " high falutin"' assertions of some doubtless exalted authorities on the subject, we take leave to maintain, howbeit with due humility, that in this Colony—and by no means least amongst the intelligent and thinking portion of its people—there exists .considerable and increasing dissatisfaction at the enormous cost, which is disproportionate with the reBultsachieved, of our system of secondary education, embracing generally under that term our grammar schools, high schools, colleges, did genus omne. Parturiunt montes, tuuctiur ridiculus thus, or, as a much more modern and familiar poet sings as a warning—it would seem, alas! to no purpose—against the worse than folly of futile and vainglorious fuss— Ye'll'flnd mankind an unco squad, And muckle they may grieve ye. For oare and trouble Bet your thought E'en when your end'a attained ; And a' your views may come to naught. Where ev'ry nerve is strained. For och! mankind are unco weak An' little to be tmated ; If self the wavering balance shake, 'lt's rarely right adjusted 1 i If the authorities on higher education, whom we have in our mind's eye, are already acquainted with these caustic lines of Burns, we commend them to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest their keenly wisdom. We have been led to these remarks by a report, we believe to be only too well founded, that, during the present session of Parliament, the attempt made two or three yenrs ago is to be renewed to found another o'i those remarkable institutions—a university college; this time in the city of Wellington. A few weeks back, it will be recollected, an influential deputation, having this object in view, waited on the Premier* and presented him with a numerouslysigned petition; and, it need hardly We stated, that a most favorable atiswer was returned. This unblushing scheme—for we can call it nothing else—to found and support—as one of the speakers coolly contended would be required at the lowest estimate—to the tune of £6,00Q a year, a " University Gd&hege " out of public money, in the usual form of land endowments and grants from the Consolidated Fund, is likely to prove successful 'tinted strenuous resistance be /promptly offered both in and out of the House to flfee Bill promised to be introduced by ; the It was on May 6th, 1887, that Sir Robert Stout, then Premier and Mldft'ter of Education, in moving the second reading of the Wellington University College Bill, stated, as reported in ' Hansard,' " that the districts which it would " Bupply with the higher means of education were the provincial districts of "♦Hawke's Bay, Wellington, and Taranaki." We should be glad to learn, if this specious plea be again urged on the next occasion by the Premier, as it in all likelihood will be, how the dairy farmers and bush settlers, who compose the vast bulk of the population of Sir Habby Atkinson's constituency, are to be enabled to seul their older children 200 miles by railway and steamer to the Empire City, far less to maintain them whilst there? What with the prevailing prices for produce, with county council rates, road board rates, harbor rates, and Property Tax—though the last falls only en a few, for a too sufficient reason —there «re, we dare affirm, barely three families in the whole of Taranaki able to afford the cost of from £7O to £BO per annum, entailed by attendance of a son or daughter at a Wellington University college. It is difficult to express our indignation within the bounds of decorum at the insult to common sense in such an argument used, not only by Sir Robebt Stout, but by Sir H. Atkinson and others, in support of their pst scheme. Higher education—the institutions for higher education (to quote Sir Robert's words in the same speech)— may be indeed required, not for the sake of the rich people, but of the poor. This may be fully admitted; whilst at the same time it is contended that not the slightest prac* tical means has been pouted out to show how this delightful theory, on which Sir Robert and Sir Harry alike never tire of harping, is to be carried into practice by centring higher education and its institutions. University colleges, for instance, in two or three large towns, are as completely beyond the reach of •' the poor' —that is of ninety-nine out of a hundred of the country settlers—as if they were in Siberia. It would be far better at once honestly to admit the fact—which no people know better than the promoters—that these university colleges, to say nothing of other institutions for secondary education, though supported at the cost of the people at large, are, perhaps necessarily under the circumstances of the Colony, for which no one in particular can be blamed, in existence for the almost exclusive benefit of the children of the wealthier class, and that chiefly in the cities where they are. There is no occasion to enter into any explanation here of the cause of our own University and Canterbury College now occupying an exceptional position. Suffice it, that the founders of these institutions, who were wise in their generation, took precious good care when the control of the land fund was in the hands of the Provincial Governments that both establishments were amply endowed. We have never failed to express our regret, and shall never cease to do so, that the whole of the educational endowments made by +he Provincial authorities were not handed over to a specific trust. The omission to do so was worse than a blunder.
During the discussion in committee on the Bill the member for Invercargill " warned " the Minister of Education that he would " find there would be a certain amount of "revolt in the Colony in consequence of "this extravagance in education." Mr Stcabt-Menteath, in the same debate, said : " It was a question as to how far the "House, considering the straitened means " of the country at present, would be able to "support the Minister of Education in the " directions of this Bill. He. thought that "in a very few years they would realise
•' that they were, in the matter of educa"cation, living beyond their income" Nevertheless, the Bill passed the Lower House by a large majority—3l to IS. In tho Upper House, into which this Bill was appropriately introduced by the tlon. P. A. Buckley, an interesting and instructive debate took place on the second reading. The Hon. Mr M'Lkan justly remarked that "when you " come to mutters of reduction of expenditure, if you have got all these votes by ''permanent Acts, you are helpless." "I " think," ho said, " it ia most unfair to bind •'the hands of whatever Government may " be in power by putting sums permanently "on the Estimates in this wuy." He might well add : " I should like to see a return of "the cost of university education through"out New Zealand. ... I think it "would be such a large amount that it "would alarm tho people." The Hon. Mr Scotland protested against the Bill in even stronger terms. He sarcastically observed: " It is a very high sounding thing, no doubt, " to have a university college in Welling"ton. You get out men from England at " L6OO a year, and ignorant persons think "we are getting first-rate scholars. Nothing "of the kind. We are getting third-rate "men." ... ~ Though tho measure was ultimately dropped for that session, there have not been wanting signs during the intervening period of its probable reiutrodnction at no distant date. To this the Premier now practicilly stands pledged. We might well add a few words on the worse than absurdity —from a purely educational point of view alone—of the establishment of another of these university colleges in New Zealand, and might say somo things that might possibly astonish even those accustomed to watch the vagaries of some of our legUhtors, notably the would-be doctrinaires in educational matters among them. But for the present we forbear, content with advising, which we do with all earnestness, the sufficiently burdened taxpayers throughout the Colony to lose no time in urging their representatives to protest and vote against this unjust proposal The Bill may come down at any moment; and unless the pub he realise what is involved in it, and take prompt measures accordingly, there is the danger of it slipping through.
ANOTHER UNIVERSITY COLLEGE., Issue 7959, 15 July 1889
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